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Post factual politics; the Africanization of the West

By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies
fadipeb@cwdom.dm

Politics in Africa has always been and still is a uniquely brutish winner takes all contact sport; It is not unique because it is a hit or be hit macabre duel, ….politics everywhere is after all cast in that sorry mould …. its uniqueness comes in its below the belt kind of hit, disregard for rules or facts or principles ; just one huge and unbecoming contest not over power of ideas, but ideas of power. And where rules exist, they are so tenuous they are impalpable and the impalpabilities render them uniquely vulnerable to flagrant flouting; lawlessness intrinsic to African political culture remains the greatest bane to continental progress.

Hardly is the term “post factual ” politics more the case in any part of the world than in Africa ; Hardly that is, ….until now … when like a horse , Trump rode post factual politics big league to the White House : starting by playing his opponents like a fiddle, then ending beating them like a drum; Trumpery shot his ‘inventor’ ( Trump) into the political stratosphere as rocket fuel does the astronaut.

The trump phenomenon is the earliest sign yet of an africanization of the western electoral process; ….a process in which African political leaders have become well honed at hawking untruths in ornate wraps competing amongst themselves which untruths sell best and in what electoral constituency. Poor hungry african voter like his poor angry rust belt or brexit equivalent too beleaguered ( and ignorant) to be bothered about fact checking, laps up the sweet nothings from these political aspirants, poverty or group identity exploited to the hilt, electoral victory the only bargain.

African intelligentsia and friends had always hoped the continent’s practice of politics will shed its toga of a bruising and mendacious sabre rattling in favor of a westernizing model with its relatively sanitized fact based open contests until Trump suddenly popped up on a high wire extravaganza betraying the somber reality that Africans hold no monopoly over meretricious political incursions. In one short election cycle, Trump reversed everything of a tested model deploying to stunning advantage African style political demagoguery, tribe/ race baiting, poverty/ anger tap and vapid messianic platitudes, milking the protopathic sensibilities of a people or group as a farmer would the laden udder.

That is unsettling enough!!! More unsettling even is the new inclination by some ( including many who for good reasons were then opposed to his despicable style ) to want to elevate trump to the level of a Ceasar, along with a foreseeable short step from branding his tactics the tactics . What a doom prospect.

Should the west evolve in a trumpian direction in its electioneering culture , it might not only be a race to the bottom , it may come to spell the beginning of the end of western civilization . Why would a potential aspirant intent on high office want to trek the harder road of fact based contests, constrained by need for mutual decencies and polished discourse when by merely locating himself inside a post factual bubble simulating the Trumpian foot dance of disregarding the facts exploiting either the poverty ( Africa) and or anger ( American/Brexiter ) of voters , a softer ride to victory is not only possible, trump has shown it to be probable .

In Africa the trumpian model has earned the process nothing other than unending hostilities, cycle after cycles between groups pitched one against another by reckless campaign rhetorics and post truth realities. Is that kind of Africanization of western politics in the preservatory interest of the west ? !! What is now obvious more piquantly so than before is the ubiquitous role of the poor/ marginalized in shaping electoral outcomes . This is so because the poor/disgruntled will always be the weakest link in any democracy chain and where they happen to constitute the larger electoral bloc inside the particular democracy the process can only get to be as sanitized as the poor/ disgruntled renders it.

Just as ominous is the new reality that in the west just as it always has been in Africa, electoral ideals can be hijacked from unexpected quarters, the poor/deprived too ready to look past whatever the glaring ugliness of the candidate is, the messianic promise of rescue the only bet! Tied into the trump victory is yet another frightening prospect ! Until now, people in the west had always been able to stay ahead of the rest of the world in any knowledge based contests ; the littlest American easily able to outcompete arriving giants from outside and so job security for him was always assured.

Immigrant outliers all along patiently took positions in the queue, but constantly tooling and retooling themselves to jack up individual market appeal and market value; now many are so qualified the table has turned. Immigrants, still playing inside the rules they were faced with , came from the rear to the front of the queue outcompeting the winners of yesterday in those very knowledge based contests. but only to the chagrined resentment of winners of yesterday the new losers hoping to finagle old but tested rules, toss knowledge out the ring, to be replaced by mix of nativist and color driven contests, their savior, no longer competitive knowledge/skill sets but raw trumpian emoting and trumpian braggadocio .

When a civilization that once walked its way into preeminence through dint of hard work amongst its rank and file, all other peoples outcompeted fairly and squarely , suddenly now has to rely on banal impulses of race and group identity for quotidian survival, the only foreseeable way ahead for such a civilization is ‘down’ Trumpery is a looming threat to western civilization even worse, an incremental if unintended drift towards an Africanized model many of us long to jettison.

 

 

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A Time for Change, and the APC?

The Politics of Change and a New Nigeria
Of those privileged to have visited the UK from Nigeria, many would have made a stop in London. The city is well worth the effort and time required to take in some of its many wonders. From the structures, castles and homes in the old town, to the glistening skyscrapers that adorn the new commercial and financial centres, as well as the various modes of transport available to the Londoners of today: river boats, buses, taxis, overground trains, underground trains and even driver-less trains!

Travelling on the London underground, or Tube as it is sometimes called, it is common to hear the announcement “all change, this is the last stop for this train …”, or something to that effect. On hearing this, all commuters are required to abandon the affected train and seek other means of reaching their destinations. Should we be asking ourselves if the time to change trains here in Nigeria, and to ponder if the train we are on now can take us any further in the direction that we want to go? Have we traveled for so long on the PDP train that we have forgotten that we are now going round and round like the Circle line on London’s underground? Could it be that we need to abandon the train because, even though the engine is still running, movement has ceased?

But a change to what?
A person who is considering choices for lunch must have the ready access to more than one type of food, i.e. he/she has access and can afford the choices. Therefore, if we are to contemplate change in Nigeria today, there must be an option or alternative, and such alternative must be viable. Most Nigerians will agree that the nation is broken in a fundamental way and that major change is necessary for our corporate survival. It is also clear that time is short to effect the needed changes. So, the only disagreement across the nation is the modus or nature of the change.

Politically speaking, Nigerians have only two choices for driving democratic change. It will have to be either of the PDP or the APC, as neither of APGA, Accord, Labour, or the other peripheral parties, are national in terms of support or outlook. So, if Nigerians discount the PDP, the most likely beneficiary of a new mandate would be the APC. If change will come to Nigeria, this is probably the best opportunity for an opposition victory.

While there is definitely a widespread dissatisfaction with the PDP and Dr Jonathan, this does not automagically translate to support for the APC. Unless the APC can articulate a clear linkage between Nigeria’s present problems and the failures of the ruling party, the party may struggle at the polls. The APC must be alive to the reality that people and parties lose power, they do not relinquish it. Another big challenge for the opposition is the fact that the electorate is mostly poor, uneducated and/or young, and will be easy prey for misinformation and monetary inducement. Voters must be persuaded that the APC is a live and beneficial alternative to the status quo; “live” here means that an APC vote could transform into electoral victory, and “beneficial” indicates that there is a clear potential of new or increased gain that would accrue to the voter on account of an APC victory. Elections are emotive and relational; both the message and the messenger must be appealing to secure loyalty of the voter right up to the polling booth.

Strategising for Electoral Victory:
One area in which previous APC candidates, and the party as a whole, have been incredibly short-sighted is in the planning and execution of electioneering strategy. It is vain to complain about rigging when it is clear that manipulation of votes is a primary device of incumbents in Nigeria. Rather, opposition parties must prepare and articulate a clear electioneering strategy to a core caucus within the party. The strategy must be very confidential, so that a DSS raid does not land the crown jewels in the hands of the PDP. It should lay out detailed plans that the party has for securing the majority of popular votes, as well as counter-plans for thwarting the rigging machinery of the ruling party.

Opposition parties must be very careful in building an electioneering strategy team. The team must be a mix of strategists, party executives, and street-level activists, so as to attain a balance of intellectualism, political sophistication and street-wisdom. Each member must have strong loyalties to the party or the success of the strategy, i.e. there must be a direct benefit/loss for every member should the party win or lose the election. This team will be the equivalent of an elite special-forces unit in an army. While most of the team will be card-carrying members of the party, it may be wise to bring in some external consultants with innovative ideas that will help distil/energise the strategy.

Having come up with the electioneering strategy, the next thing will be to prosecute it with vigour, determination, and agility. It would be credulous to believe that everything will go according to plan, but a bloc of supporters that are chaperoned by activists, who in turn are directed by a strategy team, have a much higher chance of success than a rabble of thugs and paid-per-day voters. The strategy and a significant part of its execution occurs pre-election, on election day the icing should be put on the cake, the party that wins would normally have gained an advantaged position before election day.

Before elections the priorities are mobilisation, risk assessment, and the pre-emptive deployment of consolidation or mitigation plans. This will involve detailed analysis of voting history, demographics, reconnaissance and logistics; the goal being to assess the opportunities and threats and to deploy resources appropriately in terms of type, time and proportion. On election day the priorities shift to mobilisation and facilitation of voting, execution of locational psychology, and the gathering of evidence. Win or lose, the gathering of evidence is key at every polling station, it is the only way that a party can independently satisfy itself of the veracity of any pronouncements made by the INEC. The evidence will also provide invaluable data for future strategy, and fuel for a post-election strategy. However, a detailed electioneering strategy is out of scope here, but all aspiring candidates need one, especially when in opposition. A word here though will suffice for the wise: election victory will not be served on a plate; only those that contest it can win it!

So What Happens If the Opposition Wins?
An APC/opposition victory would be a seminal moment in the history of Nigeria. But could it be more than that, could it be more than another flash in the pan of African and indeed black history? The desire for positive change in the social economy of the nation has never been so high. Nigerians have been pressed beyond endurance these last two decades. While the rest of the world has advanced, Nigeria has regressed. Many lives have been blighted, many lost, and large numbers living as though dead. The weight of expectation on any new government will therefore be very high. Unfortunately, these are inauspicious times, there are monumental infrastructure deficits across the country, oil prices are falling, record numbers are unemployed, and the security situation is so bad that Boko Haram may be approaching Abuja by the time the next president is sworn in this May.

There is so much work to do; the question would be where to start? In addition to a plethora of other issues, it is vital to sanitise the judiciary, else not much traction will be gained against corruption; in tandem, power and transportation must be addressed as matters of national emergency, and of course security must be prioritised. There are others such as education, health, etc. that are also important, but these can wait until the fundamentals have been stabilised. In the celebrated case of Lakanmi and Kikelomo V The Attorney-General of Western State of Nigeria and Ors (1971), the Nigerian Supreme Court held that the voluntary transfer of power by the civilian government to the military in 1966 was justified under the doctrine of necessity. Since then, governance in Nigeria has had to resort to the same doctrine to navigate tricky strictures on the democratic path. Given the present state of the judiciary, EFCC, DSS, and police, it is most probable that a new government will have to be imaginative in the extreme to use the deformed instruments of state to fix the very state itself. Will they have to push the limits of this same doctrine past its limits?

If that path has to be resorted to, said government must be careful; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is a lesson more so for the retired General who may be leading such a government. Corruption is the elephant in the room, and it goes without saying that a failure to seriously curb corruption will result in ultimate failure to move Nigeria forward. Ribadu it was that said, “when you fight corruption; corruption fights back”. However, care must be taken to ensure that Nigerians do not become the collateral damage that results from the fight between government and the agents and machinery of corruption. Good Zen is to be rid of sycophants and PDP fifth columnists; these two are more dangerous to a progressive government than corruption and all other ills – once you get rid of the rats, the snakes will also disappear.

Could this be a New Nigeria?
With the likes of Nuhu Ribadu as gubernatorial candidate under the PDP and Osinbajo as running mate on the APC presidential ticket, it should be clear to discerning observers that all the good eggs are not in one basket. For all the failings of the PDP leadership and Jonathan, there are still distinguished Nigerians in the rank and file of the party. Similarly, the presence of the likes of Buhari et al should not detract from the fact that the APC is not a church of saints. Nigeria though is served by the process that has brought these persons, and the coalition, to the forefront of Nigerian politics.

A win for the APC is likely to catapult many more progressives to the high table. Influence from the top will percolate downwards and progressives will be encouraged to come out of hiding and join the rebuilding. Similarly, as rats flee the sinking PDP ship, the original crew of visionary Nigerians that formed the party may glean an opportunity to retake the helm. If such things happen, it could usher in a truly new country; a New Nigeria that millions have dreamt of for many years, and for which several have given their very lives. It could be even much more than that. This could be the foundation for the first, truly great, black nation of the modern age. A nation led by black people, run by black people, and populated by black people, and a nation that begins to do those great and good things that hitherto have been associated with the Caucasian, the Latino, the Indian, the Chinese and the Arab.

A nation where there is rule of law, where the police is a service and not a force, where the army’s ire is felt by invaders and not defenceless citizens. A country where schools and hospitals are run by civil servants and not part-time mercenaries, a place where energy plants serve a thriving manufacturing and services sector, where roads are built and maintained, and that by Nigerians. A land in which the vote of the citizen counts and the lines of tribe and religion have been erased by shared values, aspirations and achievements. A New Nigeria that sets an example for the whole of black Africa and pulls hundreds of millions out of their nightmares and into the light of a progressive co-existence and the infinite possibilities available to all in a land so rich in every resource salutary to human existence and prosperity on this earth.

It is the prayer of all Nigerians that the forthcoming elections are credible, free and fair, and that such candidates as represents the best value for the present and future of our great nation wins.
We wish all contestants every good fortune within the bounds of our laws.
May God bless us all and usher in a New Nigeria in our own lifetimes; amen.

Jimoh Oyewole
Secretary-General
Nigeria Abroad (UK)
+44 793 920 3120
Postmaster@NigeriaAbroad.org
http://www.NigeriaAbroad.org/