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An Election Strategy for Nigeria 2015

It is election time once again in Nigeria and political parties have begun to take positions for the contest ahead. Characteristically, some are putting more thought and effort into the conduct of the day of election, than building the relationships that should be in place before election day. This has been the modus of the power play in Nigerian politics of the last two decades. Political parties jostle, not for the hearts of the people but for power, because with power, people can be cowed and subdued.

But things have changed, so much so that even the PDP has suddenly awakened to the importance of winning over an electorate that it has ignored for so long. The average voter is a lot more savvy than he/she used to be. In the Ekiti and Osun elections, voters demonstrated a new resolve and independence of mind, by coming out to vote across party lines for their choice of governor. It is pertinent to also mention the INEC under its new leadership. We may not be in Shangri-La yet, but the electoral umpire has certainly covered some ground since the days of Maurice Iwu, a controversial INEC boss who appeared to be overtly sympathetic to the interests of the PDP. These days, the INEC under Jega has improved the processes and conduct of elections, although they still fall short on logistics and supervision.

So, as election day looms, candidates and parties must start to unfold their plans for securing as many votes as possible on election day. Some parties will focus on the usual logistics of thuggery, ballot box stuffing/snatching, and collusion with INEC officials, although that approach is likely to be a lot less successful this time around, for the reasons mentioned above. A more pragmatic approach would be to deploy a strategy that will develop emotive connections and some relationship with the voters before the election day. This strategy must sustain the relationships to the point at which a voter places their ballot in the ballot box, and until the mandate is confirmed by INEC or other means.

The first thing of course is that the opposition candidate and his/her party should set up an electioneering cabinet or strategy team that will take responsibility for devising, documenting, communicating and supervising the strategy. The strategy team should be formed from party executives, party activists, professionals within the party, and some external consultants. This will provide a mix of intellect, experience, political savvy and street knowledge. Each member of the strategy team must have a vested interest in the success of the party at the elections at hand, every one on the team must have something significant to gain, pecuniary or otherwise, if the candidate/party win. The strategy team must produce a three phased blueprint that covers the pre-election, election-day, and post-election time periods.

Pre-election Strategy:

Before the election, focus should be on analysis, building awareness, mobilisation, fund-raising, and preparation. The analysis will try to build a picture of the ground in which the election will be contested and understand the people that will be key to victory. Mobilisation is all about voters and donors, and how they can be linked in to a coherent plan of action for electioneering; mobilisation is also useful for verifying some of the findings of analysis and for giving feedback. Awareness is simply projecting the candidate into as many media as possible without being forward or overbearing. Fund-raising builds a matrix between sources of donation, the targets for expenditure, and the contacts or enabling parties that can connect the donations to the candidate/party. The preparation plan is for actions that build on the outcomes from analysis, awareness, mobilisation and fund-raising. As can be expected, most candidates/parties will already have their strategy teams in place and will be working through their pre-election strategy by now. All aspects of the pre-election strategy must have been executed and wound up by the end of the last day before elections, at which time the election day strategy kicks in.

There is no point complaining about electoral shenanigans after one has lost, because we all know that by default, the incumbent will rig, or at least make a good attempt at rigging. For the opposition candidate therefore, wisdom is to deploy such a strategy as to make the act(s) of rigging, impossible, difficult, or undeniable. The order of priority is significant. Making it impossible to rig is the best that can be hoped for, working to make rigging difficult is preferable and more within grasp, but where all else fails, political parties should at least ensure that the evidence of rigging is secured and therefore undeniable. The election day plan must be all about getting the voters out and getting the ballot paper into the ballot box, after it has been properly marked for the candidate/party, and afterwards to ensure that the votes are correctly counted and reported.

Election day Strategy:

On election day, the strategy team will be primarily concerned with maintaining real-time communication with street-activists, and party executives, as well as the security services. All things may not work out as planned, so there could be some last minute changes, re-organisation and updates to the field. Preparation on the day is important, but simple enough; while we all hope for violence-free elections, we cannot guarantee it; let every team pray, revise the plans for the day, motivate and encourage each other, and move out with their best foot forward. The main focus areas will be the management of voting and the forensics. In Nigeria today, the forensics are very important; win or lose, parties will need independent evidence to satisfy themselves of the true outcome of an election. Also important is security, and this relates to the voters, the vote, the evidence and the result. Security will involve coordination and communication between the strategy team, the security services, street activists and voters. The psychology for victory needs to be sustained all day long, but it relies on good security. The day is not over until each group of voters has ensured that the results at their polling booth has been collated and declared, at which time, street activists should circulate the result, including evidence of its declaration, to their strategy team and other partners.

The final part of the blueprint is the post-election strategy, which begins as soon as the first results start to trickle in. Contrary to the position of INEC, every party should maintain records of results as/when they are announced. This is part of the psychology of victory that the party will need to project across the nation, and which could influence the outcomes in other locations. This should not be seen as a threat to INEC, but rather a complimentary service and an exercise of the inalienable right to freedom of speech.

Post-election Strategy:

Immediately after the conclusion of voting, the opposition candidate or party must once again take the moral and psychological high-ground by publishing as much information as possible about the outcome/result and appeal to all constituents to remain law abiding. Evidence of the result should be disseminated to contacts outside the context of the election so as to establish the credibility of the process and lay advance claim to the mandate. It is also astute to immediately begin to take actions that seek to unite all the constituents behind the party/candidate and the common interests and well-being of the community.

The future of our country is truly in the balances and a wrong turn at this juncture would have devastating consequences. The conduct of the elections itself is an issue that can divide and unite; INEC and the two major parties must be seen to have conducted themselves with respect for the laws of the nation and empathy for the people whose lives will be impacted by the outcome of the election. The prayer of most Nigerians is that the February 2015 elections will be free and fair and will produce credible results, without attendant violence.
Parties help these prayers only by adopting a strategy for electioneering rather than one of thuggery and subversion. We pray that the best candidates for each office wins, and that the votes and will of Nigerians prevail.
May God bless Nigeria; amen.

Jimoh Oyewole
Nigeria Abroad (UK)
+44 793 920 3120

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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
Nigeria Abroad (UK)
+44 793 920 3120


Believing for Change in Nigeria this 2015

Are you believing for a New Nigeria or fantasizing?
It is an important distinction to make at this time, and the difference is profound. Allow me to explain. If you belong in one of the groups below, you are believing:

Have the intention to get a PVC and use it
Already have a PVC and intend to use it
Cannot obtain a PVC but encouraging others to do so
A member of a political party (even PDP is better than nothing)
Is investing time/effort/money in the electioneering process
Intends to invest time/effort/money in the electioneering process
Has criteria on which vote is to be given to candidate/party
Exercises a voice on matters of governance in Nigeria today

There may be exceptions, but by and large, if you do not fall into any one of these groups, my brother/sister, you are in a dream. Upon awakening, you will find out that others would have determined the kind of Nigeria that you get, and presently the scale is heavily tilted towards Goodluck Jonathan + Abubakar Shekau.

Be rest assured that unless large numbers of Nigerians go out to the polling booths to register their dissatisfaction with this government, those two fellows will still be ruling Nigeria by the end of next year. How much each one would get/hold is another matter.

So, I am urging you today. Get involved in the future of Nigeria; which will largely be determined by the politics of Nigeria. Don’t take a back seat like the generation of our parents; look where they ended up, being ruled by the dregs of their time. Politics is as dirty as the majority of citizens allow it to be. If the majority of us throw our pebbles into this muddy stream, it will not be long now before the waters will begin to clear.

Remember; if you are not part of the solution, you must be part of the problem.
Act now to save Nigeria in 2015.
May God have mercy on our souls and bless our nation.