Former President Olusegun Obasanjo decried the style of political campaigns in the country on Thursday, calling for a shift in focus.
Obasanjo spoke at an international conference on “Deepening Democratic Culture And Institutions For Sustainable Development And Security in Nigeria”.
He gave a keynote speech titled “Respecting the Principles of Democracy” at the Obi Wali Convention Centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Obasanjo bemoaned how ordinary citizens are drawn into leaders’ aimless, meaningless, and opportunistic personal or narrow ambitions.
“Political campaigns are taken over by insults, lies, self and selfish interest and diversions, not on issues of national interest and progress. Party platforms are developed, launched with fanfare and promptly discarded. “Critical issues are discarded as intellectuals and technocrats are sidelined while minions, gatekeepers and job hunters take over the campaign and build iron rings around candidates at all levels. Candidates are caged and milked opportunistically.”
When actors confuse the beginning with the end, or adopt the infamous Machiavellian dictum that the end justifies the means, they are setting themselves up for a race without boundaries in which anything goes.
According to Obasanjo, politics and political competition are imprisoned because the actors invent new rules of engagement as they go along and seek to outdo one another in non-beneficial issues to the average citizen.
In terms of governance, the former Head of State observed that each new government acts as if Nigeria is a newly discovered country.
“During campaigns, some leaders sound as if they intend to reinvent Nigeria and create new Nigerians in an instant. This is due to their failure to recognize the aspect of democracy that emphasizes continuity, stability, and predictability.”
Obasanjo, on the other hand, urged the people to return to the basics and rebuild our commitment to democratic practice.
“We must take some time for introspection and ask if we have been doing the right things for ourselves and for future generations. It is not difficult to return to the path of democracy and social justice. It starts with self-commitment, then moves on to leadership commitment,” he added.