Did the First Lady Reveal A Violence in Democracy?

“Anywhere you hear someone talking about change, stone that person” (three times in succession) – Patience Jonathan; Nigeria’s First Lady in her 2015 Election Campaign

The word “stone” is a very ominous one that conjures up exclusively many meanings and images of violence and immorality. The emphasised passion with which the First Lady uttered the statement is reminiscent of people praying for fatality to happen to their enemies in the ‘return-to-sender’ fashion. It betrayed a violent consciousness in Nigerian democratic politics that politicians are by keen self-regulation forbidden to reveal and therefore a characteristic of Nigerian politics ‘in private’. Cases of Freudian slip (utterances due to psychological mix-ups) or Kinsley gaffes (truths uttered by politicians in public by mistake) are rare in Nigerian politics.

The speech the aforementioned quote is taken from can be safely categorised as “lynch politics” not just “do-or-die politics”; both being very desperate forms of seeking power. However, the First Lady is neither an astute politician nor disciplined public speaker. She did reveal her inclination to violent preferences over democratic choice in public using very poor rhetoric. I wonder if the first Lady realised the implications of using the word “stone” and other contents of her speech with much vehemence against her husband’s opponent.

Let us look at the word “stone”. To hyper-rationals and atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Chris Hitchens as well as many commentators on the Right (some of the most influential thinkers and commentators in the world) and their millions of supporters, the word “stone” immediately brings an ‘act’ they so despise and contend with – the stoning of offenders especially adulterers to death by Islamic fundamentalists or under Sharia Law. In fact, one of the bases for justification of intolerance used against Muslims (Islamophobia) is their “righteous” tolerance of “stoning” as capital punishment even though this is an irrational fallacy. A general studies professor in class said the most God-like sentence was uttered by Jesus in the Bible when a crowd gathered to stone an adulteress to death and he (Jesus) resolved the problem by saying “s/he who is without sin cats the first stone”. Atheist will not argue with the sublime wisdom of such statement but the First Lady does not seem to see it like that, stoning is a thing to be done.

To many Nigerians and others around the world the word “stone” invokes the scenery of “desperate” violence. To “pack stone” in a fight is a case where the usual weapons (planks, pole-lines, knives, cutlasses, bottles etc.) are unavailable necessitating the fighter to use stones to injure his opponent. This kind of fight is nasty to witness as an observer and many have been seriously injured or lost their eyes when the stones start hitting innocent and unintended victims. Perhaps the First Lady underestimated the fact that if one throws stones at a person ‘talking about Change’ the person can throw stones back. How irresponsible, tasteless and desperate can a campaign get?

If the First Lady can have security detail attached to her by default can she not also have speech writers and image makers to advice and accompany her? It should not cost too much and volunteers would abound. One can blame her political handlers and those of her husband for such a gaffe or slip.

The only peaceful use of the word “stone” common used is as a descriptor of being high on marijuana. These examples may seem superfluous to the point but the First Lady would not be happy to be associated with or inspire any of these meanings and connotations of the word.

We can thus see that the statement “Anywhere you hear someone talking about change, stone that person” three times in succession” and the whole contents of her campaign speech in support of her husband by the First Lady goes incredibly a lot further than ten words especially in the foreign media when reflection time comes… inevitably. However, the First Lady said what too many important politicians feel; a preference for violence in the name of the ballot.

In a mature or serious developing democracy where the ballot truly decides elections reliably and consistently such would not happen.

Grimot Nane

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