A Time for Change, and the APC?
The Politics of Change and a New Nigeria
Of those privileged to have visited the UK from Nigeria, many would have made a stop in London. The city is well worth the effort and time required to take in some of its many wonders. From the structures, castles and homes in the old town, to the glistening skyscrapers that adorn the new commercial and financial centres, as well as the various modes of transport available to the Londoners of today: river boats, buses, taxis, overground trains, underground trains and even driver-less trains!
Travelling on the London underground, or Tube as it is sometimes called, it is common to hear the announcement “all change, this is the last stop for this train …”, or something to that effect. On hearing this, all commuters are required to abandon the affected train and seek other means of reaching their destinations. Should we be asking ourselves if the time to change trains here in Nigeria, and to ponder if the train we are on now can take us any further in the direction that we want to go? Have we traveled for so long on the PDP train that we have forgotten that we are now going round and round like the Circle line on London’s underground? Could it be that we need to abandon the train because, even though the engine is still running, movement has ceased?
But a change to what?
A person who is considering choices for lunch must have the ready access to more than one type of food, i.e. he/she has access and can afford the choices. Therefore, if we are to contemplate change in Nigeria today, there must be an option or alternative, and such alternative must be viable. Most Nigerians will agree that the nation is broken in a fundamental way and that major change is necessary for our corporate survival. It is also clear that time is short to effect the needed changes. So, the only disagreement across the nation is the modus or nature of the change.
Politically speaking, Nigerians have only two choices for driving democratic change. It will have to be either of the PDP or the APC, as neither of APGA, Accord, Labour, or the other peripheral parties, are national in terms of support or outlook. So, if Nigerians discount the PDP, the most likely beneficiary of a new mandate would be the APC. If change will come to Nigeria, this is probably the best opportunity for an opposition victory.
While there is definitely a widespread dissatisfaction with the PDP and Dr Jonathan, this does not automagically translate to support for the APC. Unless the APC can articulate a clear linkage between Nigeria’s present problems and the failures of the ruling party, the party may struggle at the polls. The APC must be alive to the reality that people and parties lose power, they do not relinquish it. Another big challenge for the opposition is the fact that the electorate is mostly poor, uneducated and/or young, and will be easy prey for misinformation and monetary inducement. Voters must be persuaded that the APC is a live and beneficial alternative to the status quo; “live” here means that an APC vote could transform into electoral victory, and “beneficial” indicates that there is a clear potential of new or increased gain that would accrue to the voter on account of an APC victory. Elections are emotive and relational; both the message and the messenger must be appealing to secure loyalty of the voter right up to the polling booth.
Strategising for Electoral Victory:
One area in which previous APC candidates, and the party as a whole, have been incredibly short-sighted is in the planning and execution of electioneering strategy. It is vain to complain about rigging when it is clear that manipulation of votes is a primary device of incumbents in Nigeria. Rather, opposition parties must prepare and articulate a clear electioneering strategy to a core caucus within the party. The strategy must be very confidential, so that a DSS raid does not land the crown jewels in the hands of the PDP. It should lay out detailed plans that the party has for securing the majority of popular votes, as well as counter-plans for thwarting the rigging machinery of the ruling party.
Opposition parties must be very careful in building an electioneering strategy team. The team must be a mix of strategists, party executives, and street-level activists, so as to attain a balance of intellectualism, political sophistication and street-wisdom. Each member must have strong loyalties to the party or the success of the strategy, i.e. there must be a direct benefit/loss for every member should the party win or lose the election. This team will be the equivalent of an elite special-forces unit in an army. While most of the team will be card-carrying members of the party, it may be wise to bring in some external consultants with innovative ideas that will help distil/energise the strategy.
Having come up with the electioneering strategy, the next thing will be to prosecute it with vigour, determination, and agility. It would be credulous to believe that everything will go according to plan, but a bloc of supporters that are chaperoned by activists, who in turn are directed by a strategy team, have a much higher chance of success than a rabble of thugs and paid-per-day voters. The strategy and a significant part of its execution occurs pre-election, on election day the icing should be put on the cake, the party that wins would normally have gained an advantaged position before election day.
Before elections the priorities are mobilisation, risk assessment, and the pre-emptive deployment of consolidation or mitigation plans. This will involve detailed analysis of voting history, demographics, reconnaissance and logistics; the goal being to assess the opportunities and threats and to deploy resources appropriately in terms of type, time and proportion. On election day the priorities shift to mobilisation and facilitation of voting, execution of locational psychology, and the gathering of evidence. Win or lose, the gathering of evidence is key at every polling station, it is the only way that a party can independently satisfy itself of the veracity of any pronouncements made by the INEC. The evidence will also provide invaluable data for future strategy, and fuel for a post-election strategy. However, a detailed electioneering strategy is out of scope here, but all aspiring candidates need one, especially when in opposition. A word here though will suffice for the wise: election victory will not be served on a plate; only those that contest it can win it!
So What Happens If the Opposition Wins?
An APC/opposition victory would be a seminal moment in the history of Nigeria. But could it be more than that, could it be more than another flash in the pan of African and indeed black history? The desire for positive change in the social economy of the nation has never been so high. Nigerians have been pressed beyond endurance these last two decades. While the rest of the world has advanced, Nigeria has regressed. Many lives have been blighted, many lost, and large numbers living as though dead. The weight of expectation on any new government will therefore be very high. Unfortunately, these are inauspicious times, there are monumental infrastructure deficits across the country, oil prices are falling, record numbers are unemployed, and the security situation is so bad that Boko Haram may be approaching Abuja by the time the next president is sworn in this May.
There is so much work to do; the question would be where to start? In addition to a plethora of other issues, it is vital to sanitise the judiciary, else not much traction will be gained against corruption; in tandem, power and transportation must be addressed as matters of national emergency, and of course security must be prioritised. There are others such as education, health, etc. that are also important, but these can wait until the fundamentals have been stabilised. In the celebrated case of Lakanmi and Kikelomo V The Attorney-General of Western State of Nigeria and Ors (1971), the Nigerian Supreme Court held that the voluntary transfer of power by the civilian government to the military in 1966 was justified under the doctrine of necessity. Since then, governance in Nigeria has had to resort to the same doctrine to navigate tricky strictures on the democratic path. Given the present state of the judiciary, EFCC, DSS, and police, it is most probable that a new government will have to be imaginative in the extreme to use the deformed instruments of state to fix the very state itself. Will they have to push the limits of this same doctrine past its limits?
If that path has to be resorted to, said government must be careful; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is a lesson more so for the retired General who may be leading such a government. Corruption is the elephant in the room, and it goes without saying that a failure to seriously curb corruption will result in ultimate failure to move Nigeria forward. Ribadu it was that said, “when you fight corruption; corruption fights back”. However, care must be taken to ensure that Nigerians do not become the collateral damage that results from the fight between government and the agents and machinery of corruption. Good Zen is to be rid of sycophants and PDP fifth columnists; these two are more dangerous to a progressive government than corruption and all other ills – once you get rid of the rats, the snakes will also disappear.
Could this be a New Nigeria?
With the likes of Nuhu Ribadu as gubernatorial candidate under the PDP and Osinbajo as running mate on the APC presidential ticket, it should be clear to discerning observers that all the good eggs are not in one basket. For all the failings of the PDP leadership and Jonathan, there are still distinguished Nigerians in the rank and file of the party. Similarly, the presence of the likes of Buhari et al should not detract from the fact that the APC is not a church of saints. Nigeria though is served by the process that has brought these persons, and the coalition, to the forefront of Nigerian politics.
A win for the APC is likely to catapult many more progressives to the high table. Influence from the top will percolate downwards and progressives will be encouraged to come out of hiding and join the rebuilding. Similarly, as rats flee the sinking PDP ship, the original crew of visionary Nigerians that formed the party may glean an opportunity to retake the helm. If such things happen, it could usher in a truly new country; a New Nigeria that millions have dreamt of for many years, and for which several have given their very lives. It could be even much more than that. This could be the foundation for the first, truly great, black nation of the modern age. A nation led by black people, run by black people, and populated by black people, and a nation that begins to do those great and good things that hitherto have been associated with the Caucasian, the Latino, the Indian, the Chinese and the Arab.
A nation where there is rule of law, where the police is a service and not a force, where the army’s ire is felt by invaders and not defenceless citizens. A country where schools and hospitals are run by civil servants and not part-time mercenaries, a place where energy plants serve a thriving manufacturing and services sector, where roads are built and maintained, and that by Nigerians. A land in which the vote of the citizen counts and the lines of tribe and religion have been erased by shared values, aspirations and achievements. A New Nigeria that sets an example for the whole of black Africa and pulls hundreds of millions out of their nightmares and into the light of a progressive co-existence and the infinite possibilities available to all in a land so rich in every resource salutary to human existence and prosperity on this earth.
It is the prayer of all Nigerians that the forthcoming elections are credible, free and fair, and that such candidates as represents the best value for the present and future of our great nation wins.
We wish all contestants every good fortune within the bounds of our laws.
May God bless us all and usher in a New Nigeria in our own lifetimes; amen.
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