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HomeOpinionEdo 2024: Political Identity, Validity of Arguments By Elempe Dele

Edo 2024: Political Identity, Validity of Arguments By Elempe Dele

 

Last year, after the general election, I wrote an article, Overlapping Identity, Tolerance and Peace. I made a submission of my social construct; Overlapping Identities, to foster peace and tolerance. Overlapping Identity, I explained, is the intersectionality of our identities as humans which includes identifications within the rings of politics, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, occupation, alma mater, confraternity and others.

Today, I am making another claim, which might not be so popular. I am submitting that as Edo State goes into electioneering proper next month after ban is lifted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, just like it is now, our arguments will be laced with some turbulent discussions and arguments.

Social media platforms will be awashed with discussions and arguments about our local politics: Peoples Democratic Party versus All Progressive Congress versus Labour Party.

And the question is why must the mention of politics by any member of such platforms degenerate to toxic political arguments?

My offering for this is that unlike other topics such as how machines work, the place of China in the global economy, automobiles or flight tickets, forum participants don’t have any known expertise on politics to have opinions about any issue on it. What those who argue just possess is what any participant can have, that is their strongly held political conviction or faith – and anyone, even simpletons can have strongly held beliefs, as we often see. In fact, the more simpleton one is, the more strong he holds his convictions. Every simple active member of such political forums is an expert in politics. So in political debates and arguments, which often become toxic, there is no known borderline for expressing held convictions, just like religion. All you need is freedom of expression – the validity of arguments is secondary.

In political arguments the issue of definite answers to definite questions is ruled out most times. So people easily express their opinions without going through the rigours of scrutiny. This is so because opinionated political arguments cannot be proven right or wrong – they are mostly subjective. The more they are less objective, the more they are likely to offend the opponent.

We must try to recognize the reason for this phenomenon. And in my opinion, having studied trends in different social media platforms, even those that are scholarly and intellectual and elitistic, I have come to the conclusion that the reason for our types of political arguments is our political identities. It is almost impossible for one to have a logical political argument about issues that form a large portion of one’s political identity. When you have a political identity, it means you have taken a political position.

As political topics are being argued on platforms, what you will easily notice is that people tend to argue from the position of their political identity, not basically from the point of the topic under discussion, which often leads to heated debates. This means it is not the political discussion that is the problem but the political identities of those who are participating in the argument. They tend to look at the issues obliquely, from opaque positions, and often with jaundiced eyes. Yes, it is easy to identify political arguments that are propelled by the political identities of the participants.

I have had opportunities to participate in several of such arguments: an objective article is read with such political identity and it is ruled as one sponsored by a political opponent. A misleading content is attached to a bygone video as one that happened recently. If you correct that misinformation, it is read as a support for the present administration; worse things are happening now, they conclude to validate the misinformation…the fact of the matter takes back burner. A factual demography is tossed away because it does not speak to the range of desires of some of the participants. A voter in Edo State claims he won everywhere without knowing what happened in Kebbi State. Any question of that is irrelevant since his political identity was injured by the outcome of the election. Crosssectional discussions on ethnicity and competence is weakened by political identities… The list is endless.

The only time you enjoy political arguments, which is rare though, is the period of contributions by those who have no known political identities – hence are not partisan. Outside that, political discussions often degenerate to affront, use of slur, offense, abuse…because intolerant participants try as much as possible to give offense to score very cheap political points. And when you discuss other topics outside politics with the same people, perhaps from overlapped identities, like football, cars, food and so on, you find them more receptive and tolerant.

But can we totally avoid political arguments? Can we be selective on the types of political discussions to be engaged in? How do we identify those who have very vague understanding about politics and their reliance on their political identities? How do you identify those who have very high intolerant quotient? How do you identify those with political labels that can easily cross the borders of decorum? How do you refrain from allowing political arguments go inflammatory? How do you know when political arguments touch raw nerves because it lecerates the cords of some people’s political identities?

We must consider all these as we go into the core of the 2024 Edo State gubernatorial electioneering. It is easier to solve a problem you have already identitied.

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