Basheer Tosin Ashafa
Caveat: If you don’t have a truck load of money, don’t get into politics.
I used to be very idealistic. I think I still am in some way though, but politics in Nigeria serves a rude awakening. Fresh from grad school, I was full of ideas that I thought could even change the world. I was wrong. I have had the privilege of running 5 major elections (two senatorial and three gubernatorial) and my experience has been humbling.
First is, no one care about your ideas, they only care about their pockets.
Recently, I toured the 98 wards in Lagos East senatorial district as part of a campaign itinerary. Canvassing for votes had never been more arduous. Not a single individual cared to ask what the legislative record of our candidate was (since he was a serving senator). Even when I tried to bring it up, it only had a soporific effect on them. They didn’t care. I soon adjusted to the reality on ground: that when you go to a ward to meet with local leaders and stakeholders, the meeting should run thus:
1. Start with a prayer. Most Nigerians are generally very religious. People at the grassroots hold onto religion much more than you can ever imagine. In fact, not even money commands the kind of loyalty that religion does among the poor. So, pray for them, their children and that they reap the reward of the political journey they are about to embark on.
2. Focus on their own interest and not yours.
3. Align your interest with theirs.
4. Intersperse your speech with local songs as often as you can.
5. Make sure the refreshments are abundant and well distributed.
6. Make a promise of a kind donation.
7. Through the leader of the group, make sure you make provision for “thanks for coming”.
8. While they are singing (usually after they confirm they would be going home with something), make a hurried move to your car and zoom off.
9. Sorry, lest I forget, always keep a separate bundle for the “area boys” who will be waiting where you parked.
Ultimately, and sadly, what you have is a transactional relationship between the politician(s) and the people, wherein governance and meaningful development become the real casualty. Rather than develop quality policy propositions, politicians would rather speak the language of the grassroots by “carrying them along”. God help you that your opponent has more financial muscle than you do, it then becomes an ugly race to the bottom. It’s a contest of ‘deep pockets’and not of ideas.
“Alakowe is too stingy, what will happen when he now enters office, we won’t see his face again niyen o”.
This is the usual description of a candidate that does not “carry people along” and is constantly talking policies. It doesn’t look like things will change very soon, largely due to the high level of poverty and desperation but one thing is certain: To take Nigeria where she needs to be, you will need to meet her where she is”.
The Abnormal Guide To Winning Elections In Nigeria.