By Jaye Gaskia
Oftentimes when we hear the word storm, what comes to mind is the destructive force of such a weather phenomenon. We think of the accompanying strong winds felling trees and lifting properties; we think of the consequential flood sweeping away everything in its part.
Nevertheless storms like every force of nature are not entirely always destructive, many a time they can be equally constructive. We forget that some of the most fertile soils around today were brought about by the rich alluvial deposits of storms and floods; we equally forget the rich deposits of precious metals and mineral stones often buried in the alluvial deposits.
What this means therefore is that storms and its accompanying floods and winds while sweeping away everything along its path, can also at the same time mark a cleansing, a cleansing of the Augean stables. So it is important to understand from the very outset that the choice of the imagery of a gathering storm is very deliberate, and that even though it envisages tension, it also connotes change, dramatic change at that.
And the closer we get to the 2015 general election, the better INEC gets at conducting elections, the more intense the antagonistic machinations of rival politicians and rival political parties will get. The more intense these rivalries get, the more sense of foreboding among ordinary citizens will also increase.
Let us quickly take critical looks at the Ekiti and Osun elections, the similarities and differences, and how the experience from both will impact the upcoming Adamawa elections, and shape the outcome of the 2015 general elections.
Let me however start by very clearly declaring my political status; I am an activist for social justice, a revolutionary fighting for the radical social and politico-economic transformation of society in a manner that places political power in the hands of ordinary people, as a means of ensuring a more equitable distribution of wealth and access to opportunities among citizens.
I am a class activist, one who while understanding the primacy of the class struggle, nevertheless recognizes that this class struggle presents in a myriad of ways, and unfolds simultaneously on multiple terrains of struggle. I am therefore not a member or sympathizer of the PDP [Power Deceiving People], or the APC [Association of Popular Conmen(and women)]; nor am I a member or sympathizer of any of the elite political platforms masquerading as political parties, including that quintessential stock market misnamed the Labour Party.
And although I am not a member of any of the registered political parties, I am not an advocate of political sidon-look, and I am not politically passive or neutral. I am convinced that the present crop of Nigeria’s ruling political elite is incapable of being patriotic and nationalistic; hence they are incapable of making a success of the nation building project. They are neither patriotic nor nationalistic simply because they do not believe in this nation; they still speak 54 years after independence in the language of ethnicity, religion, and region or zone.
Even at the ongoing National Conference, convened in 2014, in the 21st century, 100 years after the amalgamation, the political discourse of the representatives of the political elites across the board has remained stuck in the ethno-religious and regional quagmire. So they continue to speak for mythical geo-political zones, and phantom regions; while in reality they are actually promoting their rival individual interests, thus prioritizing their greed over our needs.
This situation is made worse by their mental and psychological association of home, and thus safety and security with Europe and the Americas, and not Nigeria. This is why they aspire for dual citizenship, for residency status in Europe and North America; it is why they marry their wives here, impregnate them here, but then send them abroad to have their babies who then acquire the citizenship of those countries as a result of the manipulation of the circumstance of their birth.
This psychosis is rooted in and a carryover from the mentality of the African peasant in the period before contact with Europe. The farm was always different from and separated from the village. The farm was where we extracted surplus value; the village was where we invested the proceeds of that extraction. The Nigerian ruling class has retained this pre-historic mentality; Nigeria is their farm, where they extract surplus value through treasury looting; whereas Europe and North America is their longed for home and village where they invest the proceeds of their loot. It is why even after looting our collective treasury dry, they always prefer to invest or store the loot abroad.
Anyway, back to the present, to the Osun and Ekiti elections. One of the clearest indication of the fact that what we have are not political parties as vehicles for transforming society, but political contraptions as vehicles for grabbing power in order to have priority access to treasury looting, is manifested in the fact that there are almost as many models of governance or the lack of it as there are governors regardless of their political party affiliations.
So for instance although Ekiti, Edo, Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Rivers, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kano, or Kwara are all for example APC governed states, nevertheless each is a different model from the others. The Ekiti Model is quite distinct from the Osun model. And whereas the incumbent in Ekiti against all sensible expectations lost the elections, and lost for that matter to someone who had hitherto failed the test of governance in that same office; the incumbent in Osun in Osun won re-election. What was responsible for such parallel outcomes?
In Ekiti a lot has been said about the role played by the deployment of the principle and practice of stomach infrastructure on the one hand, and the massive deployment of security forces on the other hand. Well Ekiti is one of the most literate community in Nigeria, and one of the states with the highest number of highly educated citizenry; so there is quite a lot of problem with the theory of stomach infrastructure as the sole or main reason for the Ekiti outcome.
The Ekiti outcome needs to be explained more deeply. It is true that the intimidating nature of the unprecedented deployment of security forces played a significant role in determining the turn out rate for the Ekiti election at just about 50%. It can be argued that whereas the PDP candidate’s supporters came out to vote, emboldened by their perception that the security deployment was in their favour; a majority of the APC candidate’s supporters stayed at home, deterred by the perception that the unprecedented scale of security deployment was against them.
In the event, the incumbent lost, and the challenger won by default. Dual invigorating [to the PDP] and paralyzing [for the APC] role of this perception can even be gauged in the attitudes of two candidates. The incumbent on election day appeared subdued; the challenger appeared triumphant. Contrast this with the attitude and dispositions of the incumbent and challenger in Osun, or in the Edo election before the Ekiti election. In Osun the incumbent was manifestly triumphant during all the stages of the electoral process.
Furthermore, in Osun rather than being paralysed by the massive deployment of security forces perceived to be hostile, the incumbent was galvanized by it, and directly and practically led in organizing and mobilizing his support base, thus building this base into a concrete mass movement. This was sorely absent in Ekiti. In Osun therefore the turnout was far higher, and the incumbent’s support base more cohesive and more galvanized and mobilized.
Before we turn to the implications and inherent ironies of these two elections for the 2015 general elections, let us quickly take a look at theory of stomach infrastructure with respect to the Ekiti and Osun models. In both Ekiti and Osun, a lot of physical and basic social infrastructure initiatives were undertaken, in Osun however these directly materially also benefitted ordinary citizens, such as technicians, tailors, small scale farmers, welders, etc who all played some part in supplying materials, supplying goods and services, and in construction exercises which were taking place.
Additionally, the incumbent directly related with the citizens, spoke to them in their tongues even as he spoke fluent English, so much so that if it was possible to raise the issue of aloofness and distance from the people in Ekiti, it was near impossible to raise similar issues in Osun.
So now what are the implications and embedded ironies of the Ekiti and Osun Elections? Let us begin with the massive deployment of security forces. Would the same level and scale of deployment of security forces be possible or feasible in the 2015 general elections across the entire country? If this would be possible, what would it amount to?
More than 300,000 soldiers, secret police, and mobile police [at the rate of between 10,000 and 20,000 deployed in Ekiti and Osun states respectively] deployed for electoral duty across the country simultaneously? What would be the implication of this for wider security? For instance while nearly 20,000 armed security personnel were deployed for electoral duty in Osun, Gwoza in Borno State was left defenseless, bereft of any security presence, and therefore became prey to Boko Haram’s destructive siege over the weekend of the Osun elections.
Beyond security, the wider implication is the role and place of popular mobilization into concrete popular movements as demonstrated in Osun, in the 2015 general elections. What manner will these take given the acrimonious and antagonistic jostling for power by the major parties?
What is also becoming increasingly obvious is that regardless of who emerges the victor, the outcome of the 2015 general elections will lead to massive groundswell of a wave of rising expectations, and that the victor in that election will sooner than later be confronted by a major crisis of rising expectations. If the PDP wins the general election, the APC may be poised to become the major beneficiary of the eventual crisis of rising unfulfilled expectations; however, if the APC emerges victorious in 2015, and is later confronted by a crisis of rising unfulfilled and or unrealizable expectations; then a popular, mass political movement, outside of the establishment set up could emerge as the vehicle for articulating popular aspirations, and for realising popular power.
The historical task confronting us, who are, or who desire to become very actively political, but who are skeptical and reject organizing under any of the banners of the existing party of looters, is to begin right now, immediately, the task of creating and putting together the foundations and basic structures for such a Popular Mass Political Movement of the ordinary citizens.
It is only if we begin and undertake this arduous task now, and ceaselessly and relentlessly pursue it, that we can be in a position to take the winds out of the sails of the parties of the ruling elites when the gathering storm breaks out into a deluge of crisis.
My experience in the anti-military and pro-democracy struggles of the end of the last century; my experience in organizing, mobilizing and being part of the leadership of the January Uprising of 2012; as well as my experience in engaging with the 2014 National Conference; combine to convince me that the Nigerian elite is incapable of transforming our nation; that we are the only forces who undertake this historical task; and that only by building a Popular Mass Political Movement for power can we successfully challenge the ruling class and be in apposition to take popular power.
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