The fracture of Nigerian society is often claimed to be the result of the colonial merge of many different ethnic groups together without a social contract. One might exist within the different tribes of the Republic, for example, the Igbos, Yorubas, Tivs, Urhobos and Hausas, but it is certain that none exists among Nigeria’s diverse tribes. However, far from being an ethnic issue, this lack of a social conversation about the construct of the society affects sex, sexuality, religion and financial status as well. Society’s only purpose is to establish a system that works mutually for all inhabitants within it. Our pursuit of happiness is often tied to the nature of the society we were born into and our ability to learn and pass down information has allowed us to make progress; from riding horses in an open field to flying through the cosmos and putting a man on the moon.
In this way, the flaws of Nigerian society are immediately obvious. Instead of having liberty, equality, introspection, courage and justice as its foundation, every child born into Nigerian society is relentlessly assaulted by oppression, inequality, ignorance/falsehood, fear and injustice. This torment ensures that the child not only remains forever pliant to the ideals of the system and also breaks the mind of the child in order to prevent its tormented self from accessing the tools that might allow them to escape their wretched prison: curiosity and critical thinking. Sometimes, many times, children are viciously beaten, often gleefully. Some are almost beaten to death; many are beaten to death. Children are assaulted on a daily basis with bludgeons of misogyny and patriarchy, hyper-materialism and classism, ethnic bigotry and religious hatred, a convenient morality and many others. This assault on the mind leaves deep wounds that are left to fester and grow like a cancer, often leaving the place of injury and infecting many other aspects of the Nigerian’s mind. “We are the sum total of our experiences”, Neblett writes and I agree, the torture of the Nigerian experience is personified in the people.
To pursue happiness after such a torturous formation would be virtually impossible and indeed few are ever able to find relief even when they afforded some privilege. Living in a concrete jungle, most are only able to pursue physical reliefs and the mind, which requires as much care as the body, can often only find refuge in the corridors of religion or the relief of entertainment and indulgence. And so, when a society has failed its inhabitants as profoundly as Nigerian society has, those people within that society have the authority and responsibility to work towards the reformation of that society. Society is often the result of a political system and when a system, such as ours, is consciously designed for injustice, the result often is the institution of the ideals of exploitation: oppression, inequality, ignorance/falsehood, fear and injustice.
Politics is the method through which establish ideals and with which we govern and administer over our society. We choose administrators, ministers, ambassadors and representatives of many kinds through this system and it is often a representation of the society. The importance of such a system and the immense influence it plays in the lives of the inhabitants means that participation is our most important obligation to that society. However, it is precisely the opposite scenario we find in Nigeria. With a participation rate of 35%, Nigerians generally seemed to not care about the political system. An expectation of injustice fuels the assumption that change is pointless and this idea is one that is rampant throughout Nigerian society, rarely giving way to hope.
One of the key drivers for this political apathy is poverty. Nigeria might be blessed with a plethora of untapped resources as well as real economic wealth from the continued exploitation of the Niger Delta region and Nigerian labor but this is not translated into wealth for the Nigerian people. With 112 million people in poverty, as well as having the highest population of people in extreme poverty, it is clear that the dividends of independence have not exactly been as widespread as was foretold. This poverty is the direct result of exploitation of Nigeria and it has very real effects on our political system, particularly during elections ranging from bribery and rigging to purchasing votes. Political campaigns are rarely ever driven by issues and competence, instead, ethnicity, religion and regional rationales are used to select administrators of the republic and the machinery that puts them in power is fueled by financial juggernauts.
Legally, Nigerian politicians are obligated to spend only 1 billion naira for Presidential elections while National Assembly candidates are only allowed to spend 20 million. The reality though, is very different. Victoria Nyeche, an APC candidate in Port Harcourt, mentions how campaigning for elections very much dwarves the legal limit and it is an open secret that neither of the two ruling parties pay much attention to the legal hinges which is why there has been a push to expand the monetary limits on campaigning within the republic, the law is clear out of touch with reality and is poorly enforced. This fearsome monetary machine, the power of incumbency, both in politics and in government, and the immoralities (lying, vote buying, rigging, theft etc) present in the political arena, disincentives political participation and leads to widespread voter apathy.
However, this voter apathy might seem like a gargantuan problem but it is really the wound through which light enters. With a 35% turnout in the 2019 elections, there is clearly a 65% untapped and clearly apathetic population. This is not merely those of voting age, these are people who have registered to vote but have chosen not to do so. Hope exists but apathy is a difficult thing to remove from your society. The identification of the potential market is one thing, planning an assault on the single most powerful class in Nigerian society is another but the sake of our republic is dependent on the success of this endeavor.
Knowing that your society is off to an unjust start, a key component in this existential confrontation is time. One of the mistakes that the parents of the millennial generation made is the same apathy towards the political system. Many of them complained about the system but most of them did nothing. The reason for this is obvious, most of them were born into a political system that was exploitative as and even more tumultuous than today’s. They were born into/formed in an independent Nigeria and they bore much of the brunt of the initial forming of a republic and the corruption, chaos and pain turned many of them away towards a focus on making a better life for themselves and their families, self preservation. This is why many of them are only just entering Nigerian politics after realizing the error of ignoring it for so long. It is interesting to note, and perhaps it offers some evidence for my claim, that Fela’s operative years were in that period (70s and beyond) and it is unfortunate because despite the vast popularity he had both in that period and beyond, the vast majority of Nigerians then did not actively support him in his pursuit of a better society.
For this generation to escape the tragedy of regret, one of the first things we have to do is shun our tendency for immediate gratification and see the pursuit of change in terms of long term results. Trust is in low supply in Nigerian society, an unsurprising result of a republic with an exploitative core. To establish a social contract with Nigerian society, we must first establish a social contract with ourselves. Any movement whose true intentions are the reformation of the Nigerian republic will explain, in detail and without fail, the ideals you should hold them to and those within that movement must rigorously abide by those ideals. The organization must be transparent, usage of donated funds must be not just open for uninterrupted analysis but must also be open to criticism and willing to accept it. These ideals must be embodied and institutionalized in the organization and legalized by its constitution.
This movement is working up to attack the very foundations of the Nigerian political system and is unlikely to gain much financial from the very elites they hope to retire. Instead, the fuel of this movement must rely on crowd sourced funding and for this to work, the movement must remove virtually every trace of the exploitation native of this society. Crowd sourcing is important because it shows validation. A donation is like an agreement, an indication that the ideals of the Movement and ideals of the donor are now aligned the Movement must hold itself to ideals that it wants to hold the republic to: consistency, liberty, equality, introspection, knowledge, justice and courage. These things must be clear and present. If any movement claims to be for the people, it must prove it.
The first task of this movement is to identify paths to victory and one of these is state selection. The point of state selection is to analyze states where political power might exist but is weak (or weaker than usual) due to sustained poor performance. Then, identify certain LGAs within that state (number and parameters for selection are subjective but must be transparent). This selection is important and probably the most time consuming because it will, to a large extent, determine the success or failure of the endeavour. Upon identification, components of the movement go to work for the first thing: seeking funds for analysis. You can’t solve an issue you don’t understand. Even though you want to establish trust with the selected LGAs (as previously mentioned), the sheer enormity of the problems facing any random society in Nigeria deepens the imprint of the necessity of choice and The Movement needs to research and analyse in order to find the areas of the deepest and/or present impact to reach a mutually beneficial order.
This combination of donations, research and consent of the LGAs forms a social contract between the donors, the movement and the people. The movement establishes the ideals it stands for and makes tangible efforts to prove that it does actually stand for these things. The donors (many of the apathetic society) see these things and look for evidence that allows them to support the Movement with donations. The Movement then uses these donations to execute a long term campaign of building trust with a community with the idea of effectively spreading the message across the state, gaining trust across the communities such that when the elections come, the first battle with the political elite, the Movement will make significant inroads into that state and with a good enough plan, could even win major elections across LGAs, National Assembly, House of Assembly and Governors seats. This is important as lack of control (or competitiveness) in the House of Assembly means that political power might be expended in impeachment battles and threats over a four year term. A majority or competitive legislature will ensure that the legislative is subject to no supreme control and can perform its duties as a check on the executive and the builders and upholders of foundations of that state’s society.
The importance of patience cannot be overstated because working towards this goal might take one or more election cycles [which means consistently doing work, perhaps, 8 years]. Once The Movement’s administration has been sworn in, immediate actions must be taken. While one component spent time analyzing the state and coming up with political plans and socioeconomic actions to show intent and gain the trust of the people, another component will spend a similar amount of time working on real solutions for the LGAs and the for the state at large. Questions of the nature of the state will be explored and the laws guiding that state will be written and rewritten. The Movement would have spent time establishing itself with and holding itself to standards which it wants to hold society to and so, this second component will also look at ways to establish the ideals of consistency, liberty, equality, introspection, knowledge, justice and courage on a legislative and executive basis. Reforming the system means ensuring that the system persists long after the Movement has served its purpose and the success of a national endeavor will depend largely on these endeavors and its extensions.
This might sound exhausting but any notion of ease must quickly disappear as there is much work to do. However weakened as the middle class may be, it cannot afford to rely on the benevolence of the political elite in pursuit of a better society. History has shown this reliance to be misplaced. If the middle class is to reform the Nigerian republic, our affinity for hyper-materialism must give way to an enlightenment. One that allows the establishment of a movement whose purpose is the reformation of the republic and to execute this charge, apathy is not an option. We cannot relegate this work to a messiah figure in the hopes that we can be freed from doing the necessity of the work. Instead we must battle our brokenness and cast off the cloak of fear and complicity. In the end, the pursuit of a liberal, equal and just society places the responsibility for ending the political elite where it always has: with the people.