By Ishiaq Abdulsalam
Last month, August 12th to be precise, I encountered a birthday felicitation message posted by the APC Kwara Central senatorial candidate, Mallam Saliu Mustapha on Facebook to celebrate his opponent in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi on his birthday. In the message, the Turaki had impressively felicitated his opponent, described him as an astute politician and wished him well.
Fast forward to Sunday, September 25th, obviously taking a cue from his arch-rival, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi reciprocated Turaki’s earlier gesture by sending his best wishes to the latter on his golden jubilee anniversary.
While I was impressed with the show of maturity on the part of Turaki at the time, I didn’t think much of it until today when I came across the message of congratulations put out by Omoluabi to wish Saliu Mustapha a happy 50th birthday. That was when I began to think that there must be a message the duo seek to pass, which one must be perceptive enough to understand.
While it is not every time one sees politicians from opposing political parties with such a show of camaraderie and friendship displayed by Turaki and Omoluabi, it is my candid belief that they are not just doing it for political correctness or optics.
One will expect this show of maturity, which has led both of them to show their regard for each other in the public domain, to have a huge impact on the tone of their campaigns in the days ahead.
However, while I’m upbeat that the public exchange of greetings and felicitations on their individual birthdays would pass a genuine message to their supporters to embrace calculated and issue-based campaigns in the days ahead, one devoid of any form of smear or reputation damage; some graphics attributed to both of their campaign teams sometimes ago somewhat dampen my expectations.
While the Bolaji Abdullahi’s team fired the first salvo by derisively comparing the academic credentials of their principal with that of his opponent, the Turaki’s team, rather than continuing to dwell on the strength of the antecedents of their principal, unfortunately, descended into the arena by describing Bolaji Abdullahi as a man with all the certificates but zero impacts.
Although, Bolaji Abdullahi had reportedly once said that “a political opponent is not a personal enemy,” but if the antics of some of his overzealous team members are anything to go and judge him by, it may not be out of place to urge him to start reflecting his avowed conviction more in actions than words.
As an observant bystander, I don’t think some of the reported behind-the-scenes schemes and negative pull-him-down-by-all means antics, subtle or otherwise, that the candidates play on their opponents, lend any validity to the public display of maturity from the two camps. If they truly want anyone to take them seriously, then they need to start cautioning their teams and do things that reflect the perception they both seek to build.
The elections will be gone soon, but what about relationships, would it go sour with it too?
Ishiaq Abdulsalam is the curator of Keep it Clean, an advocacy platform for issues-based campaigns