As we begin the countdown to the February 2015 elections, it is necessary to remind ourselves that these elections are merely the process of choosing the people who will lead us for the next four years. Elections are, therefore, not ends in themselves but means to ends.
Electioneering must be a process where people should be more concerned with the quality of their goals than with the quantity of their goods. The process must constantly seek to protect the life of the nation and not to destroy it, remembering that it is only when the nation is at peace that we can be at peace.
Our campaigns must be issues-based: Our educational system has become virtually comatose; the energy sector is moribund; the industries we once had have either gone under or moved to neighbouring countries; the unemployment rate is soaring towards the ceiling, with our youths roaming our streets endlessly in search of non-existent jobs; our highways have become death-traps where people perish daily; and we have virtually abandoned the idea of housing our people. Inflation has overtaken us to the extent that, except something is done urgently, our Naira may not be worth the paper on which it is printed. These are some of the issues our campaigns should be addressing.
Apparently, these defects have been with us over the years. They may have been aggravated in recent times and they will still grow worse, except they are arrested now. Let the office seekers tell us what they will do in this direction rather than being fixated at the causation level. That is the real essence of electioneering campaigns.
We are all psychologists – even those to whom the subject, psychology, is anathema. Since we have turned every election to a war situation, a time like this calls for restraint and the sharpening of our psychological instincts.
From the lessons of psychology, we know that not every commendation is desirable. For example, if before a man you are praising his wife to the high heavens, “Madam, I like your dance steps. That dance we had at the club last night was fantastic. Let’s do it again sometime soon”. You may be right but what you have just done is nothing short of killing the woman. It would have been better if you drove a sword through her heart. This psychology also applies in politics.
This is where we warn that in times like these, not only must we avoid sensationalism, headlines must also not be blown out of proportion. People are too busy to read the details of your story.
Since the past one week, our polity has been inundated with the screaming headlines of how Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and other ex-militants have threatened that “Nigeria will break if Jonathan loses the election”. Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, and others soon joined the fray, particularly when General Theophilus Danjuma (retired) called for the arrest of the ex-militants on sedition charges.
A clear reading of the statements of all these people shows that they were reacting, and understandably so, to the incessant attacks on the Jonathan campaign team in various parts of the North, particularly against the backdrop that Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari and his team have been having free passage in their peaceful campaigns in the South.
The ex-militants may think that they are helping their son, President Goodluck Jonathan, but this is not the stuff of which successful election campaigns are made. If anything, any word that proceeds from their mouth now can only make things more difficult for the President. They are portraying the President as a man who is incapable of speaking for himself and must apparently be spoon-fed by the grownups.
Again, why has President Jonathan remained stoically silent in the face of the misdemeanor and provocative utterances by his people?
History has shown that threats do not win elections but good electioneering campaigns do. We have, perhaps unwittingly, allowed ourselves to be consumed in the voice of the mob thereby abandoning the issues of our time. In the final analysis, what will matter is what we hear from the candidates and their campaign organizations, not the fatal distractions.
This is where Tompolo has given us half a sense of history: “Where was General Danjuma when Dr Junaid Mohammed, Buhari and Atiku Abubakar all said in separate interviews that the nation will boil if Jonathan won the election in 2011?”  It should have dawned on Tompolo that since the threats of the North did not prevent President Jonathan from coasting home to victory in 2011, the present threats of the militants simply come to naught!
Whoever wants to help any of the candidates must now go out there and convince the electorate to vote for him. Evidently, there is a bountiful harvest of fish awaiting everyone in the river but the harvesters must get to the river before casting their nets. And it is always better to go straight to the river to fetch water than to remain on the fringe, listening to cheap gossips of passersby.
In all, leaders must keep their followers in check. Our forebears – Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and others – did not leave their supporters on the prowl to talk and behave anyhow. They dictated the tones and their supporters followed. Theirs was leadership by example. The moment we abandoned our policy-enunciations to the voice of the mob, we lost it.
Nobody expects a utopian society, a society in which everything is perfect. We must make mistakes occasionally. When leaders and their followers make mistakes, they must quickly own up and make amends. This is where those attacks on President Jonathan and his campaign team should have been promptly and more seriously condemned by the Northern elders.
As a matter of deliberate policy, leaders must make the preachment of peace mandatory at every opportunity. After all, elections come and go but the country and the people remain!

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