Strategic Silence as a Tool of Political Communication: A Reflection on Third Term Saga and Etteh Gate in Nigerian Politics
AbstractPolitics is said to be a game of intrigues and part of that is the use of silence as a means of communication. This may sound strange as communication itself connotes the art of expression. However in politics, a political actor may chose to remain silent as a means of passing a message across to the public in a trouble situation when he is expected to make a comment. In this paper, effort was made to examine how silence has been used by public office holders in Nigeria at different times as a reaction to issues of public interest concerning them. The paper observed that whereas this strategy worked well in some instances such as in President Shehu Shagari preventing war between Nigeria and Cameroon, it failed woefully in respect of the late General Sanni Abacha as well as Patricia Etteh, first female Speaker, House of Representatives in Nigeria while it provided an escape route for Olusegun Obasanjo in his subtle attempt at perpetuating himself in power. The paper, therefore, recommended that politicians should be cautious in the use of strategic silence as a means of political communication in view of the nature of politics which calls for self- expression in the use of persuasion, clarification and conviction to win public support and sympathy. Maintaining silence when one is most expected to speak out could easily be misunderstood as a sign of incompetence, intransigence or outright arrogance by the public.
LWATI: A Journal of Contemporary Research, 8(1), 272-285, 2011