I have decided to write a rejoinder to Mr Reuben Abati’s latest piece and maybe if I am able to one day gather enough social capital to write as long as the said piece and still maintain my readership, I will write a long one. Until then, this is a short rejoinder.
First to the major things I and Mr Abati agree on. The solution to Nigeria’s political problems is not a new political party and those who usually float that option are either aggrieved politicians who want to duplicate the patronage system because they no longer matter in the scheme of things in the current one or those who are paying lip service to suggesting solutions to our problems.
The problems the over 30 political parties registered in Nigeria are facing is hinged on the elite class who usually just set up political parties for their own selfish purposes of acquiring power and maintaining their luxury profile in society. So, despite the parties floated by perceived credible Nigerians like Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Kuti and co, there is yet to be a people centered political party.
At the risk of sounding like I agree with most of Mr Abati’s piece, which would mean there was no need to write a rejoinder, Mr Abati’s concluding solution for this conundrum is what I think we need to deeply think about. He says
“What do we need? Not recycled politicians posing as new party men and women. But this: effective party organizations, like the NCNC, the NEPU, the NPC, the AG, APGA, UPN, UMBC of old which belonged to the people and reflected their aspirations”
Yes, Poverty, Illiteracy and a deliberate attempt by the political elite to ensure dependency on them and them only so they could leverage on that during election periods are the reasons for all these. But isn’t that why we don’t have all these “effective party organizations” that truly belong to the people?
The lower class of our society are helpless victims of a machination that will continue to repeat itself over and over again until an external force breaks off that cycle. In what is actually unexpected, the middle class who could wade in and do this bidding was at first non-complacent. Now that it is being affected by the incompetency of the previous governments since 1999 and now understands the impact of politics and politicians, it is now shrinking as much as ever and being rendered incapable.
The Ondo Elections bring us another case scenario where it is evident that the electoral process is designed to favour those that are diseased with the big-man-ism of Nigerian Politics and if History is anything to go by, citizens who were “wise” enough to vote for the highest bidder who eventually won should be content with the monies paid for their votes.
How can we claim to have an election when each polling booth had representatives of the Nigerian government protecting those who budgeted N500,000 for that polling booth. And we are talking about effective organizations!
It doesn’t make any atom of sense that vote buying is not a crime that can disqualify a candidate and land a voter in jail.
Such a scenario is not an election. It is a buy off. As far as I am concerned, irrespective of Mr Abati’s “effectiveness”, KOWA, LP, APGA, UPN and even a political party that is registered tomorrow can win any Nigerian election if it has the biggest purse.
A society where this is possible is not a democracy and NO election in such a scenario is FAIR!
If I offer anybody who votes for my party N10,000 and I need 250,000 votes total to win a state election, I might not even need to spend a lot of money on campaigns. All I need is a budget of N2,500,000,000 on election day.
In today’s Nigeria, it doesn’t matter where I get this money. It doesn’t matter what I am going to do when I get elected. It doesn’t even matter if the people know my plans. All I have to tell the voters is that on election day, they stand a chance of getting N10,000 for every vote they cast for my party. Who needs a structure with that?
What do we need? We need a radical movement of the middle class against the machinations and the design of our political system. We need to first of all set the table straight before we can play ball and ask for effective organizations.
Vote Buying Should be a Criminal Offence. Both the giver and the voter should be arrested and thrown in jail. If the electoral process is the most sacrosanct aspect of our democracy, polluting that process with money stolen from the people or gotten any how from anywhere should be a crime. The candidate and the party should stand disqualified and the voter being paid should be jailed.
When this is done, we can then talk about how effective and people centred our political parties are. Until then, we are just all running a political rat race.
Jude Feranmi is the National Youth Leader of Kowa Party and a columnist on TheSheet.ng. He tweets at @judeferanmi
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