The errors of Nigerian mushroom political parties and the way forward

By Yaji Ibrahim Obel

From the onset of party building and structuring many good people and technocrats shied away from it, they left it to the ‘politicians’ who built it with the basic understanding that a political party is just meant to provide a platform for anyone who wants to run for office and not necessarily a platform that should provide a unique model for leadership and development anchored on specific principles and ideologies. These men who built the renowned political parties, spent all their energy and resources to raise these parties from the scratch, as such they feel like landlords in these parties. For them, it is more of a financial investment. One of the results is that they sell party nominations to the highest bidder and not the most competent. Wait a minute, do not be in a haste to judge them yet.
Over time these men have monetized the electoral system, this has been so easily done due to failure in leadership by the men who bought their platforms. The ripple effect is seen in the electorate. The masses are left with no option than to sell their votes for any token that would solve their immediate needs. Again I enjoin you not to judge the masses from your high horse of convenience. The truth is, by the time these good people realize they need to take back power from the hands of the ‘politicians’ in order to bring about sustainable development and change in the society through correct ideologies and principle based politics, it was too late. So the cycle continues, every 4 years during the elections, the ‘many good people and technocrats’ we started this discuss with, swim in their emotions and rush to start up a political party. Most times they do this less than 24months to the general elections and are always arrogant enough to want to bid for the highest office of the land. Whatever happened to Counsellor or House of Assembly. A number of things are fundamentally wrong with this structure, the most obvious being that grass root awareness and mobilization is nonexistent. They however go on social media with big grammar trying haplessly to guilt trip the masses for selling their votes and insult every major political party in the system so as to garner sympathy before the elections. Obviously this method has failed consistently.
These new generational parties or mushroom parties as I like to call them, have failed to understand political party development and structuring. Or have been so wrongly taught, that they keep failing woefully. Now to be frank, the best of brains we need to rule our great country Nigeria, are in the mushroom parties but they can never win an election especially in the race for the highest office of the land. Why? Because winning an election in Nigeria is a school on its own and must be studied carefully without too much emotional drama till one gets his axe right. The old parties APC and PDP have been around for ages. Forget about how old APC is just look at how old most of the members have been in politics. They have gained mastery at this game called politics. How? After elections they do not desert the people and vanish into thin air or sit back to speaking grammar on social media. They return home, I mean they return to their Local Government Areas (LGA) and ward levels.
This they do regardless of the outcome of the elections. They go back and start afresh still helping the people in one way or the other, they pay school fees here and there, buy fertilizer and share during raining seasons. They ensure they are part and parcel of the party congresses at their ward levels, building their party’s structures and loyalists in anticipation for he next party primaries that would come in 2 or 3 years time. They hardly spend 2 months without going to the village. (E shock you abi)? Politics is a full time business. It is not social media banter. Follow me let us dissect this some more.
As they are doing this, they are appreciating the struggle for power and the difficulties and challenges of their people. They learn experientially what it means to win elections and the commitments involved. They get to interact with the masses, godfathers, civil servants, power brokers, party stakeholders, student and women groups, constantly developing and creating networks over the time. Meanwhile their counterparts on the other hand abandon the people and return to their normal hustle and bustle as if they never ran for office.
They come online once a while to insult the president and give superb speeches on revolution being the solution, when they are not known in their villages, or states. In fact no more party meetings or congresses take place after the elections or any form of post mortem to access the party’s performance. Only to show up few months to elections with the speech that tags the masses as money hungry electorate. At this point, the older established parties whose structures are rooted do not even consider them as threats as APC’s rivalry is with PDP and vice versa.
This mediocre approach to politics by these smaller parties would continue like this till the end of time. This is because they are not building the house from the bottom; they are trying to build from the top. One might argue that the big parties have finances. I’ll make a simple analogy, yes we all want to be like Dangote! Can your first shot in business be building the largest cement factory straight up? Without any track record of buying and selling or working with or for Dangote or another big multinational? Can that level of arrogance be classified please? There is no shortcut to it, every lawyer today was a law student at some point. The same goes for every doctor and every other profession. So why do people feel different about the process of learning and building when it comes to politics? You just want to be president or governor either on the strength of your passion, conviction or prophesy but you do not want to go through the process. I am pained with a humorless laugh.
Truly, our leaders have failed us no doubts and in the bid to rescue power from their hands we want to run a crash work of the process too and we are grossly failing. The party system in Nigeria has been built to only provide a platform for elections and not run development models for any government in power. This is a sad reality we must accept. To change the status quo, there are some key things these smaller parties must do to break this unfortunate cycle. They must drop their academic degree and learn the art of winning elections in Nigeria. In two succinct points, I’ll share my thoughts on the way forward:
1.For any party that has been registered for is less than 4 years, the leader or presidential aspirant should forget about running for president for the next 3 elections at least. That is 12 years and I categorically say it is not too much? The early years are to focus on the grassroots, the ward and local government levels. Networking with LGA chairmen and gaining grounds at the State House of Assembly elections. Those first few years are crucial for carrying out serious grass root mobilization and awareness about better governance and selling their parties to the people. Politics is first of all LOCAL not until then they have no business shooting at the presidency. When they rigorously run through this process, they would stop insulting PDP and APC, they would appreciate the job involved in politicking is beyond social media banter.
2. If members of a new political party cannot follow through with number 1. There is a second option for leaders. They should infiltrate the existing political parties, that is, APC and PDP, they must be willing to let go of the holier than thou attitude about both parties being dirty. Only by infiltrating the system will they be able to see ways to restore back some sanity. This is not a day’s job, it would also take time. Due process must be followed, they must rise through the ranks and then effect any change they want to effect and create models on which they feel their party should rule the country.
Until any of these suggestions is set in motion, it will be smart to keep quiet and stop wasting money or guilt tripping the masses or religious affiliates.
As I conclude this thread, if you want to do politics to help Nigeria you must join a political party now and serve the party with all your energy. You would encounter the good and bad but you must stay put and rise through the ranks before you can manifest the good intentions you have.
The mountain is called Politics and Governance not just governance. You must learn the politics as it is. Please save me the gospel of compromise or getting soiled, every career has its moral burden as such politics is not different.
Young Nigerian start now.

Dr. Yaji Ibrahim Obel is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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