If there is one thing I observed after the 2015 general elections it is that by 2019 (Nigeria 2019) there will be a new crop of political entrants into Nigeria’s space. There was going to be a gradual or major shift from the old or passing generation to the new ones. The ones that have been seen as the future leaders, the millennials of today and the many young people with strong convictions that they can do better than the last generation. As it is now, 2019 is etching closer and the old guard of politicians are not showing any signs of retirement. They are still agile enough to stay put till the end of the decade, 2019, 2023, 2027, 2030 until the UN find another name for global goals like the Sustainable Development Goals ending in 2030.
Young people are angry and many are trying to channel these frustrations rightly by forming groups, maybe political parties, forums and different hashtags on social media. No doubt the days of social media hashtags have done a lot but the next generation of leaders need more and something more concrete that can take the battle to the field and ballot grounds. Doing this, however, will be faced with institutional, political and old structures that have been in place since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Let’s look at the two major issues or structures or infrastructures that will be a barrier to the participation of new political players in Nigeria 2019 and maybe beyond.
Internal Democracy of Parties (Nigeria 2019)
Asides the new generation political parties that are still upcoming and lack any viable structures to even win an election, the old ones with the necessary political capital and structure, however, have a way of shielding their party primaries from the public. They decide who they want to run for office in closed-door meetings, private phone calls and emails and organize staged party conventions that the Nigerian public of over 180 million people have no say over. The delegates are clearly lobbied and paid to vote in a particular way while the many people who will be voting in the general elections are left with choices they have no details about.
Have you ever listened to street analysis or newspaper stand discussions of Nigerian politics by common Nigerians and citizens? People who feel that everything that the press writes or publishes are entirely true who still don’t know that fake news and opinion posts are now a part of the media. So, if they don’t know that not everything is written is close to the truth, how will they know understand that politicians have closets, closed-door meetings, private cellphones that they can use to influence the polity and how the economy goes.
These political parties equally have a closed system and structure that does not allow just anyone to be part of the process of making decisions that have national and continental consequences. If you are a newbie who tries to do something differently or refuses to play ball like they have designed it to be; you are definitely going to be sidelined and ultimately benched. This issue was raised by Ohimai Amaize in a recent article about how Your Votes in Nigeria 2019 will be a Waste of Time. So the parties decide their candidates without consulting Nigerians and when the general election comes they still have their way and that moves us to the next obstacle.
Stomach Infrastructure/Dilemma of Hunger (Nigeria 2019)
One needs to thank the man from Ekiti, Ayo Fayose for giving us a name for the tradition of giving vulnerable and poor people money on Election Day for their votes. Stomach Infrastructure thrives on hunger, desperation, a lack of understanding, a lack of education, illiteracy and not understanding your rights as a Nigerian. People sell off their votes because they largely don’t know what they can become individually or what potentials Nigeria has and the level we can get to as a country.
Even if young people decide to join other new parties or form theirs or maybe a party like KOWA party and other new generation ones like ANRP, YDC, APDA etc.; they still need to financial capital to match the old parties. The old parties have the structures, monies to burn and the infrastructure for rigging as well; so matching up with them is more herculean like any generation task you can think of. The dilemma of hunger and those ones who truly influence the votes (the poor, vulnerable and hungry) will equally vote for the bidders on Election Day. If we can pay them more than the PDP or the APC, then we have to find a better strategy to do so without losing credibility or beating their records.
Politics requires money to drive campaigns and more but in Nigeria, it looks like we spend more money on Election Day more than the entire electioneering process. How can we beat this trend and change the course of our national history?
Possible Ways Out
These clearly are problems and challenges and are unique because they are forcibly and deliberately executed by old-time leaders who are unrelenting in holding onto power. Changing the trend or winning this battle of two generations will require something that is equally forceful, made up of nearly the same tools but executed differently. A lot of money will be required, yes but how do we channel the money differently.
No doubt the people that are hungry need to be educated and enlightened on what they lose by selling of their franchise and votes. They need explanations how these politicians that should in retirement are giving them peanuts on Election Day and denying them of anything good after 4 years or 8 years. Remember they are hungry so any talks that can’t help them feed or create wealth will only be heard and forgotten; no understanding or will to say no to Stomach Infrastructure.
Social Investment and Empowerment
If any viable campaign must be started to educate the victims of stomach infrastructure, then it must be started early and done to last. Rather than giving fish like the Chinese say, they must be taught to fish. Empower them to start their business in their local communities, create jobs for them, set up local industries that indigenes can run and drive themselves. This might be a lot of work and a huge sacrifice to make and could take years to enlighten, educate and empower common and hungry Nigerians to be able to say no these monies that are shared on election day.
In conclusion, Nigeria 2019 will be interesting either ways but there is an urgent need to change the narratives of history. Young Nigerians need to be given a place at this point to shape their lot, their future and destinies. After attending the Not Too Young to Run public hearing by YIAGA and with one of the speakers saying that political money or stomach infrastructure has no receipts and we can collect the monies and vote our candidates; that might be another option if we succeed to instil courage and remove fear from the voters. Their conviction needs to be built for something better so they can take the money and vote who they truly want and can deliver good governance for them.