Since I put the piece that Nigeria needs the harmonization of the states from 36 states to 6 states in order to accelerate infrastructural development since most of the states are not economically viable to offer any value except running expenses, I have seen good comments. I did the numbers, and noticed that Nigeria could save more than 80% from our current bloated governments. Sure, many noted that unemployment could go high. That is true, but if the savings are utilized well, we can build infrastructure which will create more non-government jobs. I do not believe that we have to expand government just to create employments.
But specifically, people are saying that time has come to ACT. Yes, take action and let those with new ideas come out and join politics. Great idea but it is not easy: the Nigerian Constitution and Electoral Act are designed to make it nearly impossible to act unless you belong. That might not have been the intention but Nigeria is not a place where you can have the Obama moment. Yes, to make it in Nigerian politics, you must belong or have someone that belongs holding your hands. To make this very short, I present only two elements here:
The Constitution does not allow independent candidates. That means that no matter the rant on LinkedIn, Facebook or anywhere, to win you must go back to the political kingmakers to have any opportunity to win. Sure, you can create your own party but that is not easy. Simply, by the time you need them, via the party structure, to become the party flag bearer in the general election, your head would have been straightened. That ACTing would have gone because they will not simply disarm because they like you. They have invested years in the trade of politics, and will make demands which if you follow through will make you just like them. They will normalize you because the system is designed that way.
New Entrants are cut-off at Primaries: If you cannot create your own party, the remaining option is to join an already existing one. If you do that, you cannot expect everyone to clap and welcome you. This means that you need to work hard to become the party flag bearer in the main election. Most times, parties use two main criteria to decide the person that holds that flag: a member who has invested efforts as a (pioneer) partisan or one with enormous capacity (usually financial) to entice the delegates. Most times who can win is secondary because in Nigeria, you vote for the party and not the individual (refer to Celestine Omehia and Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State, and Kogi State Abubakar Audu case which was blind to Audu’s deputy in the election).
Either roadmap involves resources for new entrants. To be a pioneer partisan means you have spent your money to build the party infrastructure and that means everyone there is your person because they are part of the structure. But where you come late, as a new entrant, you need to have the money to get delegates to take you serious. It may be you or your godfathers. Simply, there is no path to come from nowhere to take possession of the flag. That is the reason why nothing will change unless you have the resources, and no general election voter will see your face: the primaries are designed to cut you out. Unlike in U.S. where the party members (or the entire voters in open primaries) select the party flag bearers for general elections, removing the influences of the party kings, Nigeria primary elections are decided by largely few people (the delegates). President Obama would have lost to Hilary Clinton if the kingmakers made the calls in 2008 instead of the whole Democratic Party voters (The Clintons were dominant in the party structure). The Nigerian process is different: the kings decide and party members have zero impacts.
I agree that change is possible, and we can get young people and possibly more capable hands into Nigerian politics. But understand that it would not be easy. You can run ads on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn but at the end you must meet the delegates who will tell you what they want. If you do not agree, you have no case in the party. They ran the party while you were running a bank or building a logistics company. Politics is their trade and business, and you have to understand that. They cannot disarm because you are shouting that youth must be given opportunities. Unless you innovate and get in, nothing will change.
If you cannot break through them, it is irrelevant what you are promising the whole electorates: they will not see your name printed on the ballot papers. It is easier to win in general election than in primaries in Nigeria because the primaries are where the real choices are made. Most times, they do not even allow the contestants to make simple presentations. They have decided who will carry the flag. That happened during 2003 PDP convention where a lady contestant wept that the party lords refused to allow some contestants even to speak.
If you check, since 2003, all the ACTing has not brought any dividend. The reason is that party structures are maintained 365 days, 24/7 and not 3 months to election. So, you live in London and three months to election, you run home to get a ticket. Because you have Mama Charlie fake accent you think the delegates will line up. Nonsense! Right there, they would help you to spend all you have and on the “day” of the primaries, they would inform you that it was done a night before. You go to court and after few days, you are forgotten.
Or if they want to respect you, they will invite you to come to the primary election. You show up, and the tugs will ask to show your ID card. You present your Nigerian passport. They look at it, and then ask for another ID card from you. You present the driver’s license from London. One calmly comes close to explain that your name was not included in the list of people that should be allowed into the hall. You then try to explain that as a contestant.., and as you try, one guy would slap you. As you turn around, they have lifted you 6 feet above sea level. Lucky they dropped you intact. Then, you would be asking them to give you your passport to run to your mother’s kitchen.
The problem is that your driver is gone because another group told him to leave the premises. As that happens, your British accent is gone, and the crickets would hear from you “Biko nyere m aka umu nna” [My brethren, help me]. At that time, it was marathon race as they were not done. Yes, as you ran, you could hear them cursing you “Idiot man, he wants to be governor. Is there pounds in that wallet we took from him?”
Man, how are you feeling with the 5-point agenda to liberate the state?
Seriously, Nigeria is not an easy country. Yet, I remain optimistic. But right now, it alienates the people that can fix it: those young people are everywhere in the nation. But those young people should not think that ranting will solve it: they must innovate and invest in politics for structures. The Elders Democratic Congress Party is stronger than ever. And they have their own rights to be there. You have to plan, invest and beat them with ideas to take over the structures.
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