EYE ON THE CITY

I WANT A DEBATE

Hello.

A few people came for my head after last week’s piece. Their beef with me was that I was encouraging the stifling of free speech which is guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution and UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) and God knows what other Charter and Declaration out there guaranteeing one human right or the other.

As much as I tried to explain that all I was advocating was for people to avoid situations whereby fisticuffs could break out over mere political discussions, some of those gunning for my head went philosophical on me. According to them, by even suggesting that people should be mindful of where and how they should speak was me violating their fundamental human rights.

People should be allowed to say what they like, when they like, how they like and even to whom they like without consequences was the philosophy they were advocating.  I told them outright that this was most improbable and was indeed a recipe for disaster. I even went as far as teaching them a thing or two about libel laws and laws of sedition of old but they insisted on advocating for their right to free speech.

And there, dear people, I let things be because I realised that in these heady days leading to the finale of the 2019 electoral process, a lot of normally rational people will lose their minds, throw caution to the winds and express opinions that not only fracture the truth but also leave a lot of normal people confused and befuddled.

I say this because as a fan of a lot of those early morning current affairs and news TV shows, I have watched a lot of supposedly intelligent people reduce themselves to shouting, finger pointing angry persons. Sometimes, I think those TV stations are just being a tinge sadistic because they tend to invite to their studios characters, they know cannot stand each other and then watch them go for the jugular of the fellow on the opposite side. The good thing is that the presenters have the good sense to sit in between the combatants or else…

Initially, I found those scenarios very amusing and would even yell at the presenters to let the combatants be hoping that one of them in a fit of righteous anger would haul himself from one end of the studio to the other and choke the opposition to oblivion.

But as the elections draw closer and the attacks becoming more vicious, even the quarrels on those breakfast shows no longer sound amusing. These people are dead serious and every mean word that comes out of their mouths is intended for maximum damage. I now cringe when watching television because of the amount of venom and anger that spew forth from the speakers of my TV. Sometimes my dear Mrs. Ogunleye (perhaps in trying to be the supportive wife) sits through the shows with me. But these days, she just takes a single glance and off she goes (those people will not spoil her day she would say).

The international observers have also cautioned us about hate speech and the frequency at which it is now being spewed across the airwaves, campaign venues and even everyday conversations. Dear people, we have always said that politics as a contest is not a do or die affair. Some will win and some must lose. If all the politicians are angling for is to serve the people, then there should be limited fuss if one loses unless of course if the motives are ulterior and have little or nothing to do with service.

A friend once said that Nigeria is such a complex and difficult country that nothing could tempt him to throw his hat in the ring and contest for any elective position. We asked what if it was offered to him on a platter and he still maintained his position. “Who likes wahala? He asked rhetorically.  He valued his wellbeing too much.

According to him, no elected official either a councillor or the highest office in the land is finding things easy. The weight of entire communities will lie on your shoulders and everybody will expect you to solve their problems. “Have I finished solving my own problems?” he asked.

“Nope” we all responded in unison (the fellow really had issues). But he did have a point. If the motives were really to serve the people, then all these hullaballoos needn’t arise because, who indeed likes wahala.

But I digress. After watching all those television political discussion programmes and seeing how many of the combatants comported themselves (the presidential ones being the exception here) I have decided that I also want a debate. I don’t need to have an opponent you see. I can do it all by myself. Yes, dear people, I can debate myself.

The difference here is that I will do it with utmost civility and decorum. There will be handshakes and no talking over my opponent (or myself if that is possible). I will stick to the issues and not talk about personal matters (spouses and family are totally off limits) and will come fully prepared armed with facts and figures.

I will rehearse properly and try to look electable and presentable as the representative of my people and above all else, I will ensure that everyone else associated with my campaign complies with my code of ethics.

The elections are just two weeks away. It is not a do or die affair. Please, let’s not make it so.

Thank you and happy new month.

ELECTIONS ARE AROUND THE CORNER. AS WE GO OUT TO VOTE, PLEASE LET’S BE PEACEFUL AND ESCHEW HATE SPEECHES.

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