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October 4, 2023

2023 polls: A season of political jargons

Since the first republic, politicians have continued to introduce new jargons in every electoral circle which become acceptable long after the elections. In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA examines some of the jargons and slogans that featured prominently in the just concluded polls.

Political slogans often feature in every election circle. While some lose their relevance soon after the elections, others endure like old wine.

In the first republic, the late Joseph Sanusi Gbadamosi Adegoke Adelabu was the face of Penkelemesi, a popular slogan back in the days.

Adelabu was the founder of Ibadan People’s Party (IPP) before he moved to the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), under which he tormented and fought Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Action Group party in the Western Regional Assembly at Ibadan had led him to describe the situation as “peculiar mess”.

Not understanding what he meant, the non-literate section of his audience translated the phrase to penkelemesi, a Yorubanisation of the phrase which has stuck till today.

Many years after his death, political jargons and lexicons have continued to characterise successive republics as different situations have given rise to several other jargons.

These jargons sometimes redefine, not only the political space but serve as a winning strategy for many politicians.

‘Do or die’

Prior to the 2007 election, President Olusegun Obasanjo, declared that the elections would be a do or die affair for the country and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Addressing elders and other stakeholders from Abeokuta, Obasanjo said that he would give it all it takes to ensure his party’s victory in the elections, adding that he was not prepared to hand over to criminals.

The slogan was to later become his albatross as many political analysts and pundits condemned it, describing it as an act of desperation.

Similarly, former Kano Governor, Abubakar Rimi, criticised Obasanjo for describing elections as a do-or-die affair, insisting that it smacked of the garrison mentality in the PDP.

I had no shoe

“In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. There were days I had only one meal.

“I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day. I didn’t have power, I didn’t have generators, studied with lantens, but I never despaired,” President Goodluck Jonathan description of himself reverberated and elicited sympathy and was able to galvanise votes in his favour.

The slogan, however, elicited different responses in different quarters with columnist, Sam Omatseye, tagging it a seduction speech.

According to Omatseye, the ex-president merely tapped the experience of many who grew up in his days, whether in the Niger Delta, in the South-east, in the South-west or all parts of the North. In the 1970’s in Warri, we called it “tearing 10 toes.”

Omatseye added: “Most people did not buy shoes. They could not afford it, and it did not seem like a big deal if you did not have shoes because many did not. That was the point President Jonathan did not make.

“He was not alone without shoes. He grew up in a generation of shoeless school goers. He was not an isolated poor. We all had that foot deficiency with blisters, petrified soles and toes, limping over wounds coming and going.”

Happy hour

A few days to his election, the Governor-elect of Akwa-Ibom state, Umo Eno, had caused a stir on social media when he stated, during a press conference, that if elected governor, he would have “Happy Hour” to enable bars to sell drinks at affordable prices to the people.

Happy hour is a marketing term for a time when a venue such as a restaurant or bar offer reduced prices on alcoholic drinks. Discounted menu items like appetizers are often served during happy hour.

This is a way for bars and restaurants to draw in more business before or after peak business hours.

He said: “I’ll tell you one thing, every Friday, I’ll have what I call ‘Happy Hour’ for the state. It’s simple, what do I want to do with ‘Happy Hour’? I want to create opportunities for people that have facilities.

“You know what, between five and six; these are the bars that will open up. So, we’ll pick them randomly and send people there. Give us these drinks, as people come, if you were to sell for N200, sell for N50.”

The proposal thereafter elicited so much comments, especially in the social media, so much so that a popular Hip hop artiste, Esegine ‘Orezi’ Allen promised to remind the governor-elect after his inauguration.

“He won ooo. So, it’s happy hour every Friday, subsidised shayo and pepper soup. We will remind him,” Orezi wrote in the comment section of a blog’s post.

As e dey sweet us…

In the run up to the 2023 polls, the Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, was been in the news over his stance on Southern Presidency.

Five governors on the platform of PDP and some other aggrieved party leaders had repeatedly called for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, for peace to return to the main opposition party.

The governors led by Gov Wike, declared that the “Integrity Group” still stood on the position earlier taken in Port Harcourt, Rivers, on Ayu’s removal.

So, as part of his campaign strategy, the witty governor adopted the song: ‘As e dey sweet us, e dey pain dem’ as his official song to hit political opponents.

At political campaign, gathering and assembly, Wike would always sing the song so much that people started asking if the song had become Rivers state anthem.


The otooge mantra was the slogan that catalysed the end of the Senator Bukola Saraki political hegemony in Kwara state.

From the artisans, taxi drivers, okada riders, keke marwa riders, and pedestrians, the slogan was on everyone’s lip till the Saraki’s were thrown out of power.

Whether Saraki would bounce back or not after the crushing defeats he has suffered two times now remains to be seen.

During a book launch in 2021, the Kwara state Governor, Abdulrasaq Abdulrahman, said that contrary to some claims, the battle cry ‘otooge’ and its adoption were a product of a state-wide field research that he commissioned shortly after the primaries in October 2018.

“First, otooge is the struggle of our people and it did not necessarily start in 2019. Every Kwaran of good conscience owned and worked for that struggle in various ways. We were only positioned by providence to lead the final lap of the breaking of the jinx that dated back many decades,” Abdulrasaq stated.

Chenji dole

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), found one in the slogan Change, which was to drive home the party’s campaign for the change of what was considered as the difficult situations Nigerians believed they were living in before Buhari’s emergence.

The change mantra and Sai Buhari that ushered in the new campaign slogan is like a good fortune: concise, clever and crisp.

Sai Baba, Sai Buhari was adopted as a way of greeting, popular among Okada riders, market men and women and even in corporate offices before the March 28 presidential polls.

Later, the 4+4 slogan got an impetus when Buhari waved the sign by putting up his two hands with four fingers each in response to cheers from ruling party lawmakers.

Emi lokan

President-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, popularised the ‘emilokan’ coinage.

The Youruba expression literally translates to “it’s my turn”.

It was first mouthed by Tinubu in Abeokuta some days before the APC party presidential primaries election.

He reportedly used the expression to underscore his entitlement to the throne after helping President Muhammadu Buhari, some governors, the Senate President, Speaker and other public office holders to their current positions.

The ‘emilokan’ slogan later turned to an advantage to the one called Jagaban as many reasoned that for once, politics has returned home and one of the most prolific pro-democracy activists and politician who alongside others helped in enthroning the country’s nascent democracy in person of Tinubu will be on the driver’s seat as Nigeria’s President.

But while throwing a swipe at Tinubu over the comment, Former President Obasanjo described emi Lokan as a wrong attitude and mentality to bring into leadership in Nigeria.


More than any other slogan, obidients as coined by supporters of the Labour Party (LP) Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi, made the most impact.

The Obidient Movement ignited the majority of Nigerian youth consciousness who became his ardent supporter and follower.

The movement came like a wild wind and before one could say ‘Jack’ became a household name slugging with political heavyweights in the political firmament and has also rattled the ruling party.

Many have argued that Obi’s campaigns for the little known LP gained momentum partly because of frustration and anger in the land as exhibited by mostly youth.


The back-to-south movement was built and anchored on rotational governorship in Cross River state.

Proponents of the movement argued that the three senatorial districts have had their turns at the number one seat in the state; therefore, it should return to the South, where it will start another journey up North. This, they insisted, was the equitable thing to do.

The movement had its way in the March 16 governorship election with the emergence of a former member of the National Assembly and flag bearer of the APC, Prince Bassey Out.

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