Gaffes ordinarily could be blunders, some unintentional remark or an act that could cause embarrassment to the originator and listeners. In this sense, gaffes could be mistakes and anyone could make gaffes.

However, some gaffes may reveal the total worldview of those who make them. Gaffes that are under this spectrum are usually remarks and actions that are socially impolite. When such gaffes are persistent they get people turned off and embarrassed. On the heels of Nigeria’s general elections,

Nigerians are witnessing an avalanche of consistent political gaffes from some of the most medialized candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring for the office of the next President of Nigeria.

Gaffes have become common commodities in campaign rallies every single day. The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in an interactive session with Arewa Joint Committee held sometime last year in Kaduna asserted while responding to a question posed to him by one of the spokesmen of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Hakeem Baba- Ahmed that, ‘’what the average Northerner needs is somebody who is from the North who also understands that part of the country and has been able to build bridges across the country.’’ Continuing, he gaffed by saying, ‘’ this is what the Northerner needs, he doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a pan- Nigerian of Northern origin.’’ In a sense, Atiku Abubakar is prevailing on the Northern voters not to vote for a Yoruba or an Igbo candidate.

This is a social gaffe inimical to the sensibilities of the average Nigerian that understands the significance of the unity of Nigeria. Little wonder then that some members of the Northern Elders’ Forum raised eye brows concerning Atiku’s chauvinistic assertion. Apart from being a non-pardonable gaffe, it is a statement capable of inciting chaos that could destabilize and stifle Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

This is a gaffe beyond mistake, humor, and flip of the tongue. Today, politics in Nigeria is frost with ethnic leanings, so much so, that politicians bank on the strength of the numbers of their ethnic groups to vie for elective positions in spite of their unsuitability for such positions they aspire to occupy. When this is the case, especially in a multi- ethnic nation like Nigeria, there may arise a situation where a part of the country would assume the exclusive preserve of deciding and providing leadership for a country that is highly heterogeneous.

One would be stating the obvious to assert that the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress is the king in the reign of gaffes. One of the most offensive gaffes Bola Ahmed Tinubu made was in a Town Hall Meeting, this time, indeed, different from ‘bala blue’, which was held in Abeokuta where he asserted just before the APC’s primary election that he brought Buhari from Daura when he was frustrated because of his successive failures in his many attempts to becoming the president of Nigeria in the democratic dispensation and his vituperation that it his turn to become the next president of Nigeria, expressed in the Yoruba language, ‘’emi lo kan’’. It all depends on divergent perceptions, ‘’emi lo kan’’ is as grievous a gaffe like that of Atiku Abubakar’s. It portrays greed, high sense of entitlement and the tendency to muscle democratic principles and processes for self-aggrandizement.

Apart from ‘’emi lo kon” Bola Tinubu has made numerous comic gaffes that make him trend on social media. Jagaban is synonymous with making gaffes; all you need to do is listen to his speeches at campaign rallies and you would certainly be entertained with freshly made and served gaffes. In fact, Phrank Shaibu, an aide to Atiku, asserts that Bola Ahmed’s gaffes are good enough content for skit makers and TikTokers. Tinubu has made gaffes such as ‘’God bless PDAPC’’; he urged the youth to get their APV instead of PVCs; he earlier promised the conscription of 50 Million youth as soldiers when elected as president in march last year, who will eat cassava, agbado, corn in the morning, yam in the afternoon’’; he also said that social media users could tweet on WhatsApp when he said, ‘’do you know how many of you are tweeting on WhatsApp right now?’’

Obviously we certainly cannot tweet on WhatsApp because it is an instant messaging app and can only tweet on twitter that is a microblogging social networking service platform. Tinubu also gaffed when he said ‘’El Rufai is known for turning rotten situation into a bad one’’; he has also called wrongly the name of the director- general of his Campaign council, Solomon Lalong as Solomon Dalong, the former minister of youth and Sports Development.

In Gbaramatu Kingdom, he called Delta State Niger Delta State while selling the candidature of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege aspiring to the governorship position of Delta state. He likened Nigeria tackling issues of global climate change to preventing a church rat from eating poisoned Holy Communion. In a town hall meeting he scuttled out some words like bala blu, blu, bulalaba. In Benin City recently, he promised to transform yahoo boys into experts in technology saying, ‘’I will turn the so called yahoo yahoo boys to experts in manufacturing and creation of chips dat zin dasan dadauga.’’ He is also seen in a video clip making the rounds on the internet leaking a microphone before making a speech. His allegories, mostly bordering on food like cassava, ewa, agbado, popcorn, soaked slice bread, Isi ewu and beer, speak so much of trivialities and of a man who is only interested in stomach infrastructure and owanbes.

Peter Obi is not spared either from gaffes because no man is above mistakes. He is mostly accused of giving false statistics. In fact, a tweet asserted that Peter Obi brought to political lime light the concept of fact- checking in Nigeria politics. Opps, Obidients would say at least his gaffes birthed something positive. Peter Obi seems to be good in mathematics and logic as a trader and a philosopher so he is well equipped with figures and tries to logically make his point with facts. In the process he misses up figures which for some people is not a big deal because no human is a computer.

However, he has made some gaffes, maybe out of stress, like when on Thursday, October 13, 2022, he referred to Nasarawa as a country. He said ‘’Nasarawa is big, it is a great country.’’ Also, at the presidential town hall meeting organized by Arise TV, Obi gaffed when he snapped at Dino Melaye for taunting him, after Dino tagged one of the attendees who stood up to ask the presidential candidates question and was being emotional as ‘Obi people.’ Dino was heard saying- ‘’na wa o, Obi people,’’ just like in pidgin you want to express that someone has an ‘over-sabi’ attitude. This got Obi infuriated and called out Dino saying, ‘’stop that Dino. Why are you always calling me? I won’t take that. This man is from ANPP. Why are you calling him Obi people’’? The All Nigerian Peoples Party was a political party in Nigeria founded in 1998 and dissolved and merged into the All Progressives Congress in 2013. So no one was in that town hall meeting representing ANPP. Perhaps he meant NNPP – the New Nigeria Peoples Party of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.

The Candidate of the NNPP is not known to have made any serious gaffes but he stands accused of possessing poor communication skills. Though his admirers and those who know him well give credence to his intellectual abilities, he could be misjudged when you hear him speak using the Nigeria Lingua franca. According to Hashim Ibrahim Rijiyar Lemo, this singular deficiency was the reason he was a leading member of the benchwarmers at the Red Chambers and was unable to table any motion in favour of the people of Kano Central as a senator. Watching and listening to Kwankwaso in the various interviews he has granted on national television stations and the recent Chatham House outing, one could say the assertion of Hashim is not far-fetched.

However, gaffes do not stop politicians from winning elections. Joe Biden, during his campaign in 2020 made a lot of gaffes, President Goodluck Jonathan made gaffes too, and Buhari was notorious with making gaffes until Bola Tinubu took over. One thing similar to these presidents is the fact that in spite of the gaffes they made they won their elections with the vote they got from the electorate. Somehow, voters do not care so much about gaffes of their preferred candidates. No matter how socially embarrassing they might be, they are taken with a pinch of salt, at best they are seen as humour.

Whenever such gaffes are made, the listeners go into a frenzy of hilarious laughter, bloggers, TikTokers and comedians will create content out of such gaffes to entertain people and make money. In fact, some people believe that gaffes make politicians popular and even win elections. Therefore we would not be surprised that Tinubu who makes gaffes at almost every of his campaign wins the next election. It is not so much about the mistakes or gaffes of the candidate but the voters. The voters, the electorate are the enablers of the problem of leadership that besiege us as a country.

The voters of the forthcoming elections now have to look beyond these gaffes and choose among these leading candidates who will be able to save Nigeria that Muhammadu Buhari is leaving behind in ruins. We must look beyond gaffes and the humour they bring to knowing the candidate that is competent, dedicated, that will be available and accessible to Nigerians; the candidate who would be able to know what must be done and not just rely on appointed members of his cabinet – who most time do not share same vision with the commander in chief, whose only interest is to share in the national cake.

We must look beyond primordial sentiments like ethnicity and religion and be focused on the candidates’ ability to be accountable, dependable and forthright; we must look for a candidate who is detribalized and altruistic. Indeed, Nigeria is in its lowest ebbs, we cannot afford to go lower than this. This election will determine Nigerians’ resolve to pick up the pieces left in their beloved country or to allow the hyenas who have eaten up the very soul of Nigeria to continue to plunder her.

Rev.Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe
Assistant Director of Communications and Parish Administrator of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Iyuku- Uzairue

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