Campaign Promises And The Issue Of Trust

By Kuhe Alberts Hemennsse

The case of Nigerians and trust in their politicians seems to decline with every cycle of elections since 1999. An extreme trust deficit hovers over Nigerian politicians, and the public hardly believes in the campaign promises or even the commitment made by politicians. Much of the trust deficit links to the fact that there is no mechanism of political accountability in the country. Even when one is in place, politicians and even institutions that are supposed to enforce this usually undermine it.

The inconsistency of politicians is legendary and often borders on creative lies and propaganda. Nigerian politicians change parties like the asoebi change of bridal clothes during traditional wedding ceremonies. The politics of supremacy of personal interests has killed any serious ideological underpinnings of any of the political parties.

Politicians have turned parties into vehicles to struggle for power without any enduring attachment to ideals, philosophies, and ideologies. On policy issues, one hardly ever knows where politicians and officeholders stand. Besides, when issues of importance arise, politicians flip-flop from one opinion or stance to another in alignment with their personal interests.

Many campaign promises have no precise details on how to accomplish them. Politicians create soundbites and colourful proclamations on massive projects they promise to build to improve the lives and material conditions of the people. However, the politicians do not provide information on the feasibility or viability of these projects. They do not provide details on how and where they will get the funds for the project, who will oversee the project, the cost-benefit analysis, and who will benefit from it. What are the opportunity costs of the project, and how is the project linked to other projects to provide a system of infrastructure that supports economic sustainability and growth?

The average politician is a chameleon who changes his/her persona during and after the elections. The best time to easily access politicians is when they are canvassing for votes. They show an openness that surprises their worst critics and communicates compassionately and purposefully during election campaigns. However, immediately after the elections, these politicians become inaccessible and unapproachable, whether they win or not. It even becomes worse when they win an elective position because they become far removed from the people, and overzealous security officers and their entourages guard them heavily. Engagement with the people becomes rare once in office. They are far removed from the people they govern and only communicate with them formally through traditional and social media. Little wonder that there is a disconnect and lack of trust between politicians and the people.

Nigerians must demand a rejigging of the governance structure that must embrace results – performance benchmarks, targets, timelines, achievable goals, and milestones. A result-oriented governance approach emphasises process and outcomes, whilst de-emphasising ordinary rhetoric and promises not backed with actions.

For the political class, political communication and marketing must be less fact-spinning and framing political messages to confuse or deceive the people. The political language should become less vague and empty. All politicians must strive to be honourable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Politicians always on the receiving end of the trust deficit must learn the benefit of facts, figures, statistics, historical patterns, trends, and time limits. These will assist them in addressing the trust deficit.

All politicians in Nigeria must strive to let the 2023 elections give us something new to place our hopes and aspirations in. They must be open to being held accountable for their promises. Let the candidates speak for themselves on all key policy issues and not through some spokespersons they will later deny as being unauthorised to make commitments and decisions on their behalf. This is the time to ask candidates for the finer details of vague campaign promises and to ensure that candidates keep their promises and commitments and that none should or can take Nigerians for granted again.

Kuhe  is a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Makurdi the Benue State capital.

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