Political Communication, precisely Political Advertising in print media presentation of campaign adverts is the obvious subject matter of Animus and Apologia. This publication – edited by duo of Isaac Olawale Albert and Derrick Marco, with full title: Animus and Apologia: Campaign Advertorials and the Gamble for Power in the 2003 and 2007 Elections in Nigeria – is one of the dossiers often published as reports of conflict tracking (Early Warning System) project of IDASA- Nigeria. The 163 page book is published by Stirling-Horden Publishers Ltd.
Animus and Apologia is eight chaptered book that attempts to undertake an assessment of the kinds of positions and politicking which candidates, their parties and supporters use in articulating issues concerning their candidacy. That is, an analysis of the kinds of rhetorical strategies: positive or negative campaigning, animus or apologia, as well as content and context of their employment in the 2003 and 2007 general elections in Nigeria.
From its first to the last chapter, the papers presented in Animus and Apologia are written in the context of IDASA Communication Hub which seek to understand and detect potentials for conflict and violence, while rapidly responding through appropriate interventions. The theoretical assumption inherent in Early Warning System is quite simple: since it is comparatively cheaper to prevent a conflict than to manage it perhaps after much blood and destruction might have been spilled and caused.
Meanwhile, chapter one captioned: Campaign Adverts in the context of idasa communication hub serves as the introduction. It renders an account of what early warning (EWS) communication hub entails in conflict tracking practice. Also, it provides snippet of the reasons why IDASA include campaign adverts in its tracking system. Generally, campaign adverts “enable candidates and political parties to market their ideas and programmes.” But for IDASA, it helps to assess the willingness of politicians to work for peace. “Where campaign adverts subserve conflict issues, the conclusion is reached that the politicians merely further heating up the polity rather than helping to solve the problems of the country. Where adverts promote centripetal issues, it is concluded that the politicians that placed such adverts are willing to work for peace (p.5)”. Therefore, the task of tracking the campaign adverts has an early warning value.
In chapter two, Albert’s brilliant conceptual examination of political (campaign) advertising sets the tone for the remaining papers (particularly chapter 3-6) in a paper entitled: Reviewing and Rethinking Campaign Advertorial.
Generically, political advertising embraces three connotations: Government Advertisement, Pressure Group(s) Advertisement and Elections (campaign) Advertisement. The focus of Animus and Apologia as hinted is elections advertising. Since elections are means of making political choices by voting, political campaign provides opportunity for presentation of political ideas, programmes and ideologies. According to the publication, political campaign advertising refers to the “means by which electoral candidates present their manifestoes, and ventilate their perspectives on social issues, and their attitudes towards one another”. Through political advertising, political parties and mandate-seekers communicate and address themselves to the electorate and their fellow contenders.
However, one common trend notice in campaigns advertising is the preponderance of negative campaigning. By it nature it has to do with “knocking the other side.” But electioneering campaign system needs not be negative before serving its purposes if ventilating perspectives on social issues for electoral success is the goal. A normal campaign system supposes to balance both negative and positive messages. Rather than focusing more on the good things they have to say about themselves, politicians focus on how bad others are. No wonder, Obama Barrack, a leading Democrats hopeful in US presidential race, advised against negative campaigning saying: “This can’t be about who digs up more skeletons on who, who makes the fewest slips-up on campaign trail. We owe it to the American people to do more than that.”
Chapter 3, 4, 5, and 6 contains samples of copies produced for championing both gubernatorial and the presidential candidates in the 2003 and 2007 general elections. As hinted by the editors, the organizing principle is to discover the predominant nature of political communication in those two electoral seasons in Nigeria. Thus, the register employed in the selected advertorials especially for the gubernatorial elections is a factor of political temper on display in the geopolitics implicated. Put differently, the content of the text of copy produced for electioneering campaign is an indicative of social context to which it was addressed. Self-presentation, celebration of one’s achievements (apologia) defines the text of political communication coming from mandate-seekers in the northern social context; while sampled copy from south west is more of abusive language: innuendoes and explectives (animus) – the vilification of one’s rivals and adversaries i.e “knocking the other side”.
“Language as an Instrument of Peace and Weapon of Conflict in an Election Year” as the title of the paper in chapter 8 is captured brings home the critical role of language in politics. Language by its nature subjective and flexible, more so, when politicians deliberately use vague and ambiguous language. The essential message in this chapter is that language could be an instrument for peace or a weapon for conflict particularly in political communication. In tandem with a popular African proverb, a slant in language can make a difference in communication: “Words draw kola nut from the pocket, and words also draw arrows from the quiver.”
Examples of language used, either as instrument of peace or weapon of conflict, abound in this chapter. One such example of political communication considered as strand of language used as conflict weapon is attributed to statement credited to former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, during the 2007 Presidential election campaign trail:
I will campaign. This is a do-or-die affair for me and the PDP. This coming election is a matter of life and death for the PDP and Nigeria (p.135).
No doubt, political language, if misused, is likely to have negative consequences for the political system. Hence the warning: “words don’t die, and ill-advised utterances have long-lasting impact”.
In a nutshell, “Making sense of 2003 and 2007 Campaign Advertorials” concludes this beautiful works in chapter 8. This publication is an excellent material not only for its rich early warning value but also political consultants interested in developing adverts copy for their principals would find the work very useful. Since political communication remains one area of Political Science discipline that has not received considerable attention in our clime, Albert and Derrick edited Animus and Apologia would certainly increase research uptake in that area albeit for other purpose. For students of political science, mass communication, advertising and other related disciplines, who are interested in political advertising Animus and Apologia is highly recommended.