By: Judah Bamigboye
It was amidst the intense politicking for the governorship ticket of a major party in a south-western state that an aspirant barged into my quiet suburb within the state. Flustered and embittered, he began a tirade, wailing against what he called the “nairanization” of our political system. This suave and urbane millennial had recently relocated from the Ottawa, Canada, to “salvage his native state from the doldrums.”
“Can you believe my uncles and aunties simply told me off, asking me what they stood to gain from my victory? They even told me I had no godfather, had not visited my state in years, and I was unwilling to drop money for empowerment,” he railed.
“Oga, this is no Ottawa,” I responded, deciding to tutor him on the nuances of electioneering in Nigeria, especially in a clime punctuated by recession and inflation.
Election periods in Nigeria are a time flowing with milk and honey, but it isn’t that simple. For my millennial friend, it was all about coming back home, brandishing his barrage of certificates from Harvard and pontificating on how he was going to transform his state into an agricultural-technological model that rivals that of the American state of New York or the Canadian State of Ottawa. But that is not how we win elections in Nigeria.
First, election is all about money. Spending money is a basic nuance in every election cycle. But in Nigeria, you must have more than enough, from your own purse. If you are coming from a Utopian society like Ottawa, where several ideological think thanks and PACs rise in defence of your “lofty” ideas and decide to raise millions of dollars … Well, not in our dear Nigeria.
When you see support groups rising in your defence and drafting all sorts of flattering press statements “forcing” or “threatening” you to run, then you have to understand that money has exchanged hands. They might even offer to pay for your nomination form. Don’t be too impressed. You have only been loaned. Expect to pay back with interests. These support groups need not have an ideological base or a well-known mantra. All they need are branded shirts, well oiled media machinery, and organizing capacities that appeal to your political aspirations. If you are generous enough with funds, a group of 10 members can organize a ten million man-march for you across every state of the federation, preaching of your paradisal candidacy that must not be ignored.
To the millennial governorship aspirant from Ottawa, in your state and counties, you must have been used to and motivated by how candidates sashay from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, shirts rolled up, taking the trains, exchanging handshakes, smiles and even light kisses with other men’s wives. They board the trains, pontificate about a new Canada. No guns. No aides. No accoutrement of political majesty. All is simplicity, shorn of grandiosity. Before you get here, understand our style is different.
Although the Nigeria you left for greener pastures had few, dilapidated rail systems at the very risk of total collapse, you must have been motivated by the cheering news of the several rail lines being constructed and in use. Except that nobody has told you that rail lines are now being bombarded by thieves, renegades, and kidnappers who are only interested in fleecing you, in cash and in body. In case you decide to campaign on rail, please there is simply no beauty in simplicity. Hire your bodyguards. They have to be in every corner, watching every move and shielding you from every loving voter. And please, do not try to hug or kiss any woman on the campaign train. If you do, her husband standing next to her could land you a very hot slap. The newspaper headline “Chaos as man slaps governorship aspirant for kissing wife” would do no good to your ambitions.
For deciding to leave the glee and bliss of your adopted state of Ottawa to salvage your home country, three gbosa for you. However, for believing you could just breeze through the labyrinths of electoral process, without structures and molecules in place, three punches for you. In Nigeria, when you hear political structure, it has nothing to do with the sane, clear-cut mechanisms in place to win an election. Structures are human beings, the army of men and women, boys and girls (yes, ask them in Kano), okada riders, village heads, prophets and prophetesses that dominate the lowest rung of the political ladder. They control the membership of the units and wards. Their allegiances shift like the sinking sand. And only a combination of money, money, and money can keep them, tied to your side, at least till the day of election.
Ward meetings have no similarity to your county debates or agenda setting meetings in Ottawa. A ward meeting is an opportunity for you to meet the “stakeholders” and show them your level of commitment to the cause. Oh, need I remind you that for every hailing of “Incoming, My Governor, No shaking!“, you are expected to let something go from your pocket. So I advise: ensure you keep your speech as short as possible, so that you won’t have to drop your whole cash at hand during that meeting.
Is the Nigerian political system different from where you are coming from? Absolutely yes. But are the values over there totally useless here in our national politics? Absolutely not.
We are a nation of grammarians, and social media intelligentsias, who pontificate on intricate political dynamics through the instrumentality of social media. Finish up the spending on the polling units, but ensure you have a social media presence. Polish the social media army with your arcane knowledge of space investments and socio-technological transmogrification. They will hail, laud, flatter and advertise you to high heavens, through tweets, trends and friends. Aside occasional giveaways, do not get carried away. Nine out of ten of these millennials do not have voters cards, let alone vote during elections. In Ottawa, you might not be able to afford losing the social media battle. Here, you can lose it all over again. Just ensure you don’t lose the polling unit war. Enter your helmet of victory: Money, structure, and money.
Judah Bamigboye is a journalist at Red carpet communications Limited. He writes a weekly column at tale.ng, Nigeria’s leading online romance magazine. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter handle is @bamigboyejudah1