by Ikenna Okonkwo
It is still two years to the elections of 2015 but the topic dominates news and conversation in Nigeria.
With the announcement of the creation of the All Progressive Congress in February – as a result of a merger of the major opposition political parties – there seems to be, among the political activists in the opposition, and people who are simply fed up with the current state of Nigerian affairs, a sense of expectation and confidence that the political juggernaut that is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will finally be overcome come 2015 and the nation will automatically enter the promised land.
That a new political set-up will automatically and immediately usher the change we all desire is at best a pipe dream which unfortunately has a strong hold on many, including, unfortunately the leaders and mouthpieces of the opposition especially on the social media scape.
The reality still remains that toppling the PDP will not be easy task and achieving it will require more than just rhetoric and hot air blown to a section of Nigerians.
There are many reasons for this; and many of the sceptics and even the members of the PDP take pains to point them out.
One of the reasons is that the PDP has a very wide spread nationwide; a spread that reaches down to corners of the country beneath the radar of many of the self-anointed spokespersons of the opposition.
I am not a politician but a geologist and my work routinely takes me to remote parts of the country where the realities and the worries of the people are in stark contrast to that of the typical urbanite.
In 2010 a year before the last general election my work took me to the village of Wanakom and its environs in the north-western corner of Cross River state. This is part of the remote region of the south east that covers northern Ebonyi state, Southern Benue state and north-western Cross River state. We came there from Benue state in the north through a rough dirt road with wooden bridges. New electric poles signified that the dividends of rural electrification scheme (and also being a part of an oil producing state) had just reached the village. None of the mobile Telecom companies had extended services to the area at the time even though by stroke of luck one may get stray network service by climbing a tree or a hill.
The first thing when visiting areas like this for work is to contact the village head in order to inform them of one’s mission. Our meeting with the village head was a bit surprising as he decided to summon all the Chiefs and elders including a young man to whom they accorded a lot of respect.
After a panel like meeting with the elders this young man cornered us and told us to disregard all that the elders had told us and to let him take care of us. He was the PDP representative for that area. He organized a local who would take us to the various rock exposures and took us to the house of the father of the local government chairman where we lodged. He said he would have loved to accompany us but he had to be in Calabar the next day (probably to collect money and receive instructions).
In the adjoining more remote villages we visited, the man was also well known. We did not meet a single representative of the opposition. No sign that there was another political party apart from the PDP in the area. That was a year before the general elections.
I can give similar anecdotes from a lot of places in the south east and parts of the middle belt where I have worked. The realities of these people there are more modest than ours. They don’t know or care about the latest on social media. They also aren’t asking for too much. If the PDP man can get them a few bags of fertilizer for their farms, grade their road, and share some money to the elders he has done enough to secure those areas.
This is the most important task for the opposition as 2015 approaches. To reach and win the hearts of the common man in those remote villages and places where PDP is already entrenched. A lot can be achieved on Twitter and Facebook, but the social media demographic in Nigeria is still a small minority, majority of whom, by the look of things, may be too lazy to register and vote when the time comes.
The race has started and PDP is already far ahead. There are 2 years left to catch up.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @failedrift