by Clarence Onyekwere
Lately, there has been a lot of dissatisfaction about the actions, and the attitude of the APC government. Many young Nigerians have started to see most of its members for what they are: a part of the already existing political class whose incredible blend of incompetence, corruption and a lack of imagination has kept Nigeria below its potential.
The talk has moved on to how young people and indeed progressives of any age can become part of the solution. Some have urged for the emergence of political movements that can challenge the currently under-performing APC, and the decrepit and confused PDP. Others have urged well-meaning young professionals to join the existing parties.
In an instance of the later suggestion, some believe that the PDP may be more attractive to young progressives if Mr. Jimi Agbaje becomes National Chairman. I however realize that the party has so much baggage in terms of reputation and personnel, that if care is not taken, Jimi’s emergence may only serve as a facelift not an in depth change (that is if the wereys in that demonic party allow it). Also remember that both the PDP and the APC need a clear set of ideas… but I digress.
The other option involves building a brand new party, or supporting a considerably smaller party like KOWA or Gani Fawehinmi’s National Conscience Party (NCP is very alive by the way). The problem with this is the fact that such parties do not have the nationwide grass-root structure that the PDP has, or the APC to a slightly lesser degree*.
So I decided to think up a solution to this problem. How do we create a party with grass-root structure to rival the Big Two? In discussing with a few people, I got one answer: Funding first. They told me that because Nigerians are quite hungry, the number one way to get people together at grass-root level was to do what the other parties tend to do: Share rice at women’s meetings, dash money at youth meetings etc.
Another way to get people to support you at the local level is through philanthropy: Politicians like Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Owelle Rochas Okorocha have used this to worm into the hearts of the local populace and build deep support. A borehole here, bags of rice to some women there, scholarships etc can help show people that you have them in mind (whether you do or not is up to you). But this also requires funding for the most part.
The next way to do this is the most controversial: The Nnamdi Kanu Model (I neither support the man nor care for his methods). Through Radio Biafra (from 2014), Nnamdi Kanu raised grass-root support that rivalled anything any South-Eastern governor could muster by capitalizing on unresolved historical issues, real and unreal feelings of exclusion/ marginalization and the minds of unemployed youths (the movement caught fire with them at first). I think his big mistake was to challenge the Federal government (that and assuming that Buhari would respect human rights and the rule of ….lol) rather than to make the focus of his movement local. He should have used this support to push candidates he felt were pro-his cause to state governor, house of assembly and national assembly level. That way he would have had a real path to the change he wants or some form of compromise or the other. Also he would have been able to show how capable he and his folks were at developing a state or nation. This however takes nothing away from the fact that the man built the same type of grassroot support we are talking about without spend huge wads of cash. Nnamdi Kanu in his own way proved that Nigerians can be moved or brought together by things other than money.
What we can learn from Nnamdi Kanu’s model is that talking to and for the issues of a particular region/ or group does play a part in gathering like minds together towards achieving a goal. However we need to ensure that such advocacy does not get tainted with hate speech. I am not advocating that anyone take up a Radio Station and do something similar, but I want us to not feel defeated because we don’t have huge stacks of cash.
Now that we have looked at some ways to build local support, what can we the young progressives who don’t have tons of free cash to give away do if we want to build structures: Young Nigerian Professionals from different parts of the country can do well by doing good. For example, 5–10 like-minded young people from say Nembe, Ilesa, Apugo or Biu or anywhere else can band together and solve one small problem or the other for their local community as “vacation projects”. At the very least, this will add value to the community. In addition to that, it can teach us how to interact with the community, teach us how the government there works (depending on the size and scope of such projects), build credibility for the participants, create strong friendships, help make voter education (which is key), easier and maybe even build political structures that may be important in either setting up new parties or working within existing parties.
Another area where we need to focus is on getting some form of electoral/ campaign reform bill passed that will ensure that campaign finance is transparent and capped. We also may need clear provisions for independent candidates. The Uwais report provides a ready template if we decide to be serious about this venture. I cannot overstate the importance of this part, if we don’t achieve this, 2019 might just be another waste of time.
Another thing we could learn, is to focus on arms of the government other than the presidency. We need to learn to consistently pressure them to pass the right laws or stop them from making outright blunders e.g. Passing the MOPICON bill. We also need to focus on them when voting as state houses of Assembly and NASS are places that can by changed a bit with 10–15 elected like minds working in concert.
There is a lot of talk about devolution of powers but something else we need is a “devolution of interest”, a desire to ensure that all arms and level of government work properly, are transparent and are held accountable as much as possible not just presidents and governors.
I suspect that I have digressed from the point of the article… Yeah back to building political structures, I’d really like to hear your ideas on this: How can people (outside the system) build structures? Thanks for reading.
*APC seems to have a deeper structure in fewer areas while PDP has or had structures in more areas though weaker…
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Clarence Onyekwere