“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians” Gandhi said once. He must have read about Jesus in the Bible, but found his disposition at sharp variance with his discoveries when interacting with Christians, who were supposed to be followers of Christ. I wonder what Gandhi’s thoughts might be were he alive today, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
A lot of our disposition to certain brands and brand names, are as a result of experiencing them through proxies. For example, if there are 12 call center representatives for a bank, and 8 of those representatives are courteous and helpful, while 4 are not, the perception of that bank will be shaped by which of the representatives we encounter. If this experience remains consistent, then eventually an impression is formed which can be difficult to change in any direction.
Gandhi never met Jesus Christ, just as many of us will never ever meet the CEOs behind the companies that produce the goods and services we use on a daily basis, but that does not stop us from forming impressions about those goods and services, based on our experiences on a regular basis.
This has relevance for the current season of campaigning in Nigeria, especially as it this relates to interaction on social media. The APC recently picked Muhammadu Buhari as its Presidential candidate, and his supporters have gone into overdrive pushing for their candidate. A lot of the time, however, the way they engage leaves a bit to be desired, so much that I have seen tweets from people saying that they do not like Buhari on account of his supporters. On first look, this comes off as a lame excuse, but just as the conduct of some Christians can turn people away from Christianity, the conduct of Buhari supporters can turn people away from voting for him in February.
Too often, there is a resort to insults and other extreme language in support of the Daura-born politician. It is true that he inspires a fervour among supporters rarely seen, but that fervour should be channelled toward re-introducing Buhari to the electorate, and highlighting the aspects of his record that put him in a good position to get Nigeria back on track, rather than alienating those disappointed in the current administration and who are open to voting another way, but still have legitimate questions.
Rather than combative, the tone from his supporters – many of whom have a lot of followers – should be much more persuasive. Buhari will do interviews, be on the campaign trail and maybe even do a couple of debates, but he cannot reach everyone. Whether online or offline, incendiary and uncouth language should be shunned in favour of a narrative that sells their candidate, a narrative which is much stronger than it appears at first glance.
This is not to say that the many failings of the current administration should not be pointed out. Far from it. The issue is that even those criticisms can be made by merely presenting people with the facts in a way that can change minds.
Following a very well organised and fair primaries exercise, the APC has begun to gain momentum as the year comes to a close. More and more, this is looking like the best chance for a ruling party to be voted out for the first time in our history. As the Presidential candidate, Buhari is leading that charge, and every interaction his supporters have with others contributes to that effort. May it not be said that he lost votes because of them.