Essence of campaigns
“Political campaign is all politics. On the other hand, governance involves more seriousness and it is more practical, more concrete and has physical manifestations. When we see governance, we feel it as our welfare improves.” This is how ‘Lai Olurode former National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who was guest lecturer at one-day dialogue orgainsed by NPO Reports in Abuja puts it. The dialogue with the theme: “2023 & Beyond: Tracking Campaign Promises for Good Governance,” was meant to sensitise Nigerian electorate on the issue of tracking promised made by politicians after the elections. Three former governors – former governor of Osun State Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, immediate former governor of Ekiti State Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his Kwara State counterpart Abdulfatah Ahmed, were among the dignitaries present at the dialogue.
Olurode’s lecture was like an arrow into the heart. Quoting Dick Gregory, retired professor of sociology, University of Lagos said “political promises are much like marriage vows. They are made at the beginning of relationship between candidate and voter, but are quickly forgotten.” This is apt given that Nigeria is at the moment in electioneering campaign for next month’s general election, and political officeholders are transversing the length and breadth of the country canvassing for votes. Apart from incendiary attacks on opponents, they are wooing the electorate with mouth watering promises. Among these promises made by presidential candidates are job creation and employment; restructuring and devolution of power to federating units, industrialisation, steady electricity supply, youth empowerment, etc. Olurode said politicians promised a lot during campaigns only to pull a fast one on electorate with a lot of deception. “Simply put, politics is an art that requires creativity,” he stated, adding that “it (politics) is intended to influence and perhaps to deceive others in ways that their decisions can be swayed to one’s side in the decision making process.” Tracking campaign promises is new in Nigeria, unlike in advanced democracies where there are organisations whose duty is to put politicians on their toes towards fulfilling their campaign promises. The guest lecturer credited Politicfact under the auspices of Poymter Institute as the originator of campaign promises tracking. This group, according to him, tracked President Barack Obama Campaign promises: Obameter; as well as that of President Donald Trump, Trump-O’-meter. At the moment , Politicfact tracking the campaign promises of President Joe Biden “which is looking at 100 most important promises of his.” As for that of Nigeria, he Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has commenced the tracking of campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari. Though he did not provide the result of these tracking, one will not be surprise if the outcome is failed promises.
Position of ex-govs
But the former governors did not believe politicians are playing a fast one on the electorate. As Fayemi puts it, there is genuineness in every promise made by politicians during campaigns, even when it was not fulfilled. He blamed this on emerging issues that the political officeholder might confront when he assumed office. Fayemi however, said campaign promises could be tracked through annual budget. “The best way is to track party’s manifesto and not promises made during campaign,” he advised, noting that the three core promises made by President Mohammed Buhari were economy, security and anti-corruption, but not the promise to make Nigeria’s currency equal to dollar. It would have been better if the former governor offered explanation why politicians do not stick to their manifestoes rather than making unfulfilled promises. And if annual budget should be used as basis of tracking campaign promises, it may turnout as worse, because of complain of lack of funds to execute the budget. And for Ahmed, every promise made by politicians during political was with good intention, though he would want the electorate to gauge “the capacity, capability and mental alertness,” of the politician making the promises. But does such come to play, especially when there is no law mandating public office seeker to present his or medical report for public scrutiny.
Aregbesola who is Minister of Interior (though he said he spoke as a citizen not a public officeholder), advised a review of the nation’s federalism, to bring it in tune with what is obtainable in other countries. According to him, there is only two tiers of government in a federal system – federal and state, as against three tier system that exist in Nigeria. He concluded that local government, which is the third tier of government in Nigeria, not working in Nigeria because they are not self sustaining, and live only on handouts. The former Osun State governor also blames the nation’s per capita income on low productivity, “because only 10 per cent of the over 200 million Nigerians are productive.” He believes that until half of the Nigeria’s 200 million population becomes productive and is working, the country will remain undeveloped. This is because, according to him, the nation is run by revenue allocation generated by the nation.