Dr Ogaga Ifowodo
“Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor.”
— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
— Edmund Burke, “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”
Dear friends, comrades, fellow citizens,
I write to announce to you personally my decision to enter the 2015 political race as a candidate for the House of Representatives in the Isoko Federal Constituency (Delta State) election.
This is because I know that you wish to be involved in the process of bringing positive change to our beleaguered nation, that you pine for fundamental change in the leadership of our hapless country, a tottering edifice that needs all good hands (permit me to name mine as such, having appealed to Edmund Burke in my second epigraph)) on the political deck for an urgent salvage mission.
As recent events have shown, Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state, however much pride might impel us to deny this sad truth; perhaps even hurtling into disintegration, a fate that has haunted us since a mere six years after independence.
I know that you yearn for persons worthy in character, integrity and learning (and I do not mean mere book knowledge though that certainly has its premium), with a proven record of commitment to the core principles of democracy, justice and equity in our land. In short, you are looking for someone you can trust. With every sense of modesty, I put myself forth as one such person.
I give you my word that I will not disappoint myself, you or our long-suffering compatriots if you support my venture into politics for the civilised, people-oriented, governance of our country. In writing to you, I reaffirm my intention to continue through the medium of political office what I have done all my adult life without the benefit of a paid office but, rather, at considerable personal cost including preventive detention.
I have only one abiding commitment and that is to serve our country diligently and honestly to the best of my ability. I do not seek office as a means of corrupt self-enrichment nor to earn the vain title of “Honourable.” The public good, and not the insatiable greed of a select few with access to the corridors of power, has always been and will forever remain my motivation.
The Isoko people, who will be my local constituents, have a proverb which goes thus: Ẹzozo re gbile k’omobọ yẹ; kẹvẹ o re ruẹ a tẹ tehe abọ kẹ? Loosely translated, it says, the leech dances joyfully when no one is watching; what might it do if we clapped to applaud?
Dear friends, comrades and fellow citizens, applaud me with your support and see how well I shall dance to the tune of the ascertained best interest of the people, how well I shall represent you in Abuja, how tirelessly I shall work with like minds to make Nigeria achieve its long-deferred dream of greatness.
I know that a federal legislator is not the President, not even a state Governor, with a budget and executive powers, and so my claim here might seem to you to exceed the powers of the office I seek. Probably, but I believe the sort of change we need is so thorough that it must be fought for at the small and big posts of our collective endeavour and it is now a matter of burning urgency that we elect more and more trustworthy and visionary persons to our parliament if ever it is to come close to making laws for the good governance, peace and progress of our country.
Besides, all politics is local, and I have very deliberately chosen to go to the House of Representatives because it would afford me the opportunity to combine local and national politics: representing the Isoko people while also serving as a federal legislator.
You know, as much as anyone who pays the least attention to our public life knows, that much of the trouble with Nigeria today is traceable to the over-concentration of power in the centre, thereby turning Nigeria into a federation-in-name-only (FINO) and stultifying the states which ought to be the loci of growth and development.
The roots of this tragic development lie in the militarisation of our civic life, beginning with the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree (No. 5) of 1966, the exact effect of which was rightly pronounced in the promulgation speech of 24 May 1966 thus: “Nigeria ceases to be what has been described as a federation.”
The problem also lies in the slow but now total annihilation of an ethical code in our civic life and calls for an urgent moral reawakening starting with the personal example of persons in high office. So what will I do as a Representative of the people? I have a 7-point agenda:
1. Diligent Execution of Meaningful Constituency Projects: This is where, with the very modest funds available to him or her, a legislator can directly impact the lives of constituents. My constituency projects shall be determined in close consultation with my constituents and shall always be completed in accordance with the best possible quality and cost effectiveness standards as well as sustainability guarantees. There shall be no abandoned projects, white elephant or ghost projects in my constituency with me as a Representative.
2. Visionary Legislation in Defence of the Rule of Law and Social Justice: If the rule of law is to be entrenched in Nigeria, if the masses and not a tiny majority are to find protection and succour under the law, then our laws must conform to our highest aspirations as members of a fast changing world. As a lawyer, activist, poet, writer and scholar who has travelled the world and had the benefit of studying, living and working in Europe and the United States, I know what beneficial impact responsible legislation can have on the lives of the people, rich and poor alike. I will bring my experience of best practices and accountability to bear on my law-making duties.
3. A Real War Against Corruption: In a republic, and even in a constitutional monarchy such as in the United Kingdom, a legislature is the most potent check on power for the simple reason that it is the heart of a democracy, being the conclave of directly elected agents of the people. A legislator is, thus, democracy’s watchdog, expected to bark and if necessary bite at the slightest whiff of wrong-doing. In our country being eaten alive daily my massive and systemic corruption and rampant abuse of power, this duty becomes a sacred obligation.
I shall propose legislation for the complete independence of the anti-corruption agencies, in particular the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and for the stricter punishment of graft as “armed” robbery. I shall also propose legislation for compulsory and public declaration of assets by the president, governors, ministers, legislators and other high-ranking public officials and political appointees, and for the strengthening of the Freedom of Information Act to plug the loopholes currently being exploited by dubious public officials to frustrate the aim of transparency in governance.
4. Religious Harmony, Peace and Security: It is obvious that the politicisation of religion—as opposed to solemn devotion in private or public—now constitutes a clear and present danger to the peace, order and security of the nation. Centuries after the enlightenment saw to the separation of state from religion, and half a century after our founding fathers entrenched the principle of secularity and a concomitant ecumenism in our constitution which not even countless military coups have dared to abolish—a bloody jihad is laying waste to an entire region of the country and causing untold mayhem and misery all over the nation through horrendous acts of murder, arson, kidnapping, torture and rape.
I shall work towards a sober, peaceable and earnest practice of faith in a way that does not promote the manipulation of religion for political gain. To this end, I shall propose an amendment to strengthen the secularity clause of the Constitution through the addition of a subsection as follows: “In the performance of his or her duty, a public officer shall not expend public funds, act or conduct him- or herself in a manner that may be reasonably construed as promoting or favouring a religion, religious belief, faith or practice.”
5. Education, Youth Empowerment and Employment: Education is the bedrock of any nation, being the means of passing on existing knowledge and of expanding the horizon of the known through forward-looking programmes of research and development (R & D), experimentation and discovery. I shall be a tireless advocate for educational reform, proper funding of public schools from the elementary to the tertiary level, vocational training and skills acquisition centres, retraining of workers for 21st Century jobs, befitting salaries and conditions of service for teachers at all levels, and a bussing system to relieve pupils’ transport problems.
I shall propose legislation for model early childhood/head-start and primary school nutrition programmes with a view to adequate preparation of our children for formal education and the maintenance of balanced diets for healthy minds in healthy bodies. It goes without saying that sound and practical education makes for more readily employable or self-employing youths. I shall work strenuously to shape job-creating and business friendly policies without sacrificing the welfare of the people.
6) Human Rights, Electoral and General Law Reform: As a former student leader and a human rights and democracy activist, these issues are dear to my heart. It is a measure of our stagnation that over half a century after independence, many of our laws are yet to discard vestiges of our colonial past. Where the colonial ghost has been banished, we lag behind the rest of the world in making our laws compliant with 21st Century needs.
I shall fight for proper funding and support for the National Law Reform Commission and in collaboration with it and the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, work towards a comprehensive updating of our laws. I shall also advocate for a full review of our electoral laws in conformity with the Justice Uwais report on electoral reform, and for an end to discrimination against women, minors, persons with disabilities or other oppressed citizens. I shall do so while being cognisant of our best cultural values and traditional inclination towards peaceful co-existence.
7. Accountability: Town Hall Meetings and Taking the Pulse of the Nation: I shall hold regular consultations with my constituents. To this end, I shall upon assuming office establish a mechanism for quarterly town hall meetings, resources permitting, but no less than twice a year no matter the circumstances. This way, I will remain true to the wishes and aspirations of the people I represent. I shall also endeavour to travel round the country with fellow legislators in order to take the pulse of the nation and enrich my perspective for the proper discharge of my legislative duties.
And now comes the part where I ask for your support—I mean your financial and material support! Politics, especially of the representative democracy sort, is, alas, an expensive undertaking. If progressives are palpably few in our polity, it is partly due to the huge obstacle posed by money and partly to the costly mistake of the collective left—meaning the broad coalition of forces that fought to end military dictatorship—in scorning General Abdulsalami’s transition programme.
And it is true that those who have been looting Nigeria to the ground enjoy an overwhelming financial advantage, which enables them to maintain a perpetual stranglehold on power. If that was the case 15 years ago, it is worse now, and progressives must support their candidates if we are to approach anything close to levelling the financial playing field. Moreover, my putative opponent has been in office for twelve years. In that time, he has amassed a war chest that can literally fund the Trojan War, adjusted for inflation, twice over!
I am therefore asking you to contribute to my campaign, a true underdog’s insurgent attempt to dislodge a non-performing, status quo politician not known for any meaningful contribution to nation-building or his local constituency. He will out-spend me by a wide margin, but I believe that my pro-people message of service and integrity will more than make up for the gap. I need your help to take my message to the people and help infuse hope in an exploited, alienated and cynical electorate.
For one other reason I am running for office is to offer myself as a guinea pig—to find out if the magic spell that turns many otherwise decent persons into lobotomised and thieving kleptomaniacs upon assuming high political office will work its sorcery on me. You can help me solve this riddle of our public life!
By this letter, I ask you to donate a minimum of
N10,000 to my campaign. Account details are given below. Needless to say, I implore those who can—those who have had “double portion blessings,” won an oil mining licence or the lottery, inherited fortunes, etc.—to exceed the minimum by any degree! All donations will be acknowledged and should be designated as for “Ogaga Ifowodo for the House of Reps 2015.” If you prefer to give anonymously, your will shall be respected.
As soon as possible, a forum will be convened—dinner, lecture, book launch, for example—for all donors and change-minded supporters of my bid for public service through political office to meet and exchange ideas on how best to move our country out of the doldrums of its self-inflicted woes and on to the path of self-actualisation. Kindly indicate name, telephone numbers and or e-mail address for easy contact. The time for CHANGE is now!
Please make donations to the following account:
Name: Ogagaoghene Ifowodo
Account no: 1004040595
If you have any questions or would like to speak with me, do not hesitate to call me at 0813 963-4817.