I have read a lot of stories with regards to politics in Nigeria most especially in reference to the February 23rd, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections but this piece got me thinking. Beautifully written by someone I have known for about 25 years, he’s a mentor and a friend. Read to the end to know his name.
Nigerians voted on Saturday and even before the first vote was cast, I – and I believe many discerning Nigerians – always maintained it was a straight fight between incumbent President Buhari and whoever PDP would pick. That person turned out to be Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. As it was in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, this cycle’s Presidential contest threw up all manner of candidates and political parties. And for the first time in the country’s history, a record 72 presidential candidates were on the ballot. This may be the direct result of frustration in the land where this many people thought they could become president and do a better job than the incumbent. This treatise is however not about the incumbent even though he will occasionally be referred to.
If you don’t like hard, empirical facts, please stop reading now. I hope that somehow this effort of mine will genuinely galvanize that movement to take action. In addition, this is not personal. While names and political parties may be mentioned, it is used for contextual purposes as the big picture is where all our eyes should be.
The Nigerian presidential election has already been won or lost and another electoral cycle is not upon us until 2023. Like I said above, if we truly want to change this landscape – and please I mean ‘real change’ – then the events from today till that fateful day in 2023 will reveal how serious we really are.
1. Start now. Start today. Start early.
I don’t know how well to emphasize this. The Third Force has to start now. Not 2020. Not 2021. Not 2022. Now. Today. Even before the eventual winner is announced today or tomorrow. There are just 48 months to the next presidential contest. You and I know given the gravity of task at hand, that’s not a lot of time.
Apart from Buhari and Atiku, three names that seemed the loudest, that seemed to be the reference point whenever the Third Force or Youth was discussed were Moghalu, Sowore and Durotoye. Of course there were Fasua, Atuejide and a host of others but these three names stood out. They really did try. Given the resources at their disposal, they visited as many places across Nigeria as possible. But if we all wanted to be honest with ourselves, they failed. You get nothing for trying. At least not in the Nigerian Presidency context. Take Durotoye for instance. He broke the news of his presidential ambition in February 2018. February 2018. I don’t think Mr Durotoye understood the task that was ahead of him. I believe that he may have been discussing this ambition with family and close associates but the time he made his ambition public is what counts. Likewise Sowore and Moghalu.
We are not discussing private conversations with allies. We’re talking about the time they ”hit the market”. The time at which the public became aware of their presidential ambition. All three gentlemen – and I stand to be corrected – threw their hats into the presidential ring with less than 14 months to the election. But that’s that with starting early.
2. Join forces.
Remember how PDP was the only truly national political party in Nigeria? They produced Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan in 16 years. In each of those electoral cycles – 99, 03, 07, 11 -there were other parties but they were regional in theory and practice. The AD, AC, ACN, APGA, CPC, APP, ANPP and LP to mention few. They won few governorships, got few seats in the various legislative houses but they were never relevant nationally. The APC decided to give PDP a run for its money in 2014 when various elements came together to form the party.
Democracy is a game of numbers is not a cliché. In a presidential contest, you need to muster ALL the numbers you can get. I did a count of the parties for this election and they were in their tens. Parties such as APB, APA, UPGA, ANRP etc. That’s not even mentioning Sowore’s AAC, Moghalu’s YPP and Durotoye’s ANN. How do you want to destroy an entrenched establishment with such splinter forces? While there’s no legislation against number of political parties, in a poverty-ridden environment such as Nigeria the patriotic thing to do is join forces. Every other party except APC and PDP must join forces. Every single one of them! How can a political party worthy of that appellation record 0 vote in an LGA? Why they choose to go at such an important task divided is beyond me. Come together. There’s really no other way. Coming together brings your supporters together. Joining forces creates a synergy that can never exist if these parties stood alone. There’s only one reason that many of these candidates will choose to go it alone and for me it’s nothing more than ego, hubris and self delusion…which takes us to…
3. Check and drop your egos at the door.
You want to save Nigeria? Then consider it as one of the hardest things you’ve ever committed to doing. When all of these parties join forces, egos need to be checked. There’s got to be the realization that this Third Force MUST have one candidate for a national election that’s just few years away. Yes, there can be internal competition from hopefuls but once one person has been identified, then everyone must support that person. Drop your ambition, your ego, your self importance for the bigger task at hand. You love Nigeria right? Your mission is to steer her in the right direction right? Then why don’t you let this Third Force work? You don’t have to be the presidential candidate of your party, do you? It would be nice if in 2023, there are only three parties on the ballot for the Presidency.
4. Start small. Take piecemeal shots. Bite off slowly.
Take any political system like a pyramid. The lower you are to the base of the pyramid, the closer you are to the ”grassroots”. You cannot win a national election without the base – the grassroots, the bottom of the pyramid – knowing and identifying with you. There are more than 10,000 polling units in Nigeria and each party I believe should have at least one party agent at each polling unit.
Do you think any of these splinter parties can have that many people at polling units? Do you think Buhari personally knows each of the APC agents at each polling unit? Does Atiku know each agent of the PDP at each polling unit? No. When this Third Force comes together, start small. Take little bites of the big pie. What’s the base of the political pyramid? Councillorships. Yes, have candidates for that office. How can you underrate such an office when that’s where the grassroots really begin? Have candidates for the various State Houses of Assemblies and for the National Assembly. There are elections in Ekiti, Anambra, Ondo and Osun before 2023. There is no better test ground for the Third Force than these elections. It doesn’t matter if the Third Force wins any of these states. It is to test its mettle. It is to test its acceptance. It is to test its level of popularity. It is to see and identify where improvements have to be made. Going straight for the Presidency is naïve and shows a lack of understanding of the political space. Contest for and win Councillorships. Win few seats in the Houses of Assembly. Hell, even have a governorship candidate for the forthcoming gubernatorial contests in the aforementioned states. Then, a Third Force begins to make sense.
If all these parties/individuals truly want us to believe that their foray into the just concluded elections were out of patriotic fervor, then this is the way to go. Abandon idealism for now. Realism is the thing now. This game cannot be moralized. Democracy is a numbers game. It must be taken as such.
Let those who have ears hear. More importantly, 2023 is here already.
As written by Sorosola Barton.