One of democracy’s blessings and curse is rivalry. Ordinarily, (healthy) rivalry is supposed to bring out the beauty of democracy as it exposes the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of aspirants to the electorate in order to help them vote the best candidate.
Sadly, in Africa where animal kingdom-styled politickings and “demo-crazy” is the order of day, it is more or less a curse.
But there is this African politician, a Nigerian at that, whose brand of politics is totally worthy of commendation and emulation.
He’s Chief Phillip Agbese who seeks to represent Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State. He is redefining politicking.
Agbese prides himself as the talking drum of Agila – Okanga.
The UK-trained lawyer and human rights activist has achieved the popularity (and even more) that some politicians often resort to shenanigans and gimmicks to get, even without throwing himself to the mud.
He didn’t recreate scenes from Nollywood by staging melodramas to spark reactions or controversies. He didn’t take a line from Nigerian politicians’ traditional playbook by chiding his opponents for every lows of his life. He didn’t encourage pen thuggery and hoodlumism. He didn’t play the pity card by resorting to emotional blackmailing or raising false alarms to evoke hate against opponents.
And yet, he is unarguably the most popular candidate in the race.
Okanga, as he is fondly called, I observed, warmed his way into the hearts of the people with his philanthropy, charisma and his philosophy of issues based politics.
Recently, I stumbled across a digital poster from the Philip Agbese Campaign Organization (PACO) with the inscription: PROMOTE YOUR ASPIRANT, Don’t Insult Others. Primary and General Election will come and go but You and I will remain.
I was bedazzled by the civility and humaneness shown in that terse but powerful campaign message.
I’m hardly surprised. Chief Phillip Agbese has always been a cosmopolitan and an egalitarian.
Even at his campaigns, he always spoke with a sense of civility; the credence of his voice, so soft and charming as opposed to the vulgarism most Nigerian politicians are known for.
Being a true democrat, Agbese has repeatedly challenged his opponents to a political debate but none has been able to respond.
Aside from the fact that he has the highest academic credentials among the aspirants, Agbese believes rivalry should be an intellectual exercise, and not vulgar political exhibitionism, shenanigans, tantrums and their ilks.
One of his biggest campaigners has been his track records. His philanthropic enterprise and humanitarian works are what endeared him to his constituents, so much that his supporters are across party lines.
When a person sets a good precedent before aspiring for a political office, the urge of resorting to self-ridicule, gimmicks and lies (unrealistic campaign promises) to gain popularity will be easily defeated.
Nigerian politicians can learn a thing from that.
Let me conclude by saying, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and indeed Enone have their best shot in Phillip Agbese.
(Itodo, a Public Affairs Analyst & Newspaper Columnist writes from Abuja)
By Sunny Green Itodo