The APC in 2015 had a single word mantra: Change.
It was powerful. It was reminiscent of the Barack Obama campaign of 2008.
Mr. Obama took on the establishment, wrestling the democratic party’s ticket from the hands of the experienced stateprenur Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose it was to lose the Democratic Party’s primaries and she did. The ebony skinned gentleman went on to defeat the establishment cum comical duo of McCain and Sarah Palin – Palin provided all the comic relief justifying the duo as comical – at the general elections, with very little upsets on either side as the Dems won in all their strongholds and their GOP counterparts did the same, even though Obama was a new comer, a black and at the time he took office, was one of the youngest to have done so. Where he had a shortcoming engendered by elements out of his control – age, race, experience in Washington – he made up for with the optimism fuelled message, yes we can. He resonated with the masses. Young people rallied to support him. But it will be unfair to arrogate his successes at the primaries and the general elections simply to the messaging, but the success may have been incomplete without that line of messaging.
In Nigeria, we were at a depressing cross road in the lead up to 2015.
We have had the PDP in office for 16 years. By the dawn of the 2015 elections, anybody but the PDP – who was fielding a man who has had a total of 8 years in office part of which he was the vice president and subsequently ascended the country’s highest office upon the demise of his principal and had nothing to show for his time in office, except that impunity could only be measured by the shiploads – would have had a better shot at success at the polls and be the people’s favourite.
The APC, an alliance between groups that bandied themselves as the opposition – which in truth are smaller and less popular copies of the ruling party – systematically took advantage of the situation, formed a common front and sold Nigerians on the idea of change.
They chanted change everywhere. They adopted an iconic symbol ‘the broom’ used in most Nigerians irrespective of class to sweep out dirt.
PDP was the dirt. Or was responsible for the dirt.
APC was the broom.
We bought the idea.
The candidate at the time and now the sitting president was sold as Mr. Integrity. And for good reasons. He had run the most ‘honest’ military regime in Nigeria – honest as reported and amplified by the change criers and their cohorts. And on the same ticket is a professor of law with sparkling public service credentials. Professor Osibajo had supervised the clean-up in the Lagos State Judiciary as a two-time commissioner of Justice and attorney general of the economic capital of Nigeria.
The ticket’s appeal to all irrespective of class was massive and balanced across ethnic boundaries – which is a major determinant of election outcomes in Nigeria.
The change mantra is one that sold well amongst the people. The campaign was appealing to the masses. It addressed the places where the shoe pinches the most.
On election night, the margin between both leading contestants was approximately 8% of total vote cast.
Change won, if only marginally.
Nigeria was on the cusps of change. Or so we thought.
However, the morning after had a lot to reveal. The new administration faltered in its first few months in office and continued misstep after misstep throughout the period before it became necessary to start to asking for votes for a second term in office.
Unlike Obama’s administration, which the Buhari campaign sort of drew some equivalence with, the Buhari administration did not hit the ground running and we do not need to wait for history to pass judgements on his administration – the success of this administration pales in comparison to its failures. For example, crisis broke out within the intelligentsia and the discerning public, when the administration failed to announce the list of ministers– members of the executive branch saddled with running the different facets of the government – more than 5 months into office and when questioned, a sad but uneven comparison was again drawn with the Obama administration. Uneven comparison to the extent that the administration had announced appointments of secretaries (the American equivalent of Nigeria’s ministers) to the numerous departments long before Obama was sworn in as the 44th and the announcements coupled swearing ins continued until all positions were filled.
In an essay written earlier I alluded to Buhari’s government being a clear continuation of the Jonathan administration – which wouldn’t have been a problem except that the Jonathan administration was self-serving, corrupt and did no good by Nigerians and the fact that the APC ticket had promised us CHANGE which it started to defy on day one when it attempted to modify the mantra to change starts with you – an idea the public resisted and which opponents turned into jokes (don’t forget approximately 42% of the voting public saw nothing wrong with Jonathan and everything wrong with Buhari).
It is election time again and Nigerians are being serenaded by election hustlers. It is my hope that the public is not swayed by one word mantras and short phrases this time.
If I am to advise the public, I’d ask that:
- First, we forget the idea of mantras without substance. We should instead ask office seekers to highlight their plans for office and create a means to at a minimum keep track of these promises upon assumption office and hopefully hold public officers accountable.
- And, then get involved in our communities and hijack the electoral process from the cabals who select local council representatives and then slowly but creatively take the battle to the cabals managing the state coffers. Doing so will give a strong base for the onslaught for the highest offices in the land.
A sad reality is that the required framework and time to support the recommendations above does not exist.
This necessitates the need for a foundational process – that of the re-introduction of civic education in our schools. And a secondary process of engendering mobilisations at the ward and local government levels. Which in the words of the ebony man who brought hope with his 2008 presidential campaign for the office of the world’s most powerful man, ‘…when you mobilise, you form a firm base of people who trust you, who will listen to you. A base the cabal cannot take away from’
Asuni is a self-professed prisoner of conscience and social entrepreneur who continually seeks opportunities to give the under-served representation and access. He co-founded dotCiVICS – as a vehicle to provide digital enablement for citizens to engage with government, the private sector and amongst themselves. He blogs at oluwakoredeasuni.com