Although there are basis to think it is unwholesome to rely solely on the possibility of winning an election in order to make one’s political choice, it is interesting to learn that such thinking is important to this month’s elections coming up on 23th February, 2019. Central to this thinking is an urgent need to oust the current sitting government. This is not impossible because it has been done before. Statistics and recent political events justify such need and determination, but its posture mirrors a similar situation around the 2015 elections when schoolgirls were abducted, Boko Haram was shrinking the territorial integrity of the nation, and the troubling rumours of GEJ denial of some of these events in addition with unfettered corruption stab at us.
It is also instructive to say that there had not been a time we do not have a dear need for a change of government. But interestingly, there had only been a time we are able to suspend our usual polarising religious and ethnic bias in order to commit to change. Such was the last elections arguably advancing our democracy with the milestone achievement of evicting a sitting president democratically and peacefully.
The dawn GEJ conceded to defeat hurray sprouted across the nation like lighted bulbs. Some ventured into attributing the event to the victory of the people. Some headlines glowed with words like revolution. And quietly, hearts sighed of relief and feet danced for joy. But was that a mass based revolution? Time will later reveal a yet continuous national decline and the Nigeria that is now the world’s poverty capital. Also, very disturbing is the 13 million children out of school and about 100 million people living in poverty, smearing across all regions, complicating the human capital question and the national security problems. All these after the victory of democratically ousting a sitting president; all these, however, beg a question, is it enough to just unseat a failed government?
THE TRADITIONAL POLITICAL STRUCTURE AND THE PERPETUATION OF GREED
For years, on all reliable scales, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the World. The national political landscape remains mostly stagnant wriggling on predictable props of political profiteers holding its reins until new entrants like Omoyele Sowore delves into its space.
Beyond the commitment of the traditional political structures to recycle the same politicians, the same faces and/or ideas, the vocabularies around our political space are mostly stale and the same. There are occasional ejections of luminous words like revolution and social liberation while the new entrants dare to expand the discourse to include words like technology. For example, Oby Ezekwesili and Omoyele Sowore believe that Blockchain technology is useful as a preventive system against corruption.
The ideation and rhetoric around a political system contributes to what eventually emerges as its structure, how hermetic it becomes to new entrant and new ideas. To expand the range, serious nation insist on debates and issue based engagement. But for the traditional politicians, debates are of no value and the need to engage the people is completely shun. The epitome is how President Muhammad Buhari and Atiku Abubakar dodge the presidential debate, rambling and scrambling for excuses and how, sadly, they are evasive on critical issues.
Props for the Status Quo
How many make their political choice is grounded on the need for a widely spread political structures that can inform the feasibility of winning an election. Apart from the large swath of parochial Nigerians, the enabling myth that sustains these entrenched players of greed is that no new entrant has the wit and span for a political structure with a national reach. Implicit in this claim is the need for big money. Other strengthening factor for the traditional political base is around regional and ethnic bandwagon that the traditional politicians masterfully wield. All these and more accrue to form the traditional political structure, although political structure to many is limited to the numerous party stalwarts, the human-spread across villages and towns deployed for the perpetuation of political interests.
It is often an established hierarchical cadre that allows for little or no perturbation and/or surprises and it’s mostly oiled by stolen funds, forming the spine for the establishment to maintain control. This conception of political structure and dynamics is very limiting. The result is seen in the class of humans it currently presents as the presidential candidates – both septuagenarian and both similar in many ways. One of them was sick and could not carry out his duties as the sitting president for more than 3 months and it is largely doubted that he is currently medically fit to hold the reins for the next four years. The other has the smear of corruption, dragging at his reputation without any compelling repudiation of the claims.
Also, more informing are the stories riddling the primaries of the two behemoth political parties housing most of these traditional politicians and mostly believed to have viable political structure which are the PDP and the APC. The events show how it is impossible to expect honest and energetic Nigerians to emerge from such murky depths. It is, however, clear that the conception of political structure as this is stifling to political progress and it is useful for the perpetuation of greed of some political estates and adjourns the hopes of an average Nigerian permanently.
The Internet and the Possibility for a New Political Tribe
One major coping strategy of an average Nigerian is mental secession. It is an art of admitting that nothing ever changes, and it is, therefore, instructive to pursue personal and private successes. While this helps to reinforce the mediocrity recycled by traditional politicians, the internet creates avenue to perturb the space. An interesting case study is how Omoyele Sowore has employed social media channels for organising and advancing a political organisation that is now, in less than a year, the third most important political party in Nigeria, gaining a lot of progressive Nigerian supporters across the world.
What the internet has done is to increase ungagged political discourse among young people – these young people are mostly the victims of the failed country. It has brought germane issues closer to these people, making censoring difficult and encouraging more citizen reportage in comical memes permeating the nation’s infosphere. Also, it has levelled political grounds spatially as posts and videos can be accessed almost anywhere globally. Cost-wise, it has been helpful in propagating new plans and manifestos. What its features afford is opportunities to overcome issues informing the need for political structure in a traditional way.
Although thinkers and players, globally, are not unanimous on possibility for social media based political revolution, arguing that most users relate with their audience in an unwholesome product-buyer mechanics, it has been used for mass based mobilization with impressive successes across the world. There are other arguments that say, the ability of the social media innovators and entrepreneurs to manipulate their algorithms may bias interactions to consolidate the establishment, but yet, those who seek a better nation must consider its space as an opportunity and lend their voice.
The Internet and Political Structure
It can’t be ignored that the internet is a political structure. It has fostered political ideations. It has communities of humans who are citizens and can be treated has citizens that can be inspired to take actions about their nation’s destiny. It has influenced politics and mass based organising in contemporary human history.
With over 90 million Nigerians using the internet and no political party since 1999 has won presidential election with more than 17 million votes, the point for the internet is that, it provides opportunities to out organise the establishments that have continue to perpetuate inequality, poverty and a society that can barely support human lives or dreams.
A more compelling statistics is that we have about 22 million students registered for PVC for the coming elections. These students mostly have access to internet and have the basic knowledge for social media interactions. Therefore, instead of concerned citizens to collapse into making excuses for lending their voices to failed systems, the call is to begin to harness the internet for superior organising and for a society that works for all. The political endeavour of Omoyele Sowore, heavily powered by the internet, offers reasons to believe in such innovative political organising. The opportunities abound. The grating situations beg for our collective action.
By Adeeko Ibukun