By Oluwakorede Asuni
A former school mate, who at the time was completing his bachelor’s degree at the Political Science Department of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, committed a sudden about-face on the subject of his final year thesis. He had set out to evaluate the ideological differences of Nigerian political parties at the time. In describing his decision in a casual conversation during a drama practice (I moonlighted as an actor for two of my four years studying Physics, amongst many other moonlighting experience), he exclaimed: all the parties are the same. There are no ideological differences. In fact, they all do not have any ideology.
His frustrations then, remain to date albeit for many more than his poor political science undergraduate soul.
Knowing that I have no solution to Nigeria’s political problems, I stayed away from the happenings in the political space as much as I could. However, I volunteered many times in the past to work as election personnel for the electoral body. This partly saved me from having to commit to any of the parties seeking office. And partly introduced me to the inner workings of the political class and their machinery.
Some of my fondest albeit sad memories of these events was one in which in broad day light, a peaceful negotiation occurred between the representatives of the political parties in the polling unit I was working in and with the connivance of the police officer attached to the unit, election campaign continued illegally and voters were encouraged to vote for a particular party. Sometimes the police man got involved in the convincing. Sometimes it was just the party representatives all canvassing for this one party against their own parties.
More recently, this happened on a grander scale in Ekiti’s governorship elections, which was just scaling up a previous performance from the same state in 2014. In the recent event, people were rumored to have been paid between NGN3,000 and NGN5,000 upon providing proof of the voting for that paying party and both front running political parties were said to have prayed.
In the lead up to the 2015 election, I had a flash of inspiration. Mr. Jonathan had shown himself incapable of running the country, Nigeria. He rarely spoke in public and when he does, he does more damage than his inept communications team. The economy was tanking without any visible plan on how to stem the tide. My classmates were still mostly under employed where they are not totally unemployed and those who have ventured into business have more to blame about their failures besides themselves. Government interventions continued to go to a small class of people affiliated with the ruling class. Civil Servants in Nigeria were accruing assets which a lifetime of 100% savings from their work in the civil service wouldn’t have provided. Those in power were using it to enrich themselves, those without are praying for their time to arrive quickly, others were checking out of the country enmasse whilst others were resolving to less than acceptable behaviours. The list continues. So does the need for a national renewal, a change of the old guard, the birthing of a new social contract between the governors and the governed.
Whilst I was the first to admit to friends and family that Buhari couldn’t be the best for Nigeria in 2015, I must admit that I was confident in the message the people will send to the political class – we the people are powerful and are now prepared to use it – in what would go down in history as the first time an incumbent President does not get a second term in office in Nigeria.
I rallied progressives within my sphere of influence to look past the election but focus on the symbolism of a move such as unseating a sitting but inept president and his cohort without firing a shot.
We achieved that.
A concoction of events including election manipulation – the hall mark of elections in Nigeria and most African countries and even in the US, I am sure you heard about Russia’s fiddling with the 2016 elections – and mass voter turn-out led to a successful election in favour of Buhari. And Jonathan’s second term in office started – history will not look favourably at both administrations.
In the lead up to 2019 I have pondered my role, looking at the horizon I am doubtful as I was in 2015 that there is any hope for Nigeria, at least at the federal level. As such, I have elected to retire from following national politics and in its place to start initiatives that will help wrestle power at an atomic level – at the level of the individual. I will commit time and resources to helping the individual understand at a personal level how they fit into the broader scheme of things and their roles and responsibilities. It is my hope that a significant number of those we will interact with will vote their conscience in the 2023 elections and even participate in the selection of candidates for political office at the various levels. We need to collectively unseat the cabal raping Nigeria. And whilst there are many paths to this destination, I have chosen he one of citizen education and civic empowerment.
Today, we have seen mass defections from the ruling party to the main opposition party at a rate never before seen. In one day 15 senators in a single move defected from the APC to the PDP – ironically all of the defectors had defected from the party they have now returned to in the lead up to the 2015 elections citing issues of political ideology, disagreements with old party members on issues of value and their mandate to the public etc.
For a typical Nigerian, the questions one needs to ask the defecting political class is: what changed? Are party ideologies oscillating between election periods? Whatever the answer to this question, the populace need to know firmly that the current political class are bereft of ideas and ideology.
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