So the other day I went to one bank to update my BVN no. I went with anger and consternation because I got a text days before that they had cleaned out my N11,660 balance into their sundry accounts – from where it will be added to their profits. Eh!! In this dry season why would I make a bank richer because of my docility. I marched into the banking hall to find there was a single lady dealing with such complaints. After affording her a few minutes to deal with those who came before me. I stated my case ‘You people want to eat my 11,600 naira!”. She smiled back disarmingly and said they have used my money to buy voters! That got me. I had to joke back “yes o, that will buy almost three voters!”. Having been conquered, I thereafter settled down to complete their forms and get instructions on what documentations to bring to get my money refunded.
But that is not the story. Another guy with same issue joined the discussion. I had looked at the customer service lady, Aisha (very Fulani, from Gombe), and observed wryly “You na Baba you go vote for”. She shook her head a bit vigorously. I couldn’t believe her but I let it slide. The other guy pushed further. “Ok Atiku”. Aisha thought for a bit and said “Something like that”. I then offered my party call card and asked “why don’t you vote for me? I’m also in the race o, but best you join our party let’s do it together?”. She took the card and scrutinized it. She observed it curiously and brought it closer to her face. To me, this was another lost cause. Here I was, a bald middle-aged guy from the south, talking of a political party with a modern, shariah -complaint, hijab-wearing lady banker in a contest involving people who had much more affinity with her. No hope. I zeroed my mind and kept completing their form. At least I tried.
Then she asked a question about local governments or something. What!! I jerked back upright. She was on the party website, registering. I couldn’t believe it. I clarified her concern, mouth agape, as she completed the registration. Here was a young Nigerian, who doesn’t care about tribe, primordial affinities, religion and all that, but who believes that Nigeria should be far ahead than where it is today and was ready to get involved. She couldn’t be older than 25. I asked if she wouldn’t mind joining one of our 400 plus WhatsApp groups at ANRP and she said ‘sure’. “This here is an enthusiast”; I said to myself. In my journey so far I have met thousands of cynics, thousands more who don’t want to be part of the building and another thousand who asks why you aren’t everywhere already. But when you meet one enthusiast, that is all the jab in the arm you need to keep you going. Those are the people who give you the idea that without any form of inducement, this project could go far… really far. Those are the people that validate our troubles and confirm to us that indeed the idea of ANRP is very valid, timely, legitimate, in fact absolutely necessary for our times.
I have seen this on many occasions. The other day I had a delay at Arik Air in Lagos. And when one counter staff saw the ANRP cap I was wearing and asked if it was a new party, I seized the moment to talk to her about it and in no time, registered 15 people. I recall that I had already registered them when one cynic showed up – also a ground staff – and asked how much money we were ready to give them as a party. One of the people I spoke to that day is positioning to be a chairman of our party in one local government in Ogun State presently. The same thing happened with Dana staff one day. We don’t have money like the other parties, but we have a certain innocence that cannot be bought with money.
Our biggest challenge is actually ourselves in ANRP. Not everybody has the staying power to keep on when it seems that things are at low ebb. Certainly not everyone has bought into the idea 100% even among full members. We know that all we need is a few good men and women who are crazy about the idea, to take ANRP to the zenith. Some get discouraged when the party does not win laurels immediately. A bad fail – like happened in Ekiti – could be very discouraging even though for crazy people like me, what I saw was an opportunity. I just couldn’t be slowed down for one moment by the Ekiti fiasco. This weekend, we are having an extraordinary meeting of our exco to review learning points. Particularly interesting is that our total votes in Ekiti state is less than what we had in a single ward in Ibadan a few months ago.
Ekiti has presented an opportunity for us to look inwards and press reset at least. Now, our excos are calling to remind us of what we agreed in the beginning (the petition system, the internal cohesion, the sacrifice). The trouncing by the two vote-buying, money sharing, treasury-looting parties seemed to have propelled us back together and I am here to carry the momentum forward as far as we can ride on it and beyond. Many who were beginning to forget why we came together are gravitating back. One thing is sure; we are meant to be. And we have kept our chastity as a political party. Someone even asked whether we should be contesting at all, rather than building the party. I answered that the best and fastest way to build, is to contest, because by so doing, we can get thousands of young Nigerians to invest in the projection of the party to the world, as they promote themselves and their aspirations too. It is also the best way to win; by failing. Hope we know failure is part of success. Well, 1,000 people spending a mere 1million Naira to pursue their aspirations by printing posters, speaking on radio and TV, branding cars and so on, is equivalent to N1billion spent propagating the party. In 4 or 8 years time, ANRP could be a positive leviathan. I am however still appealing especially to our officers at federal, state, local and ward levels, to put in the hard work, to keep the faith, to invest in the party in cash and other terms where they can, and most importantly to open their mouths, be brave, talk about the party and bring in new members. For new member are out there in the millions.
Second story. So I went to another bank for a board meeting today. The meeting had been postponed but I didn’t know. When I left a note for an executive director I had to use my party card. The receptionists looked at it and asked ‘is this a new political party?’. I explained who we were. While departing I told the receptionists to ‘make sure you join us o!’ I left extra call cards because I know that every little helps. As I walked out of the main door, the doorman who had been observing whispered to me ‘i will also like to join sir’. ‘What is this?’ I said in my head. Another opportunity to market the party? So I whipped out my 20-per-page registration form and got the details of the security man. As I was doing that, one of the receptionists walked out to my car and said she needed an extra call card; that she was going to project the party in her circle. I was elated. I took her details on my form too. Then she asked for an extra 20-per-page form. It was like magic to me. As the receptionist filled the form, he signaled to a few of his friends, spoke to them and they started coming around. I had to park outside their gate as they came one-by-one and registered. I was a bit skeptical initially. What do they think it was? They weren’t asking me for money. I had none to give actually. But they registered willingly. Some cleaners even came from inside the bank. I got 11 of them at the end. This is how it has always been for me; everywhere I go all I have to do is open my mouth and people want to join of their own volition. 2019 will be different.
Let no one be deceived because of Ekiti. The security lockdown, the money sharing and so on, will not be as effective on a national level. Let Nigerians who are self-respecting continue to be. self-respecting. Let them be ready to stand up to defend their franchise; their vote. Let us know there is great value in a single, honest, un-induced vote, based on the quality of the vision and proposals presented by contestant, or in the conviction they showed in open debates. Let ANRP continue to screen its candidates and put forward people of integrity and respect with no k-legs, who are sound, cerebral, personable and articulate. Let us move Nigeria forward, jointly on the value of ideas and not on povertocracy (stomach democracy which perpetuates the curse of poverty and hunger among our people). 2019 will surely be different. As for ANRP members and aspirants, let us find our strength, our confidence, our resolve, our imagination, our grit, our energy, our enthusiasm back. Let us stand tall anywhere we go, open our mouths and minds, and engage our public. We are on a mission here. We are divinely-propelled. We shall make our mark. And because of us, Nigeria will never be the same again, for better.