The first part of the 2019 general elections held last week as Nigerians trooped out to vote their presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives candidates across the country. The second part of the election, in which Nigerians are expected to vote their governorship and states’ Houses of Assembly candidates, is scheduled for next week.
The next electoral contest scheduled for March 9 would bring to an end several months of intrigues, name-calling, propaganda, networking and alliance formation across party lines. Politicians on their part adopted different slogans, slangs and street lingo to connect with the people and canvass support. These electioneering activities have informed as much as they have entertained Nigerians.
Many Nigerians would not forget in a hurry some of the powerful imageries that characterised electioneering and party politics in this election. PREMIUM TIMES highlights some of the dominant imageries:
1. “O to ge”
The “ O to ge” (meaning ‘Enough Is Enough’) campaign mantra is by far the most potent political mantra in the 2019 general election. Adopted by Kwara State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its campaign catchphrase, the slogan is largely believed to have contributed to the fall of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his allies in the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although there are conflicting accounts of how the “O to ge” mantra was birthed in Kwara, the dominant narrative is that it was coined by Islamic gospel artiste, Ibrahim Labaeka. Mr Labaeka, a member of the Islamic Musicians Association of Nigeria (ISMAN), is a popular Ilorin artiste whose musical works was used to rally voters toward the anti-Saraki cause in Kwara.
In Ilorin, the chant of “O to ge” is often followed by “Lilo le e lo”, meaning “We will ensure you are chased away”. Aside that the campaign slogan led to the fall of Mr Saraki, it also swept away all PDP aspirants across Kwara State. It has since taken a life of its own outside Kwara and now being adopted by people in other states, including Lagos.
2. 4 plus 4 – “NextLevel”
While “O to ge” is a campaign slogan rendered by words of mouth, the “4 plus 4” is a non-verbal use of sign language. It’s essentially meant to convey the desire to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019. The sign is done by spreading one’s two hands apart, with all of one’s fingers but the thumb raised while displaying both hands. The two separate four fingers displayed conspicuously are representative of each of the four-year periods of the two terms the Nigerian constitution stipulates for the president.
Mr Buhari himself popularized the sign last year when he appeared before the National Assembly to present the 2019 budget. The sign was however trailed by controversies as some Nigerians, among them opposition leaders, suggested that the sign was “occultic”, a charge many pro-Buhari commentators promptly dismissed.
The “4 plus 4” campaign sign goes hand in hand with occasional chant of “NextLevel” among Mr Buhari’s supporters. NextLevel is the campaign roadmap of the ruling APC, launched in November 2018.
With the victory of Mr Buhari in penultimate Saturday’s election, it is safe to consider the sign as one of the most potent of the election season.
One election slogan that would not be forgotten easily by Nigerians, especially those of the younger generation, is #TakeItBack. It was popularised by publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore. Mr Sowore contested for the presidency on the platform of the African Action Congress (AAC) after he emerged the party’s candidate unchallenged on October 6, 2018, at the AAC’s national convention.
Mr Sowore, a reknown activist, is the convener of #TakeItBack movement, with the core philosophy of taking the nation back from those who plunder its resources. Mr Sowore lost the presidential election to APC’s Muhammadu Buhari.
Shortly after former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged candidate of the opposition PDP at its convention in PortHarcourt in 2018, the internet was awash with posts and comments expressing support for his candidature. Across Cyber Nigeria, especially on Twitter, the hashtag #Atikulate was projected to campaign for the PDP flagbearer and wish him well.
A subtle campaign message was also launched to show that Mr Abubakar was more articulate and has better grasp of the issues plaguing Nigerian than his major challengers, especially Mr Buhari of the APC. It was not surprising to hear Nigerians say that they are #Atiku-lated, in reference to throwing their support for Mr Abubakar, widely known among Nigerians as “Atiku”.
Used alongside the #Atikulated slogan is #Obi-diently. When paired together, it was said as “Obidiently Atikulated”. It was a campaign catchphrase coined with the name of Mr Abubakar’s running mate and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.
With the uncertainty that clouded the security situation in the South East, the slogan was also used to encourage voters in the region to come out and cast their votes.
Another campaign catchphrase that was popular in the 2019 electioneering is #Ortomatic, popularized by supporters of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom. Mr Ortom defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress into the PDP in 2018. This was at the height of the herdsmen-farmers’ clash that claimed numerous lives in Benue and other parts of the country.
Upon his defection, some old-time PDP members ruled out possibility of the party granting the governor automatic ticket. But supporters of the governor dismissed the charge and drummed support for him. Mr later would later emerge the party’s flagbearer and his campaign supporters promptly adopted the Ortomatic mantra, perhaps to affirm that the governor’s re-election bid would be seamless.
7. ‘O tun ya’
When the “O to ge” mantra began in Kwara, it was not given much attention by the PDP. But when it got to its crescendo, with youths and non-partisan adults willingly popularising it, the PDP promptly coined its own slogan to dilute the popularity of the APC’s catchphrase. Since they were canvasing for continuity, they adopted “O tun ya”, meaning “Let’s do it once again”. But as events would show, the “O tun ya” mantra did little to save the party from the impending tsunami as all of its candidates in Kwara lost the election.
It however remains unknown whether the party would bounce back in the forthcoming governorship election on Saturday.
8. “O Penkele”
Adegoke Adelabu, the late Ibadan politician, popularized the catchphrase “peculiar mess” which his supporters in Ibadan corrupted as “Penkelemesi”. Decades after his death, Bayo Adelabu, a scion of the Adelabu family, has resurrected the catchphrase, adopting it as campaign slogan. “O Penkele” is the refrain of his supporters whenever issues of electioneering and Oyo State 2019 governorship election are raised.
Shortly after the fall of Senate President Bukola Saraki in Kwara, which signaled the success of the “O to ge” movement, some opposition elements in Lagos politics adopted the slogan and launched what they called “OtogeLagos”. The new ‘movement’ was apparently opposed to the political dynasty of Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress. Mr Tinubu is believed to wield enormous influence in the politics of who becomes Lagos governor and he is instrumental to the ouster of incumbent governor Akinwunmi Ambode and emergence of Babajide Sanwo-olu as APC flagbearer.
“OtogeLagos” has also been linked to the PDP candidate in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje. It however has been criticised has being unoriginal and untimely, apart from being championed mostly by people from a section of the country. Since its birth, the politics of Lagos has once again taken an ethnic dimension, resulting in name-calling, squabbles and tension among Lagos residents of different ethnic identities, especially on the internet.
Sanwo-Eko is the adopted campaign slogan of Mr Sanwo-Olu, APC flagbearer in Lagos. It was popularised during the party primaries last year and has since been adopted by his supporters and other party chieftains. Sometimes, supporters of Mr Sanwo-Olu adopt an abridged version of the slogan, “Sanwo-e!”
11. Omi Tuntun
PDP governorship flagbearer in Oyo State Seyi Makinde has been a household name in Oyo politics. But he has tried to distinguish himself by identifying as being of the new breed. Hence, the adoption of the name “Omi Tuntun”––meaning a breath of fresh air. Although the campaign slogan is not relatively new to Oyo people, it has generated considerable interest in the last few months, placing Mr Makinde among the major contenders for the governorship seat.
In 2015, when he contested on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr Makinde adopted same slogan. He is now widely considered a major contender in the election.
Until his governorship ambition hit a brickwall, “Ambo” was the campaign catchphrase of Akinwumi Ambode, the outgoing governor of Lagos State. Mr Ambode met his waterloo when the APC members in Lagos adopted Mr Sanwo-Olu as their flagbearer in the party primaries held last year. Before then, the slogan had generated interest among supporters of Mr Ambode in the party, especially in Epe, his hometown. “Ambo” is a Yoruba word which means “We are coming”.
On occasions when the governors supporters had the luxury of time or space, it was spelt in full as “Ambo lekan si”––meaning “We are coming one more time”––to popularize the reelection bid of the governor. It was however cut short by Lagos APC members who denied the governor a return ticket.
In the days before the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential flagbearer, a campaign slogan popularized on Twitter was #GrowNigeria. It was birthed by handlers of Senate President Bukola Saraki. In his movements across Nigeria, Mr Saraki said at the time that he was spreading the message of how to #GrowNigeria. Every campaign message on the internet, especially Twitter, at the time contained the #GrowNigeria hashtag. Mr Saraki would later lose the ticket to Mr Abubakar and returned to pick the senatorial ticket in his native Kwara State, where he lost penultimate Saturday.