In Deploy civil language to 2023, Chido Nwakanma calls on politicians and public commentators to keep public discourse high and elevated.

Governor Nyesom Wike and the PDP Chairman Dr Iyorchia Ayu earned their 15 minutes of fame throwing mud at each other recently. Luckily, Dr Iyorchia Ayu has disclaimed some of the below-the-belt assertions. It should not have happened in the first place to allow room for denials and claims of wrong attribution.

The camp of APC flagbearer Ahmed Bola Tinubu frequently engages others in strident and negative profiling. They have also suffered so much of it over matters concerning Tinubu, the moslem-moslem ticket and the statements and conduct of his running mate Kassim Shettima. Similarly, PDP candidate and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has been the centre of a storm stirred by Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Atiku’s running mate, has managed to stay away from disputations largely except for a recent exchange from misunderstanding with the Peter Obi camp.

As we count down to the official declaration of campaign season, it is critical that politicians and commentators keep the tenor of discourse high and elevated. It is a call on communication professionals working for all the parties or working for themselves as interested observers and participants.

We must deploy language that is “parliamentary in civil society”. No one should resort to provocation, fakery, and planting of dubious narratives. Significantly, religion and ethnicity should be no-go areas for everyone writing, commenting, or discussing the issues of the 2023 election.

Of the various people critical in determining the tone and temperature of our politics in the days ahead, two stand out. They are the candidates and communication professionals. Note the emphasis on the word professionals. The parties should appoint professionals and not noisemakers to articulate and communicate their policies and preferences.

I expect that technocrats such as Dr Ifeanyi Okowa would lead for the political class. In many years of involvement in politics, Okowa is remarkable for speaking his truth gently but firmly and respecting other parties. Not for him grandiloquence, bombast, or the numerous other predilections of members of his class.

The many technocrats in the race from the three main parties should lead in speaking right, moderating their tone, and ensuring that 2023 does not come with violence. We must avoid any comparison with the Rwanda that went up in flames from ethnic hatred.

Peter Obi, Dr Yusuf Datti-Ahmed, Atiku Abubakar, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima are professionals who have held technocratic positions. It should show in what they allow into the public as communication from their spaces.

Next are writers. The writer is central, critical, and contributory to what will happen in the next six months and its aftermath. I adopt a broad definition of the writer as anyone who contributes to the intellectual effort of shaping and influencing thoughts and directions on public issues.

The writer is critical in this era of political reform and change. Nigeria is in the throes of change. Nigerians more than ever desire change. Change was the mantra of the ruling party as it swept into office in 2015. Since then, change has buffeted it and the country from various directions, mainly in the areas where it promised to deliver positives. These are the economy, security, and the state of the nation. Nigerians have experienced negative change in all three areas. Nigerians now clamour for reform, beginning with the structural foundation of the country.

The writer is an intellectual, or anyone who deals in and with ideas. “An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about the reality of society, who may also propose solutions for the normative problems of society, and thus gains authority as a public intellectual” – Wikipedia

Noam Chomsky asserts that, “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.” Chomsky says that faced with obvious lies, outrages, and oppression, “intellectuals should follow the path of integrity wherever it may lead.”

His umbrella for intellectuals takes in “journalists, academics, artists, even clergy.”

Good writers have well-defined vision and mission statements. It often includes participation in the conversations about the past, present, and future of their countries. It is a primary reason for writing. Even the Christian Holy Book recognizes the role of the writer in visioning.

  1. Habakkuk 2:2. Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.”
  2. Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope”.
  3. Revelation 1:19.Therefore, write down the things you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that will happen after this.
  4. Deuteronomy 27:8. And you shall write distinctly upon these stones all the words of this law.”

Bible verses are from the New King James Version. They all emphasise the responsibility and centrality of writers and communication in bearing and sharing visions

What story shall we share about the role of communicators or writers in March 2023 after the elections? Chinua Achebe famously stated that the role of the writer is to teach and provide guidance for the people.  He stated in Anthills of the Savannah, “…Only the story…can continue beyond the war and the warrior.
It is the story that outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us”.

Let us tell positive stories.