As we approach 2023, two questions that remain contentious among young Nigerians is whether or not to enlist in either of the two dominant political parties – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Or to create a new political party that is free from the overbearing influence of both. A question that, existential at its core, has been reinvigorated by the new wave of consciousness sweeping the entire country.
There is a familiar axiom that - to solve a problem - one must first understand it. But to understand a problem, one must necessarily theorize it such that a sense of clarity may emerge from it.
There are perhaps three different kinds of people that epitomize the layered meaning of Nigeria: One those who are Nigerians because the colonial brainchild is the only thing they have known all their lives, and so there is a visceral sense of attachment that sometimes, often even, inspires a sense of patriotism; two, those who are Nigerians because it is a heritage of gravy endowments that they must fleece with insouciant avarice; and three, those who are Nigerians of nominal considerations only – those who are keenly lurked in a suspended state of anticipation, awaiting the right moment to be free of an entrapment which, to them, has lasted long enough, but which presents no easy means to be rid of it. And each accentuates its existence through the intrinsic propensity of its taxonomic description.
Of the three, the most pernicious, even parasitic to this terribly-melded British desperation has been and continues to be, the second. From this lot, the all-domineering political class emerged and still nestles proudly. Yet it tightens its grip on all instruments and institutions of state functions - with exception to none, leaving the masses at its heels begging to be saved, or at the very least, noticed! Deprived of dignity and a sense of self - ordinary people continue to think that this unworthy lot is the best crust to a rancid pie. This same thinking – that we are less than without submitting to the fetid cover of the old order – predominates the core of the political party conundrum besetting Nigerian youths, and in the main, is the reason the so-called old order has lasted this long in the first place. Often deprived of independent thinking in a society seemingly condemned to groupthink, we fail to carve a space for innovative thoughts and actions.
THE PIFFLE CALLED STRUCTURE
One of the most perpetuated piffle during public discussions on the political party question is the supposed existence of an organized structure by the two dominant political parties. But this is not only untrue; it is purely deceptive. And the main reason such fabrication has endured for so long can be linked to its sustained iteration in public and political discourses. Perhaps because our society is a victim of groupthink, never, it would seem, do we really question highfalutin assertions that, when juxtaposed with visibly confounding contradictions, will at once get one’s goat! - even if for the ludicrous assumption that one would gulp it down like a dill.
Often propagandized as the textbook archetype of party power, both the APC and PDP claim to have a far-reaching structural spread across the country. Yet they can't conduct direct primaries, where their supposed massive membership would be visibly used to promote intra-party democracy, especially in this day that such laborious undertakings have become oversimplified by technological advances.
When they eventually choreograph direct primaries, our sensibilities are patently insulted with such inflated theatricalism wherein funny characters are paraded as party members – some underaged – and some seemingly omnipresent. Often leaving one to connect the dots - that these primaries are peopled by downtrodden elements whose loyalty, no doubt, belongs – not to the political party itself – but the filthy lucre to which they are temporarily obligated to please.
It is then not hard to see through the highfalutin claim of a far-reaching structure in these parties that rely on hiring ordinary people as political mercenaries during their congresses or campaign rallies. To one's chagrin, the circumstances of such a crowd of exploited people become, at once, indicative of double jeopardy. First, as victims of misgovernance and poverty; and second, as victims of an oppressive economy.
Again one may ask: why is it that, more than genuine party members or loyalists, there are often more hired political thugs and violent henchmen during elections, representing the two political parties across the 120000 polling units? Or why is it that both parties are notorious for buying votes when they should only be leveraging their expansive membership structure or following? Or, even worse for Nigeria's democracy - why is it that both parties are mere election riggers who always tilt voter numbers - and voting results in favour of the incumbent only?
The answer to these questions is as easy as your guess: these parties breathe and live deception such that their very existence – extremely esoteric in command and nepotistic in considerations – depends on the sustained belief of a spurious membership structure by the general public. In reality, their membership spread is no more genuine than a square claiming to be an ellipsoid. It would, therefore, mean nothing but a wilful political own-goal by Nigerian youths to seek any political advantage under the parasol of these outdated, unproductive and obscenely deceptive political parties. Check the statistics on Registered Voters, Accredited Voters and Total Votes between 1999 and 2019, and the chicanery of these parties becomes illuminating at once!
POLITICAL PARTY OR ISOMORPHIC MIMICRY?
Essential to a political party deserving of such appellation in any democratic society is the espousal of universal democratic values and norms. A party's existence is not merely to provide a platform for politicians to canvass voters to advance their political ambitions. At the very fundamental level, neither the APC nor PDP understands these. Deplorable yet is the fact that both parties do not provide an equal opportunity platform for their members. They brook no worry about their reputation as entities for the highest bidders only, whilst the rest either serve as onlookers or obsequious appurtenances.
Both parties demand unwavering loyalty, even if their actions are antithetical to public good or reek of disloyalty to the country and the people. The ruling party APC, for instance, seems to have an unwritten code wherein anyone with even a smidgeon of affiliation to it must be uncritical of it. Failure of which could result in being persecuted unjustly – and very publicly, as though it were vicariously sending a message to others to either learn to keep mum or face the music of engaging their consciences! Alas, one begins to ask: Of what use is a political party if it cannot be any real school of democracy?
In a nutshell, no real change will come through those youths who may be determined to submit their will to any of these political parties that have proven to have no commitment to democracy in a conspicuously democratic country. Any party that is resistant to criticisim and divergent opinions is unbefitting of right-thinking persons. Both the PDP and APC exist only as isomorphic mimicries of worthy political parties in a democracy.
Equally indicative of a party's commitment to good governance is the performance of its flagbearers who get elected into public offices. As the ruling party, the PDP failed to conduce the fundamental things any government must provide to its citizens: electricity, security, and a thriving economy remained a dream, even after sixteen years in power.
Worse yet is the current ruling party APC, which, unlike its counterpart, has shattered the lowest ebb there is of malfeasances and misgovernance in public office - and it continues to serve the country to the dogs. One thing is clear: it would be foolhardy to entrust the future of a country desperately in need of innovation and vision to the same honchos who have impoverished and drained the country of nearly all its gravy endowments. See, Nigeria's current power transmission capacity for 200 million people is the same as that of a neighbouring country six times smaller population-wise. Worse, the state of security, economy and infrastructure is so abysmal that even hope is now a luxury.
THE WAY OUT?
If the Fourth Republic has taught us anything, it is the overt truth that no good can spring from the APC or PDP as far as Nigeria’s progress is concerned. The deterioration of politics and governance in Nigeria is not a case of privation but deprivation. Even if a politician committed to public good emerges from either of the two parties, she would only be a centurial exception than a constancy. And no country needs an overflowing supply of good governance now than Nigeria.
What then is the way out?
Many times, the solution to a problem is within the problem itself, not outside of it. Such is the nature of what I consider the imperative option for Nigerian youths as we approach 2023. The problem with politics in Nigeria is not that politics is evil but that we have for too long resigned the fate of political leadership to those with zero intention to use power for public good. It certainly will not be a walk in the park, but the way out is to wrestle the country’s fate off the hands of the old order - not grovel at their feet, hoping the desired change would happen fortuitously.
For Nigeria to change for the better, there must be a change of the status quo. And to change the status quo, there must be a paradigm shift. To bring about a paradigm shift, we must employ innovative means. It would be foolhardy - not strategic - nor in the least groundbreaking, to surrender our chance at changing this country at its core to the same agents who have insouciantly watched it go the dogs for many decades.
Think of a new political party as the only way out - as a necessity - the beginning of something different. Adopt the expansive power inherent in social media to tell a new story and enlist your primary members using technology. Think of innovative ways to sell this idea of something new and different to the 30million plus netizens within your primary base – social media. To win an election in Nigeria, half of this very active base would confidently tilt anyone towards victory.
Be determined enough to sell this idea rigidly and conscious of your fallibility enough to always re-strategize and let wisdom guide. Transpose some or most of your online members to offline spaces to canvass support for the new idea. Teach the people not to be intimidated by a phantom structure but to depend on one peopled by known and actual devotees who will also have voting power.
Teach people to defend their votes themselves and not rely on hired party agents, like the PDP and APC are wont. Teach them to cherish their ballot as they would their offspring. It would not matter how many times N5000 dangles in their faces; they will vote differently.
If the recent history of mass action (#EndSARS) proves anything, mobilizing resources is not a problem for Nigerian youths. The political class knows this, and that is why they declared war on cryptocurrency. It is a calculated move.
There is a sense of agency conferred on every Nigerian youth by the #EndSARS protests. How is this being utilized for 2023? To promote a new political idea, the purveyors of that idea must be willing to optimize the advantage that nothing anew is born of the very same origin or style!
The author can be reached via [email protected]