Space, Sight, And Sense Pollution – By Andrew A. Aba

Can INEC Still Be Trusted?

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Talk of “environmental pollution” and Nigerians think it is all about floating colonies of one-time containers of pure water and other “leather” (i.e. polythene) garbage; or, the ubiquitous heaps of putrid organic waste at marketplaces and high-density residential areas. We hardly consider, for instance, the continuously clashing and clattering hullabaloo from a thousand sources that thrash our air space from morning to night, especially in urban centres. The populace is either insufficiently aware of the perennial health risks of the diverse pollutions encompassing us; has resigned to it; or, it thinks that environmental cleanliness is alien to our society.

However, my focus here is not our lamentable acceptance of, and widespread complicity in, environmental pollution–incidentally, another unrecognised index of Nigeria’s grotesque corruption. My main concern is the litter of billboards, signboards, flexes, and rag tag stuff, all proclaiming the imminent round of electoral hustling of all and sundry politicians, their minions, backers, pseudo-promoters, prospectors of gold, and would-be supporters. (Forget about the INEC Chair’s unreal warning that political campaigns are allowable only from November 2018). Less than three years of a sitting government, our highways and intra-town “streets” started blaring with the sight-and-sense pollution from intimidating billboards and lesser campaign posts. Some were either cowardly, tentative, or so hurriedly crafted and mounted that they did not initially indicate any party belonging.  All around Benue State one’s eyes are inundated by slogans such as 4+4=8; Winning Team 2019-2013; No Vacancy; Ortomatic Rescue Mission, 2019; Ortom, the Emancipator; Benue Youth Revolution; Progress ’19, and so forth. Not a few of them are outright puerile, asinine, hollow, or insulting to readers’ sensibility.

I often wonder whether the composers of most of those supposedly campaign slogans, and whatnot gave any thought to the reading public. May be, not; after all, the majority of voters reside in the nation’s backwoods, are deemed illiterate, uninformed; and are usually swayed by money; it is enough that they can identify the faces of the vote seekers as well as party flags/logos–probably! So, who cares for the minority two-eyed, discerning electorate and their claimed sense of judgment? Are they many enough to sway the votes?

Several of those advertisements are not creative or imaginative; others have zero foresight; or they merely rehash stale, old slogans. Many power seekers and their brokers prematurely splatter them all over, based on shallow assumptions on a status quo–for example, who is the incumbent governor? Who are his strong men in the National Assembly, and his God father(s) with whom to be seen to be well-connected? Which is currently the ruling party here? Then, the candidates proceed to cram onto a giant flex, his grinning face with those of the sitting Governor, a big-oak Senator, and one or two other assumedly sure-bet men of timber and calibre. It is presumed that with such fellow travellers, the electorate would realise that the candidate’s campaign boat cannot leak, let alone capsize, despite the treacherous undercurrents and capricious tides of Nigerian politics.

A notable case is the tsunami of misalignments, upheavals, and summersaults that recently hit Benue State, and with acrimonious national reverberation of various kinds. That mid-sea hurricane, of course, culminated in shameless about-turns, realignments, redefinition of loyalties, the sudden panel beating of power blocks, and necessary relocation of the key dramatis personae.

We all witnessed the absurd feverishness with which, over night, billboards around Makurdi and all around Benue got uprooted and replaced with different colours, logos, and faces! I felt sorry and embarrassed for the actors and their volte-face or new-fangled narratives. But, again, who gives a damn! What exactly is the franchise impact or value of those billboards in Nigeria’s predominantly Chop-I-Chop political sub-culture? It is like where the company has a handsome, unspent advertisement budget, and the dough must be spent; job for the party supporters, men!

I strongly doubt if the originators of those slogans bothered about their impressions on the enlightened electorate. Or is it that the things they have put up there are the best they are capable of offering the public?

The most myopic and most presumptive billboard is the one which bears Governor Ortom’s portrait and the slogan of “Continuity”. Truth be told, it is unimaginative, injurious to the Governor’s quest, and takes the Benue electorate for granted. Unfortunately, its ruinous implication did not occur to the Governor’s campaign team and image launderers. This brings back to mind two notions mentioned earlier: that little or no thought is given to the campaign adverts; and that some ostensible sponsors could be insider agents out to punch with fists camouflaged in their baban riga.

Even if inadvertent, whoever brought about the suicidal slogan of “Continuity” has splashed smelly slush on the faces of a cadre of voters, and has substantially dented Ortom’s poll rating.  The people are asking, “Continuity of what: the incumbent or his incumbency?” As if one could separate them! If we were not a mostly dishonestly and hypocritical society that accepts black for white, and talk with both sides of our mouths, Ortom knows that if he is able to win, he must not continue with his first-term management behaviour; he has to be a changed Ortom–unless he decides to “do anyhow”, since there is no third term for which to contend, and he shall be unimpeachable, thanks to essential executive-legislative reach out.

Electioneering, and particularly its Nigerian species, is the headquarters of dastardly intrigues, treachery, and the wearing of masks. Hence, the “Continuity” billboard is the worst of the environmental pollution elements accruing from the ongoing clamour for 2019. Who knows, an “insider” might have done the unsuspecting gubernatorial candidate this “favour” in order to lethally draw franchise blood downstream. As Nigeria trudges on to the 2019 electoral mile post, may God, who created all things, and called them good, protect our Benue and Nigeria against all pollution of our space as well as our collective sight and sense!