By: Adebayo Yousuph.
As I sit to pen my thoughts on this topic, the first line that popped up in my head is an advice given to Indian American comedian Hasan Minhaj who runs a satirical commentary show on political and social issues on Netflix. The show is titled ‘Patriot Act’ and Hasan had planned to discuss Politics in India on one of the episodes of the show few weeks to the Indian election – which was tagged the biggest electoral show on earth.
His choice of topic was a point of concern for his family members including an aunt who told him ‘Politics is like a jalebi*, round, round, round, you don’t know where it ends, where it starts.’ In any case, this is not peculiar to politics in India alone. It’s applicable in the Nigerian context as well. Politics can really be hysterically dramatic, astonishingly erratic and more often than not simply fickle.
Hence, a heightened dose of smartness, wisdom and savviness is needed to successfully manoeuver through the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Just like the biblical 10 commandments in the Old Testament, here are the 7 unwritten commandments of surviving in Nigerian politics.
1. Thou Shall Not Burn Bridges
If you aim to be successful in the politics of Nigeria, you just can’t afford to burn bridges. They say you don’t seek cover from rain in the same household more than once. Thank God there’s an exception to every rule for, in this case, politics can drive you to join the same political party a lot of times.
We’ve seen it happen before. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was once a member of the ruling APC which he joined from the PDP after failing to secure the presidential ticket in the presidential primaries of the PDP in 2015. Now he’s back into the PDP, contested as the presidential flagbearer of the party in the 2019 general elections and with the look of things might want to give it another shot in 2023.
Thou shall not be surprised if he’s contesting under the banner of the APC by then. You literally can jump from one end of the spectrum to the other but just ensure that you do not burn bridges while at it. Politics in Nigeria is a perfect depiction of the ‘a ti lo, a ti de’ saying. You just might soon be back!
2. Thou Shall Not Make Permanent Friends or Foes
Nigerian politics has been berated more times than necessary for its lack of clear intellectual standards and political values. I mean the US has the Democrat and the Republicans. You choose which side of the divide you want to belong to. And it only happens once in a blue moon that a politician will switch from one party to the other.
In the 21st century, Arlen Specter is the only Republican to have switched into becoming a non-independent Democrat. This is because there are fundamental values and intellectual arguments that you have to subscribe to before becoming a bonafide member of any of the parties.
The closest we have to that in Nigeria is the Progressives and the not-so-pronounced Conservatives. Albeit, they even tend to confuse us as there has always been a free influx of members from one side of the divide to the other.
So an upcoming politician in Nigeria needs to understand that, that you are the spokesperson of a certain party today doesn’t mean you won’t be dining with top officials of the opposing party tomorrow. It’s nothing deep, there’s just no permanent friend or foe. I mean who could have believed that Senator Iyiola Omisore in Osun state will be the best friend of the APC in the build-up to the rerun of the Osun election.
3. Thou Shall Never Forget Stomach Infrastructure
See, poverty has eaten deep into the fabric of our nationhood. With the highest rate of extreme poverty globally, Nigerians tend to gravitate towards you regardless of who you are, your political history and your plans for their future and that of their offspring.
Even if you have juicy offers from them that will set them on a path to lifetime political dividends, just feed their stomach first. They’ll worship you. And if you need a handout on this, kindly consult Fayose.
4. Thou Shall Stay Close to the Grassroots
Over time, we’ve suffered a whole lot from political office holders in this country. As much as we complain of poor governance and gross incompetence, if there’s anything the typical Nigerian politician scored an A on, it has to be the art and science of staying aloof from the people who voted them into power almost immediately after they’ve been announced as winners of the elections.
And somehow we’ve gotten used to it as a people. We don’t expect the lawmakers representing us in our stench-filled, awful and pitiable slums except for two times in 4 years. The first is when they are seeking our votes and the second is when they are preparing for the next election.
However, a politician who stays close and identifies with his people at the grassroots will forever be revered. It’s a pity there’s no landline in heaven, we could just have called Adedibu to ask how without contesting a single political office, we by virtue of his ‘Amala politics’ installed and removed governors in Oyo state at will.
5. Thou Shall Install Thy Successor
In Nigerian politics, the secret of sustained relevance is to ensure that whoever succeeds you is from you. He is someone who won’t trample upon what you can refer to as your achievements as well as someone who will cover your tracks on some of the misdeeds you’ve perpetrated while in office.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t become unarguably the most prominent politician alive in the whole of Africa for nothing. This was a man who handpicked Yar’adua as his successor and ratified Jonathan for his first term.
In fact, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has a robust body of work on how to survive the Nigerian political landscape with this strategy. He hasn’t only been installing his successors but has also been directly involved in the political careers of some other people.
Remember that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Babatunde Fashola, Ambode, Aregbesola, Ajimobi and even Sanwoolu are all his protégé.
6. Thou Shall Not Forget Thy Benefactor (aka Godfather)
Remember the good old saying, ‘a river that forgets his source will dry up’. It is still very relevant in modern-day politics in Nigeria. Much disputed but the role godfathers in Nigerian politics can’t still be thrown in with a trowel. They have the experience, connect, clout and the money to support your political career.
However, in order to forestall any case of crashing like a pack of cards with your political dreams and aspirations truncated, thou shall not forget thy godfather.
You know what? We don’t have to say more on this. Just ask Ambode. That man has a lot of tales to tell. He can attest to the mysticism and sovereignty of godfathers and the impending wrath you stand a chance of facing if you go against their dictates. Follow obediently their instructions and you’d be out of trouble while your political career flourishes.
7. Thou Shall Have a BackUp Profession
Politics in Nigeria is so fickle and vacillating. No one can be so sure of what comes next. One minute, the masses are singing your praises and the next moment you are struggling to get them to vote for you. This might be because of a single action or inaction which you consider insignificant but turns out to be significant enough to pull you down.
So always have a backup plan. If politics does not work, what will I do? Actually, a lot of our politicians are businessmen. Even the president is a part-time cattle-rearer while we also have a lawmaker who can help us break the duopoly of Wizkid and Davido as well as win us that much-coveted Grammy.
In Oyo state, someone who is very close to becoming the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria resigned to contest the governorship seat and he lost and now he’s back to tendering to his lots of businesses including a couple of investments in the nightlife industry.
One person I’m itching to have a sit down with his Honorable Lam Adedapo Adesina who had a dramatic row with ex-Governor Abiola Ajimobi and both eventually lost their reelection bid. I’d really love to know what the plan is for him towards 2023. You can’t just afford not to have a side hustle. I mean where’s the money for the next campaign going to come from.
If you faithfully obey these seven commandments, I’m sure you’ll be around for a long time in the Nigerian political scene.
* Jalebi is an Indian sweet and popular food. It is made by deep-frying maida flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup.
This article was originally published by Opera News.