The Unity House Foundation, UHF, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), focused on social justice and good governance advocacy, has invariably shown tremendous determination and zeal towards the promotion of issue-based campaigns, all in a bid to pave the way for violence- free electioneering process, and give room for the right candidates to emerge winners in the country’s elections.
UHF’s strong advocacy for the adoption of issue-based campaigns in political contests, and promotion of decent conversation and mature communication in public discourse, have been widely acknowledged and highly commended by well-meaning Nigerians, who believe that the NGO’s contributions towards creating a better society have been outstanding.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, the UHF, once again, put together an event that assembled stakeholders for the purpose of discussing the need for the campaigns to be driven by issues that are germane to the survival of the people and the advancement of Nigeria as a nation. The event was held in Port Harcourt on September 28, 2022, the day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed for the official commencement of electioneering campaigns by political parties for next year’s polls.
In attendance were academic scholars, politicians, party candidates for the 2023 elections, members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), students and a host of other forward-looking Nigerians. It was indeed an exciting and interesting gathering that served as a veritable avenue for the exchange of views and ideas on the strategic approach that should be adopted by political parties and their candidates to ensure issue-oriented campaigns that would be devoid of bitterness, violence and anarchy.
In his welcome address, the National Leader of UHF, Mr. Kingsley Wenenda Wali, expressed gratitude and appreciation to the attendees for deeming it necessary to come and participate in the program structured to be an interactive session.
He posited that Nigeria will not make any meaningful progress if we do not strive to put in place a system that allows people with the right qualities, potentials and disposition to come out for elective positions.
Wali, a Port Harcourt-based businessman and socialite, opined that “We really need to ask ourselves, what kind of country do we want? And the only way for us to move this country forward is to have a process that allows for the best to be able to come out and the people to decide. If we continue this route of anything goes, any kind of conduct is allowed, this country will never move from one place to the other.”
The Chairman of the occasion, Prof Eme Ekekwe, in his remarks, applauded UHF’s Convener, Wali, for his remarkable effort in organising the interactive session meant to set agenda for the politicians on how to go about their campaigns for peace to reign.
Prof. Ekekwe stated: “I admire the convener of Unity House Foundation because he is a builder of leaders. That is one thing that struck me about Unity House, a group of young people struggling to hold themselves together in a very different environment. They are trying to determine for themselves what the principles of living in a society where beyond looking out for yourself, how do you look out for others. Beyond caring for your family, how do you care for your community?”
Emphasizing why the focus of the campaigns must be on critical issues of concern to the people, the erudite professor and scholar of note, said: “What are those things about democracy? It is that we must identify those issues and bring those issues before the electorate. And as leader, as a party, it is your business to convince the people. Democracy is about freewill. The culture of democracy believes that the person who knows what is best for him or her is the individual. That is why we go by the majority. The majority may not be right. And if they are not right, take them from where they are and lead them to what you believe is the right direction.
“So leave the personalities, leave those secondary issues of sentiments about where you come from and so on. What are you going to do for me to put food on my table? What are you going to do for society to make sure our schools run uninterrupted, there is decent hospital for anyone who is sick? Let’s confront the issues if we are sincere about what we are doing.”
The Director General (DG) of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), a distinguished professor of political science and erstwhile Vice Chancellor (VC) of Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Prof Eghosa Osaghae, was the Guest Speaker at the event tagged: “Citizens Get together: Meeting with the Stakeholders”.
Prof. Osaghae, in his keynote address, insisted that “Our system needs to address the whole management of the emergence of leaders. How we choose our leaders matters a lot.
“Until we learn that what concerns all of us affects all of us and find a way of dealing with them, we are not likely to have the right approach even to elections in our country.
“We have an opportunity in 2023 to reset the agenda for our country, to make a contribution to the management of our fractured foundations, so that we can say that finally we are getting to a point where there is a congruence between our democratic movement and our political, cultural movement. But what we see is, there is intensified division and fragmentation. And we are chasing the shadows.
“Now we know the kind of things that we need to do. It is Citizens engagement and citizens’ empowerment. The ball is in our court. We must mobilize. And thanks to the Unity House Foundation. These are the kind of things that we need to bring to our consciousness. We must take our own future in our hands. We must not leave these things to our leaders who take us for granted and even tell us to our faces that we don’t know what we want. The issues will come, but we are the foundation upon which the issues can make a difference.”
Speaking at the gathering, a top contender for the 2023 Rivers State governorship contest on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Chief Executive Officer of Sahara Group, Mr. Tonye Cole, said: “As we go into campaigns, we must ensure that our message is not lost out in today over what the future holds. We must convince our people that we are the right ones for their future and at the same time tell them what we have for them now.”
According to the business mogul, “The popular politicians speak of what people want to hear and not what the people actually need. People tend to buy them even when it’s a lie. Now it becomes an issue presenting their need even when it’s not what they want to hear. You can even loose an election because you are not telling the people what they want to hear.”
On his part, another frontline candidate in the Rivers guber race, running on the ticket of Action Alliance (AA), Dr. Dawari George, remarked: “I have come to realize over time that first the average politician is afraid of issues-based campaign. There has always been an often ignored gains of issues based campaign.
“Some politicians are not prepared, they don’t have a clear road map or agenda when they get into office. Electorates have also not shown commitment to electing people who have ideas and agenda. The Media has also not helped to promote issues-based politics.
“Issues based campaigns help us prepare adequately; it also gives us the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas. It helps the people to mobilise towards a common vision for the future. Issues based campaigns promote and produce a more enlightened electorates. So we must begin to adopt issues based conversations in our politics moving forward.”