I was paying rapt attention to what they didn’t say and the redundancy of their favorite topic for the day was ridiculous. Of the five Vice Presidential candidates that appeared on Channels Television last Friday for the debate only two seem to know why they were there. The other three seem lost and when they uttered what they called solutions they combined an obvious stammer and a bad faculty to drive us nuts. Some rough data say this country has about two hundred million people and about 100 million are adults but after the debate a neutral will be more interested in data on the average IQ.
Peter Obi’s love for Chinese methods and true and false statistics filled the air. Every question had something to do with China and his statistics agreed. It is easier to confuse people when you use those statistics the lay viewers cannot qualify in real life. It is easier to intimidate the average civilised human with words sounding like broken bottles and most Nigerians are not averagely civilised. Vice President and Professor, Osinbanjo, as usual, was like Obama — hiding bullshit under fine eloquence. He is smart and has the uncanny ability to speak about bullshit in a polished language and even when presented with true and counter facts, you will stick with his bullshit.
He has the sleekness and the oratory, that thing rappers call Delivery is embedded in his genes and you would consider him too polished to appear in a lie. But thanks to the stammering candidate, a package for MSMEs which was earlier stated as fulfilled was still in the kitchen. Bravo Professor, I see you! We can also see how the tablet underneath didn’t interfere in a supposed debate. Then there is the candidate on Babanriga who earlier stammered but on getting himself spoke the kind of words you would find in council meetings in the village. Yeah, what matters is what he says and not how he says them but should we keep shut when what he says isn’t even related to the question?
Then there is our stammering madam who doesn’t understand what Megawatts mean or the fact that a debate is not a place for candidates to read their manifestos verbatim. She made up bullshit where she couldn’t make up her mind. At a point you’d be forced to ask ‘who are these other people?” If APC and PDP are not good enough do we have to pick poorer candidates from different parties just to make a difference? Moghalu’s pretty Vice took unfamiliar questions to unfamiliar terrains even though these weren’t the terrains the interviewer expected. She seemed to suggest that Moghalu knows it better but if Moghalu knows it all what is she bringing to the table and why is she the chosen female?
The biggest flop was Channels Television. You could even blame the candidates’ performance on Channels for revolving around only Economics. It was all about economics and knowledge of it was treated as sole knowledge needed to run a country. The question on economics were repeated to redundancy and the debate master never saw need to diversify. We know this is a Vice Presidential debate and knowledge of economics is necessary to run a country but economics cannot solve the problem of hatred in Nigeria. Economics cannot make the Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas, Fulanis, Idomas, Tivs, Ijaws, etc., who hate each other so much (but pretend to love each other) to be united.
The herdsmen who kill other Nigerians for land will not stop killing other Nigerians if an economic policy is only the solution prescribed for such madness. The Nigerian Police extort money on a daily basis (they even give change this time around) but nothing was said or asked about the reformation of the police. The Nigerian Army is home to beasts and savages who murder people at the slightest provocation but nothing was said of these beastly men who bully, torture, humiliate and kill the Nigerian people daily. They spoke of economy but forgot about the Yahoo boys whose dirty works have soiled our image overseas. No question was asked on IPOB and their cause and how the candidates plan to solve the problem.
The presenter didn’t ask for plans made by these candidates to make our laws respected by the people in power and every Nigerian. One also wonders the logic in running jingles of the election campaign of a particular candidate during the debate. We know that boys have to eat and the station is run by money but why must we be bombarded with advertisements of one of the candidates at the same time we were supposed to weigh their arguments and judge from a neutral position? Those who run Channels, like those who run every other propaganda machinery, are not stupid. They know how the mind works, they know how Nigerians think and they know what will happen when they bombard our screens with that ad at the hour of judgement.
What if the reason for sticking to economics is tied to the advert that was run on that day? What if the interests that paid and ran the adverts are the same interests that shaped the format of the questions? What if? Sounds like another bullshit. It is what it is. In today’s Nigeria, before things are done they must be certified free of that potential of insulting the current president. Before anything is thought, the thought before the thought must have captured every way the President will be guiltless. Therefore, economics, even though the current outlook isn’t very sunny, is the easiest escape. PDP’s 16 years misrule and culture of stealing can always provide a good cover.
If the questions talked about human rights, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbanjo, would have been reminded of the massacre of 347 Shi’a Muslims on 12-14 December by the Nigerian Army — an occurrence the current president blamed on rude Shi’a faifthfuls ‘tapping the chest’ of a soldier. He would have been reminded of the killings of protesting IPOB youths whose only crime was to think of having their own country — something his boss deems legitimate in Southern Morocco and for the Rohinga Muslims in Myanmar. If Boko Haram was debated it would have been hard to defend the bombing of an Internally Displaced Person’s camp (killing over two hundred) by the Nigerian Air Force because they thought it was a Boko Haram camp.
This is the sense in sticking to the simple things, in pretending Nigeria’s problem is purely economics. It would be a disservice to the President and the government if the debate was allowed to touch all that matter in this country. It would have made them look bad in the eyes of the world because the opposition candidates wouldn’t have stammered a lot. If strengthening the rule of law was debated, Dasuki would have been mentioned and the disobedience of (unfavorable) court order by the government would have been discussed at length and this will make the government look bad in the eyes of both local and international community.
If Peace was discussed Justice would have been mentioned and the President’s utterances and nepotistic actions would have been cited and the negative on the side of the sweet talking Vice President will become enormous and weigh him down. By discussing economics, even though a dollar equals 350 Naira today, blames can easily be imported and recovery from self imposed recession is classified as giants strides in the field. By an in depth and sole discussing of economics and ignoring rule of law, human rights, peace, security and welfare, Channels Television will seem to have carried out a thorough debate, the people watching will be jinxed by the ‘toughness’ (just like now), the government will not feel bad, and most importantly, nobody will disgrace or insult the President.