Political Rallies in Nigeria: we should do better!

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The season for political campaigns and elections is on us. Politicians and their agents will be calling big (some call it mega) rallies. Week days, working hours, it does not matter (after all, we share national cake, doesn’t matter the size, don’t want to know how and who bakes it).

These rallies are intended to demonstrate political following and support. It must be at great inconvenience and cost to ‘supporters’ that defy the rain, the sunshine and the heat. Yes, the dust and the insecurity. Overcrowded venues with little or no arrangements for public safety. Who cares? Who dares to ask or act?

Sadly, the Nigerian masses that populate political rallies are the ones at the receiving end of bad governance. The bottom ninety-something percent. They are poor, can’t afford decent accommodation, their children either out of school or they struggle to keep them in school with poor standards, do not have access to quality healthcare, experience regular power outage, commute on bad roads in poor public transport and are at increased risk of road traffic accidents. They are the ones that experience insecurity, oppression and injustice. Daily survivors of adversity. They are the ones that are not considered in the making of policies. They are the ones whose numbers give politicians relevance and privilege in Nigeria and on the big stages of the world.

But, just a minute. Why do the masses continue to turn out in such large numbers to grace rallies? Why do they agree to constitute the base, the foundation on which politicians build to the top? Why don’t they know that poor governance is preventing their social mobility and that they are (as it is), caught in a social trap? Why don’t they ask whether they and their families, friends and neighbours are better off this year compared to one, two or three years ago? Why do they (including security, intelligence and law enforcement officers who suffer same difficulties just like other ordinary Nigerians) continue to provide the support systems that politicians require to manipulate the very systems that need to function properly? Why do they continue to provide the alibi and the validation for ‘politicians as usual’, to continue more of the same and to inflict on ordinary Nigerians even greater pain? Why do they continue to take paracetamol for the headache of the politician? Why do they continue to do the politician’s dirty job to divide and set ordinary Nigerians who are co-victims against one another? Why can’t ordinary Nigerians understand that they are all on the same side, common sufferers from poor governance?

Indeed, ordinary Nigerians are long suffering. Some may be thinking that it is the best that Nigeria can offer. Just the trickle and the crumb. Some Nigerians do not see themselves as co-owners of Nigeria. That they are also part owners of the commonwealth. They have been deprived of the education and the understanding that no politician should claim to give them what is truly theirs. They have been dis-empowered and deceived. They have been made vulnerable to be exploited continuously. They are the victims of our failed system. Such inequality in the means of life and power structures in Nigeria. Such a powerful weapon against Nigerians. The cycle needs to be broken to free Nigerians from this grip, this trap.

So that ordinary Nigerians would rally no more to be told the same old lines and lies, that we will give you’, jobs, good housing, good roads, constant water and electricity supply, and security. ‘We will give you’, free education, free healthcare. Imagine free air! The rest at rallies is a lot of noise-making – praise singing a reflection of the patronage and loyalty networks, loud music, dance and food and drinks. Not to forget prayers, yes prayers. For the lucky few, they get some handouts in addition – just a little part of what politicians have denied you and your family and friends for many years.

Think of it. When you do not rally anymore, politicians would be forced to hold town-hall meetings (or quit politics because they cannot explain and debate the issues). You can then have the opportunity to ask them tough questions about Why and How? So that they would know that power belongs to you and they should be accountable. So that they would engage in serious political debates on the issues that matter most to Nigerians. So that they would make regular posts on social media, blog regularly and contribute articles in newspapers on issues important to Nigerians. So that they would participate regularly on radio and television programmes to face the media and Nigerians. So that they can demonstrate that they know and mean what they are talking about. So that we can know where they stand on important local, national and international issues that affect us, even before election seasons. So that we can see through them. So that only Nigerians with the credibility of their own life journeys and stories can have the ‘rare’ privilege to hold political office in trust and to serve.

Enough of the many big rallies and the poor speech making – more of the political permutations and bickering, and less of the right policies that would make Nigeria better for all Nigerians – often at great expense and inconvenience to the public. If for anything, these rallies provide the evidence that many Nigerians are not in education, employment or training. The number of young Nigerians that wake up each day and have nowhere to go to are in the tens of millions. The frustration and the anger. This can have huge ramifications. It is very scary. Let that be the reason why you do not attend the next big rally in your state. Do not allow yourself to be used to sustain the vicious cycle of poor governance in Nigeria. Remember that the big rallies give the impression of mass support. It can also be the subtle basis for rigging and manipulating the election.

Let your voice be heard. Attend town-hall meetings where you can ask questions. Attend small rallies and conventions where somebody can explain to you where we are now, how we got here, where they want to take us to and most importantly, how they will take us there. Be vigilant. Be an agent of change. Be a community organiser, mobiliser and communicator. Be an activist Nigerian citizen. Be a Nigerian patriot.

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ANN Strategy and Public Enlightenment Unit www.alliancefornewnigeria.org 

Good governance │ Uniting Nigerians │ Investing in Nigerians │ Building Nigeria

Article by David Kieghe