The campaign season should be a period of review and assessment of performance of political parties and their elected members with a view to gaining the support of the masses to remain in power or indeed to come into power, displacing the incumbent. It is a period of criticism and contentious engagement between leading politicians. The quality of discourse and debates is usually a factor in the electoral fortunes of the parties and their candidates.
One can reasonably draw conclusions on the quality of democracy also by keeping a tab on the utterances of the politicians as they go about wooing voters across the country. Most analysts would readily declare that the standard of practice of democracy in Nigeria is rather low because of the way politicians trivialize matters of importance and focus unduly on personalities instead of issues. As a result, what should be a mature exchange of ideas and an intellectual exercise ends in needless recriminations that heat up the polity.
A typical example of this rather primitive version of politics was the widely-publicized allegation by Phrank Shaibu, an aide of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari and Junaid Abdullahi, his son-in-law and the government had been using the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) headed by Abdullahi to award contracts to “hundreds of phony lawmakers’ constituency projects”, to fund the APC campaigns. This was of course meant to discredit President Buhari’s oft-repeated insistence that government funds must not be diverted to campaigns which is so obviously responsible for the very low key tempo of APC campaigns.
In the first place, it is malicious to throw such an allegation into the public domain solely for the purpose of scoring cheap political points. Such an allegation should go to the relevant investigative agencies dealing with public institutions to take the necessary action they are empowered by law to take. This will serve as a deterrent measure as well as to sanction the transgressions of any law if eventually verified.
Typically, the likes of Phrank Shuaibu and indeed Atiku Abubakar have reduced political campaigns to mere mudslinging sprees against rivals, deliberately concocting injurious falsehood as the only form of campaign they know. This negative indulgence actually reveals an abysmal lack of exemplary policy or attainment worthy of emulation as political campaign assets. It also implies that they have nothing tangible against their rivals leaving them with no option than to fabricate.
It was largely due to the inherent flaws and unsubstantiated basis of the wild allegations raised by Shuaibu, in a bogus bid to promote the candidature of his master over that of President Buhari, that the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and its chief executive Junaid Abdullahi, deviously targeted by the disarticulated demagogues, eloquently turned the tables against them by exposing the fictitious foundation of their so-called whistle-blowing whims and caprices.
Each and every reference point in the litany of concocted allegations compiled and unleashed for petty partisan politics of blackmail and mudslinging by Phrank Shuaibu, ostensibly to advance the cause of his paymaster, Atiku Abubakar were comprehensively debunked by the BDCA by listing series of strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the Public Procurement Act, contrary to the allegations.
Other affirmations of strict compliance with due process in the BCDA response exposed the politically-motivated falsehoods bandied around by the Atiku Abubakar campaign. BCDA insisted that every firm shortlisted submitted a tax clearance certificate and that all Tax Clearance Certificates submitted are forwarded to the FIRS for authentication. In addition the Executive Secretary only observed and made reference to the Executive Order 5 stating that “a Nigerian company or firm shall not be disqualified from an award of contract by MDAs on the basis of the year of incorporation, but rather on the basis of qualification, competence and experience of its management in the execution of similar contracts”. It was further stated that the Executive Secretary assumed office after the procurement process commenced and found no cause to alter the process and also that contrary to the impression created, the procurement tender evaluation process is not conclusive until contracts are awarded. Furthermore, no contract had been awarded as the procurement tender evaluation process was still ongoing at the time of the statement.
This episode has by default exposed the reckless manner that unscrupulous politicians pick on any public institution and spread misleading allegations that are products of their vendetta. This disinformation machinery is a bid to forge their way into the hearts and minds of innocent citizens being diligently served in the national interest by the institutions. Not a whimper of reaction has come from Phrank Shuaibu and the Atiku Abubakar propagandists since the BCDA issued and widely publicized its meticulously compiled and convincing disclosure of the falsity and unpatriotic motivations of their mudslinging misadventure.
Politicians and parties come and go but our public institutions remain to continue discharging their mandates in the service of our people. Only myopic self-serving politicians can go to the extent of disparaging such public institutions on the anomalous altar of petty partisan politics and inordinate ambitions. Ironically, the same politicians who pull down important public institutions like the Border Community Development Agency will claim to identify with its mandate to provide social and infrastructural amenities to international border communities in 21 states of the Federation when campaigning in such areas! The management of the Agency must continue to remain focused on its mission of being the vehicle for the provision of people oriented, sustainable and equitable development projects in the border communities, thereby ensuring their full integration, commitment, patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria.
Ekong wrote this piece from Calabar, Cross River State