The last four to five weeks must have been quite eventful for graphic designers and printing organisations. Following the announcement of the election date by the President, aspiring public office bearers jostled for the attention of potential voters by commissioning poll material products such as posters, printing them and sticking them on any solid structure within eye-sight.
Graphic designers eventually come up with several design options, and the printers, only so happy to take advantage of the “peak hours” reproduced the compositions. The result was a country decorated mostly in red and green. Campaign teams erected political information, both visual and textual, and in varying sizes and shapes.
Even the big post office building along Julius Nyerere Way, armed with deterrent warnings of prosecution, was not spared. Public places were only a part of the targeted spaces, during the night private homes and businesses got the same treatment with some owners waking up to 30 posters on their walls.
A good number of the campaign posters were displayed in front of public schools where public meetings and mini rallies were held, and where voting was to take place.
It is understandable that aspiring candidates would religiously push for increased presence through massive poster-sticking in communities they hoped to lead.
After all, the only objective during the campaign period would have nothing to do with environmental issues.
The objective for any candidate would be to win and posters become part of the means. But soon after elections, as is the case now, social responsibility by all stakeholders in the national process has to take centre stage. Any political group and individual who ran in the recently concluded elections, regardless of their polling performance, should actively lead the post-election clean-up, including removing all campaign posters and banners and recycling the trash.
Given the sheer numbers of political information stuck up in the streets and on other surfaces, a clean-up would no doubt require multi-sectoral co-operation. And the leaders of the campaign should be the candidates themselves, the people whose faces we see plastered on every building because candidates should be leaders with exemplary attitude towards the community.
In any case, candidates are directly responsible for their actions and that the information on the walls is now obsolete, it is not just exemplary for them to be involved, but an obligation to clean after their mess.
Candidates, particularly those that did not win may be reluctant, but by so doing rob the clean-up of important players. Losing candidates will have to work harder to convince their voters of their responsibility as good citizens and law-abiding people with the ability to offer themselves for the post-election clean-up, regardless of the results.
A clean environment is one less thing to worry about, but some disposal techniques may solve one problem and create another. The clean-up should not end up with burning or dumping collected campaign materials, cleaners have the obligation to make every effort to salvage and recycle paper products to help maintain a clean ecosystem and save trees.
Political advertising has evolved to unfortunately include unsolicited spray painting on private buildings. Some spray painted “Vote So-and-So” from as way back as the year 2000 can be seen on many surfaces today. The availability of old political messages is clear testament that, for over a decade, little or no effort has been directed towards social responsibility by election candidates.
The use of environmentally “unfriendly’”adhesives to paste the political information onto walls has exposed how little regard some candidates have for the environment. Politicians, however, are not entirely to blame for the paper pollution on walls. Musicians, some holding shows as much as three times a week, advertise each of their appearances using posters.
As a result, layers of music posters, some several centimetres thick, are an eye-sore throughout the CBD. Church organisations, prophets and pastors are also guilty of putting up infomercials and letting them rot on someone’s wall. Church leaders and musicians are prominent members of the community that should encourage and be actively involved in clean-ups.
Interestingly, church leaders, musicians and politicians frequently come together as individuals and organisations endorse one candidate over the other(s).
There is no reason why they cannot come together to lead their supporters to clean up material that, without them, would have never made it to every surface accessible to the public.
It is pointless to tell the world about the highest literacy levels in Africa, or the exemplary education system, if the above-average population lives with dirt stuck to its walls.
A poster of an event that has already taken place adds no value at all to anyone and taking it off a wall has no disadvantages.
The responsibility may be shared but the primary onus on the leaders whose faces look back at us off a wall or electricity pole.
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