by Mercy Abang
If you ask me I will tell you that politics is the most successful business in Nigeria today. Everything else takes backseat because politicians make sure they bring politics into everything we do. But will this stop anytime soon?
One thing must be made clear to the young generation, a ‘’siddon look’’ attitude will take us no where. I was glad to have seen thousands troop to Ojota during the #OccupyNigeria protests in January. But, during the 2011 elections, as I worked as an observer, it became apparent that despite the fact that more than 70% of the electorate was below 35, young people were in the minority at the polls. The elderly, however? They came out, and they waited under the sun for hours.
But I digress. My friend Ohimai Amaize is the reason I write. Campaign Manager for Dele Momodu of the Labour Party during the 2011 elections, he was a staunch critic of the People’s Democratic Party and its candidate, Dr.Goodluck Jonathan. A lot of water has gone under the proverbial bridge since then and he is now Special Assistant to a Federal Minister under a PDP government.
On Saturday 24 March, during the convention of the People’s Democratic Party, he “issued” a Tweet that launched a thousand criticisms.
@MrFixNigeria ‘’Who’s watching the PDP National Convention on NTA? Great Party’’.
Not surprisingly, the reactions were as vicious as most were bitter – it wasn’t just that the critic was now the praise-singer, it was the use of the word “great”.
It would be hard to disagree. After more than a decade of presiding over the affairs of the nation, the party has succeeded in achieving the following in my opinion:
· Increased Percentage of Nigerians living in absolute poverty – those who can afford only the bare essentials of food, shelter and clothing – rose to 60.9 percent in 2010, compared with 54.7 percent in 2004, the national bureau of statistics said in 2010.
Poverty in Nigeria is rising with almost 100 million people living on less than $1 a day, despite strong growth in Africa’s second largest economy.
Then Mr. Amaize added just after the “Great PDP” tweet:
@MrFixNigeria Yes, I’m a card carrying member of the PDP. How does that make me less a Nigerian?
That in itself is food for thought. But, as they say on Twitter, “Is that why we are here?”
The issue more important than which party is greater is the fact that change agents need to now begin to occupy the political parties with the same gusto Ojota was occupied if we truly want that dream Nigeria. The idea of discouraging people, especially young people, from becoming members of a political organisation will take us no where as a people. So, it is cool to be called an ‘’ACTIVIST’’, and it is cool to be called a public ‘’COMENTATOR’’, but not cool to be affiliated to a political party; the very place where this “change” is cooked? Give me a break.
I call to mind excerpts from Chude Jideonwo’s speech at The Nigeria Symposium for Young & Emerging Leaders last week: “And that is the real tragedy; that you can look at the young people around you – those in government, those in the opposition, those who are critics – and sadly not see much difference from the past. We see our friends who get into government and become just like the rest of them, members of the opposition whose principled disagreements cease soon as they are given a seat at the table; we see critics who choose sensation over sense, bombast over engagement, and insults over nation-building. Essentially, by observation and interaction, we have become like those fathers’’.
Bombast over engagement. Truer words have never been spoken. Will anger alone save Nigeria?
The rants took us to Ojota yes, but they will not take through the fixing of bad roads or securing of constant electricity. Of course, first the assumption is faulty that all young people are change agents, but if that were the case as many seem to believe, then we need a critical mass of young people to flood the parties and begin to restructure the ideologies. We cannot continue to allow our “great grand fathers” decide for us any longer; and ladies and gentlemen, the game starts from the party level.
As I write, they are meeting to strategise on how they would continue to preside over our affairs beyond 2015, perhaps daily, while we keep getting medals for who can be angriest. When are we going to the message?
PDP leaders have been quoted as saying the party will continue to lead for up to 50 years. My friend, Kola Oyeneyin, of Sleeves Up shared his thoughts on this recently. “‘DP to rule for next 50 years’-Godswill Akpabio. We can moan, all we like, as long as we siddon look, this prophecy will come to pass.”
Bottomline? People need to go and pick up party forms and whatever way we can take over the political space from the unsavoury elements that now occupy them. As far as I am concerned, there is no functional ideological difference between any of the political parties, from the Action Congress of Nigeria to the People’s Democratic Party. That, is the real problem. So we should learn to encourage the members of our generation who take this urgent step rather than cast aspersions on those who shw interest in our imperfect politics. They have no choice. You want the youth of the National Union of Road Transport Workers to keep representing you in the political space? Well, then you deserve what you get.
We can’t continue to watch the nation’s destiny decided on television. It is not enough to criticise the modus of the ruling party. It is time to get in and fight for what we believe in, if indeed we stand for something different.
The #Occupy movement must now urgently lead us into the political parties. We must make the different political spaces uncomfortable for the present cabal. We must move away from a government of probes to a government of probity. One that simply does the job it was employed to do – to serve the interest of the public.
Unless we realise how cheap our talk is, we will never see the Nigeria that we talk about. I know we can do better.
Follow Abang on Twitter @AbangMercy