The political impasse leading to the Edo APC/PDP primaries for the November gubernatorial election had proven, yet again, the vulnerability of the Nigerian youth, and the desecration of democracy.
Classical theory of representative democracy entails the representative acting in accordance with the will or interest of the citizens. And, the process leading to such representation is via a credible, transparent and an all-inclusive contest or elections.
The Edo primaries defied or contradicts such postulations as we witnessed pervasive intrigues, arm-twisting and sheer Machiavellianism in all fronts before, and during the primaries by both candidates representing the APC and PDP.
More alarming is, during the contest, it was alleged that, Edo Gov. Godwin Obaseki, armed with a heavy war chest, ostensibly from the coffers of taxpayers money doled out a whopping N6bn to placate other aspirants in the PDP to step down for him, and settled party chieftains. Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, subtly attested to this, when he extricate himself from the primaries committee, and referred his fellow party members, as tax collectors.
Amidst the horse trading, no mention of what the electorate, especially the youths and the vast majority of Edo people stand to benefit. It was a clear battle of wits, who gets what, when and how. The political alignment witnessed in Edo is replicable in virtually all States of the federation. Political actors tend to focus mainly, on their subsumed ambition to grab power and rule, not, for the good of the society.
Ironically, Ize-Iyamu was Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s campaign manager and strategist during the latter’s 2nd term reelection. In a twist, he left for the PDP to contest for the Edo governorship election in 2016, having fallen out with Oshiohhole and failed to clinch APC ticket. Their relationship became murkier and tensed to the point, Oshiohmole during a campaign called Ize-iyamu a thief and other unsavory names. But fast-foward to June 2020, its appalling when same Oshiomhole begin to sing Iyamu’s praise. As his preferred candidate for the APC, he inadvertently wish to bury the past and, rewrite history.
The trajectory and dynamics of Edo primaries aptly reflect the fundamental ethos of Nigerian politics. In 2016, Ize-Iyamu was a guber aspirant on the platform of PDP, in 2020, he is the APC candidate, while, Gov. Obaseki, who contested and won the 2016, election under APC platform is today, the PDP’s flagbearer in the coming elections.
Pundits might seek answers to these questions; Is Nigeria operating a two-party system, or, are there no other alternate credible political party? Why, always APC or PDP?
The same scenario is playing out at the national level. PDP, whom had ruled for 16 years suddenly finds itself in the opposition,and, most of her top party members had cross carpeted to the ruling APC at the slightest provocation,same also for APC aggrieved members. The dictates of such conduct spell doom for the country, as it seems, we are always almost on the same spot, lacking meaningful progress which has stagnated our economic growth and development.
The systemic recycling of the old-guards whom had bequeathed the nation nothing but despair seems to progress unhindered, no thanks to our collective inability to call a spade a spade and do the needful. Both parties, APC/PDP had nothing to offer Nigerians, we had experimented the PDP 16years project and rule, nothing spectacular happened as we found ourselves in the same spot. APC came onboard with an elaborate and overhyped CHANGE mantra,we bought and keyed into it, 6 years down the line, Nigeria’s fortune is worse off.
Why Nigerians still remain stuck with these parties still remains a source of worry,and continue to beat ones imagination.
During the last polls, a handful of young Turks- smart, articulate and bright, emerged to contest outside the two main dominant parties, sadly, Nigerians failed to lend them support, or , atleast give them a trail. The likes of Omoyele Sowore, (47), AAC, Abdulrashid Baba, AA,46, Chika Ukaegbu, 35, AAF, Fela Durotoye, 46, ANN. These smart and young brains contested the 2019 polls, and, unfortunately lost, because, Nigerians, especially the young voting population do not share in their ideals. It was sadly a case of young voters, voting in old candidates. Both APC and PDP candidates were well over 70 years,and, clearly gone pass their primes, bereft of ideas,and, almost on the verge if dementia. Ironically, the young voters ignored the young aspirants, and, voted the old guards. Thus, elucidates the thinking of most Nigerians, and it signified what was fundamentally wrong with the nation.Those who voted for the two-headed monster, APC /PDP vindicated Gen. IBB’s claim that, the young population has not prepared, and, obviously not ready to take up the leadership challenge in the country, at least not in the foreseeable future.
The trend is, the young voting population are deemed not fit to take up leadership positions, but, are fit to be political thugs, social media Influencers, strategist and, generally, pawns in the hands of the defiant old politicians.
Even after voting them in, the young voting population failed to hold their self-serving leaders accountable for their actions, and, push for a sustained economic and social development. This, however, runs contrary to the very concept of Representative Democracy.
The major existential challenge confronting the country is undoubtedly that of leadership. Nigeria needs a a unifying not a divisive leader, a hopeful and optimistic, not a hopeless and pessimistic leaders, these are unfortunately what we have to grapple with. Our leaders had, and continue to explore the divisive tendencies that comes with tribe, religion, region and ethnicity of various groups within the country optimally for their benefit.
Consciously or not, most divisions witnessed today were by-products of the old ruling elites whom had concealed it in their kitty, only to be exhumed and unleashed on Nigerians at the most convenient moment, depending on the prevailing circumstance.
When showbiz guru, Charly Boy, coined a social movement “Our Mumu Don Do”, this exactly what was he was talking about. Its imperative we reignite or collective reasoning and disallow politicians explore our weaknesses through divisive means. Noble as Charly’s movement was, he was castigated and called names, even among youths. Most failed to heed the message, rather, attacked the messenger. And the authorities arrested and jailed him.
Similarly, social critic and publisher, Omoyele Sowore towed same line. He wanted to reawaken our collective consciousness through the #RevolutionNow, movement, same fate befell him. Those who he was literally fighting for- the youths, were trolling him online .They do not want to get involved actively in affairs leading to their emancipation from the grip of loathsome leaders. An average youth prefers to remain in his comfort zone-Online platforms, eg Twitter, Facebook,WhatsApp etc; and rant, wail and troll all day. Those who dared to engage, to take back their country don’t get the necessary support and goodwill deserving of a noble cause. The most conscious effort so far by a youth in that regard, is by Samson Itodo, the convener of the “Not Too Young To Run”, He considered among other things, challenges and recurring obstacles to youths participation in politics which includes, age barrier and higher cost of forms by different political parties. His fervour and relentless efforts culminated with the signing and passing into law, the Not Too Young To Run Bill by the Buhari administration in late 2018.
Despite that, in Edo, the youths applauded the actors depending on whose camp, or side of the divide they belong. No collaborative efforts to eschew personal gain and produce a youthful and energetic candidate to at least vie for the position.
The political actors in Nigeria are the most vicious and unrelenting in the pursuit of their goal-attain position of authority, regardless how they get there. They engage in overt divide and rule tactics, and sometimes fetish and diabolical means, as against the standard procedure in democracy. In a Democracy, charms, and, most importantly ideas, which includes manifesto and agenda are some factors that determines an electoral victory. Electorates are concerned with what a contestant has to offer, when to offer, and how to offer. These basic principles cast a shining light in the electoral fortunes of contestant. Emmanuel Macron,39 when he assumed France presidency, rode on these crucial issues. Same as Pres.Obama in 2008, they both sold their manifestos and ideas which guarantees them electoral victories at a time it seem unlikely.
One then wonders Nigeria’s type of democracy. 20 years is enough to improve on democratic norms and values. Political actors obviously explored the missing dots,and take full advantage. The youthful population whom are learned, both in their respective disciplines and social interaction ought to take up leadership challenge, and, they did. The electorates, by extension, the youthful population keeps voting in same leaders, the category of people who saw yesterday, today,and probably tomorrow. Most annoying is, after helping them to the position of authority, the youth are not considered for position worthy,not even a minister of YOUTHS.
Its a grand rule-you can’t give what you don’t have. Leadership, especially in a technology-based 21st century requires an equally tech-savvy individual in a developing and technology-deficient nation like Nigeria.
Take for instance, the coronavirus pandemic which, is, ravaging the world and its economies,has overwhelmed most world leaders and institutions. The severity had exposed who truly is a capable leader at a time of such emergency. Amid these challenges, Jacinda Ardern, a 39 year old female Prime Minister of New Zealand was the first to contain and declare her country COVID-19 free. She was applauded by her sheer resilience and youthfulness which she deployed to bring to an end, the Pandemic.
As it were youthfulness cannot be ignored in determining candidates in a political contest. Youthfulness and brain, are fortress that cannot be isolated when seeking leaders. Position of leadership comes with rigours and required energy and dynamism .
The Nigerian youth, on the strength of its numbers, determines to a very large extent who gets elected. The youth had continue to recycle old hands, the danger is, we keep mortgaging our future, as no meaningful or, visible impact, or live-changing policies aimed at the most vulnerable. The same problem the country faced, 30 years ago still remains with attendant new challenges. Power, portable water, infrastructure deficit, underfunded education, and dilapidated healthcare system and facilities. And, above all-Security.
It’s about time we do something differently, just maybe we might get it right. Recycling leadership in Nigeria has proven counterproductive. The onus is on the youthful population, we need to change the narrative, bring on youthful aspirants and, vet and Vote them overwhelmingly. As 2023 is rearing its head, we must set the stage for that feat, just maybe, we might get it right.
Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He writes from Kano via