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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


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.


To Subsidise Or Not To Subsidise?

That is the question
How come is it that the daughters of the Niger wash their hands with sputum, and the sons of the Iroko build their houses with bark?   By what providence do the citizens of this great country find themselves begging bread in the midst of a great abundance of natural and human resources.  In an oil-producing country such as ours, citizens should be able to take the availability of petrol/diesel for granted.  That though, is not the case with Nigeria.  Fuel shortages are a perennial problem that we all have to contend with.  In Ilorin, where the son of a Nigerian is commonly to be found, it is not unusual to find petrol queues snaking on for about two miles.  Taxi drivers and the common man are the main fare of this problem, as most “able” citizens have friends behind the petrol pumps and in the offices that they can see about conjuring up a keg or two of the stuff.  These queues take time, courage, and some measure of luck or Grace (depending on your perspective) to navigate.  It is not uncommon to hear of people spending two or three days inching their way along to the front of the queue; only to discover that the station had now run out of petrol.  Now, if that were all, it would not be so bad, one being quit for loss of time only.  However, folk are on occasion forced to leave their vehicles on the queue overnight, and men of the underworld, not being the type to miss an opportunity for illicit gain, take advantage of absent car owners, and spoil the vehicles for parts.  In medicine, iatrogenic is analogous of a person who comes in suffering from a broken arm, and leaves with Cholera.  I guess, in a way, one could describe the loss of car parts while queuing for petrol under the same label – if only this were a hospital, and not the roadside.
One is forced to wonder, that, Is it really worth one’s while to spend half a day queuing for petrol, simply because it is subsidised?  Is it correct to suggest that the value of subsidy on a tank of petrol is more valuable than four/five hours of the average Nigerian’s day?  Surely that should not be right!  For even if it was right, it is not proper, and should therefore be wrong.  Of strength, courage-in-adversity, faith, and entrepreneurial spirit, this nation is second to none.  Surely the day of the average Nigerian is worth many times the value of subsidy on a tank of petrol, and the safety and security of car-owner and car, including parts, cannot be bartered, at least not in the same market as petrol.
The question that begs asking, is “how come?  How is it that a country that produces x million barrels of oil per day cannot cater for the needs of its own local population, while at the same time indulging the world?”.  This column is man enough to ask the question, but will we find a person to answer?

… continuation

Whether tis better to subsidise …
and so please powerful foes, even at the cost of further undermining the economy. There are not many Nigerians who will question the veracity of the statement that a sizeable proportion of our subsidised petrol/diesel ends up across the border.  But many of us still believe in the subsidy; afterall, this is an oil producing country.   A point that we miss though, is that the goodwill of subsidy is being abused up and down the country by, racketeers, bunkerers and black-marketeers; and that rather than aid economic recovery, the constrained access to subsidised petrol actually slows the pace of business activity.  All this has not dampened the enthusiasm of the pro-subsidy camp.
A popular argument in favour of the subsidy takes the line that the money raked in from the removal of subsidies would end up in the pockets of our treacherous leaders.  I must pause here to say that I felt challenged in my spirit using the words “treacherous” and “leaders” in the context of Nigeria because not all our leaders are bad, but since neither you nor I have a hand in these traitorous acts, the finger is left pointing at the seat of power, however reluctantly.  The other argument for the justification of subsidy is that Nigerians are too poor to afford the cost of unsubsidised petroleum products.
I very strongly disagree with these two arguments.  In the first instance; because a cabal of looters sit on top of the revenue from petroleum mining does not in itself form an argument for subsidisation.  The issue here is one of accountability, and that is what we should be taking up.  The second argument is premised on the poverty of Nigerians today; a counter-reality super-imposed on an erstwhile hard-working people with boundless reserves of energy and enthusiasm for honest work and entrepreneurism.  The poverty we see today is a mask; and once government removes the obstacles of infrastructure and security, the true identity of Nigerians will be revealed in an explosion of productive activity that may not be witnessed again in the time-line of humanity in this dimension.
Here again, the issue that must be pushed is not how to make Nigerians comfortable in the current state of poverty, rather, it should be how to get us out of the state of affairs, and into an activity mode that can afford unsubsidised petroleum products.  Paradoxically, the very removal of subsidy is likely to create the impetus for improved, increased, or higher priced output required to cope with the removal of subsidy. >”What about inflation!?”<

Or to refrain from subsidy …
And thereby to irk powerful foes and not-so-patriotic allies, or so to say, “take Arms against a Sea of troubles”.  It is clear that there is a real and present danger in confronting vested interests, especially those with a lot to loose when cesspits of filthy lucre are filled in.  There is no doubt that the president has a lot at stake in taking on those power houses that have an interest in subsidisation, especially those folk who have been plying our neighbour countries with not-so-subsidised petroleum, in exchange for Forex.  These are the real losers, not the average Nigerian who has to queue for several hours to gain access to this subsidised petrol.  The president also has to contend against the trade unions, who it seems, jump on the bandwagon of any populist idea, no matter how extra-ordinary.  One only needs to refer to their position on a minimum wage, to see how unrealistic they can be.  Trade Union leaders were content to argue for a higher minimum wage, in a country where the largest employer is still the government, and that same government struggles to keep up with salaries, even before the hike in wages!  It is high time that Union leaders start thinking, first of the interests of Nigeria as a whole, before that of their members; for those who would consider that a contradiction-nigh-on-schizophrenia, I would retort that so also is the situation of the country today.  Desperate ills evoke desperate pills; we are all in this ship together, it may not be sinking, but neither is it sailing; does it really matter who is sitting on the bow, stern, or mast?  Following on from deregulation, we now have a situation where petrol goes for an average of =N=45 per litre, and much higher in certain parts of the north of the country.  This is considerably higher than the =N=40 post-subsidy price advanced by the president.  Would it not have been better to remove the subsidy at source and then peg the retail price?  As things stand, the very subsidy that was being clamoured for has effectively disappeared into the pockets of those in the petroleum products supply chain.  And yet, the Trade Union leaders are still breathing threats!

Between a rock and a hard place
Caught between the Trade Unions and a contracting economy, who would offer to be in the president’s shoes today.  For many, the issue of subsidies is just another excuse for a lack of improvement in the economy of Nigeria, even after four years of PDP/Obasanjo rule.   Why cut subsidies, they ask, when everywhere else, the citizen is confronted with untold hardships, and forced into paying bribes to the police, judiciary, government officials, and civil servants.  And now the last bastion of solace is threatened by this government.   Anyone who has lived in Nigeria will not argue with these accusations.  However, to imagine that the mismanagement of over two decades can be corrected within four years is naive.   Change will take a bit more time, and finger pointing is not going to change that reality; ask the British under Tony Blair’s Labour government, the South Africans, and even the Ghanaians. The problem I believe is that inputs that are a sine qua non for maximising productive output are missing, or are still in an early state of development.  Despite the best efforts of this government, ploughing upwards of =N=32 billion into the National Electric Power Authority (N.E.P.A.), the grapevine has it that less than a quarter of that money actually hit the ground; behemoths with huge throats, and an even broader appetite for looting filtered, or should we say frittered, away the majority of the money.  For all that, it is still clear that even with 25% of actual input, the electricity situation is now considerably better than it once was.  Similar focus and investment will be needed for telecommunications, roads, water, and public transport.  However, a crucial lesson needs to be learnt from the NEPA exercise, to wit, before you start spending money, make sure you have the right people on the ground.  Due diligence must be exercised to ensure that extant Leviathan are forced into extinction. The hard truth is that the fall, and fall, of the Naira today are down to one activity alone – consumption.  We have no substantial productive output to counter the inflationary pressures on the Naira.  The only output we can leverage right now is crude oil, and it is doubly imperative that we employ it wisely, firstly to develop our economy by investing in ourselves, and secondly to wean ourselves of any overt dependence on what we are better off selling.  Just as the president encourages Nigerians to eat less cassava, so that we can export it, we should likewise prioritise the sale of petroleum products (locally or internationally) over its consumption, since the sale brings in much needed revenue that the economy needs.  We need to choose between the short-term agonies of an immediate removal of subsidy, or the long-term risks of failing to diversify while petrodollars were still readily available.

Choosing what is best for Nigeria
Never mind whose ox is gored;  We all must be willing to consider all options for getting this country moving again.  While it is clear that the record of the present government is not without blemish, it is also clear that the man at the helm is neither a robber nor a leper.   For once in a long time, we have a disposition which is amenable to the survival of progressives, even if it does not actively support them to thrive.  Casting an eye on the cabinet of the president, there are elements therein who would not have considered taking the same job under any other past president – I refrain from naming names.  This says something about the habitat of government as it exists today.  We have, I believe, genuine goodwill in certain quarters of government, and proposals for change, however unpalatable in the short term should be given the benefit of objective analysis.  This country has an estimated population of 120 million people, of which only a fraction are enjoy the subsidy, the goal of government must be to increase the proportion of Nigerians who have access to petroleum products, and by extension, any such subsidies.  Is it conceivable that we will be able to afford subsidisation of petroleum for much longer?  And who decides when we draw the line.  It is my firm belief that the argument against subsidy is strong and well founded, and that among governments in Nigeria till date, this government above the others has the credibility to advance that argument.  Nigerians must give this issue, the serious attention and rational debate that it evokes, never minding who has what to lose or gain.  This will not be the last of such issues to be raised, and we must now start getting used to making difficult, even unpopular decisions, in the interest of the nation.

Time is now to step forward and be counted.
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