Should I, or shouldn’t I be shocked, reading from my ‘brother’ Simbo Olorunfemi, who made me the subject of his article published on the 22nd of December, 2016. Due to a bold and unprecedented step I took, to stop sitting around complaining, and to join the political fray and rally Nigerians around a cause, I was told that all sorts of things would happen, and indeed, as an econometrician, I know a thing or two about randomness, so I wouldn’t say I was totally surprised that the first salvo came from unexpected quarters. Before this surprising article, I had received dozens of calls, many offering advice, many urging me on, and many telling me very murky stories of the dangers of politics. With the deluge of advice one is getting, the only way forward is to follow one’s heart. And that I’ve strictly done, given that we (Nigeria) have a serious problem which ‘anybody’ could do something about, but which ‘everyone’ is dodging, leaving the problem to ‘someone’, while the problem is solved by ‘no one’.
Well, that is in the past. By way of explanation, I would summarise by saying that as an ordinary Nigerian, I have been greatly perplexed about the turn of events in our great country. I have also felt betrayed by the way things have turned out in the present administration, and of course, as an economist, I am unhappy about the mismanagement of an already bad situation, the opacity in which the government is run, the shortage of innovative ideas, the total neglect of the youth as a demographic and as Nigeria’s greatest asset, among other unnecessary, unforced errors. Yes I feel duped. Duped by failed promises and denials of campaign manifestoes; duped by someone in whom I invested so much emotions and played my minor but expensive (for me) part in rallying Nigerians to support; duped by the people he chose to work with, many of who are being alleged to be frauds in varying degrees.
You see, I am quite close to Mr. Olorunfemi and we speak once in a while. I had so much respect for him that in 2015 when I organised as the curator/licensee, TEDXGarki, he was one of those I gave the platform to speak because I believed (and still do), that he had/has a compelling story to tell. He spoke on that day in May 2015, about the question of identity – for Nigeria, and Nigerians. It was a remarkable speech.
Fast forward to now and my disappointment with those who have led Nigeria. At some point, I said ‘never again’ will I be used, duped and dumped! I had to personally do something and stop complaining. The question became, what do we do to salvage this situation? I inverted the process. In the past, the ‘youth’ of Nigeria would form associations in which they will make a lot of noise and fail to agree on any way forward. I chose to provide leadership instead. And I started by doing what many in my generation are either afraid or unable to do. I indicated that I could run for Nigeria’s number one office come 2019. Why not? I am constitutionally qualified to so do. I am presently 45 and already with more grey hair than many old people I know. I also have enough education to sail through by law. And this is anyone’s constitutional right anyway. Maybe some people thought it was a joke. But thinking deeper about it, and desirous of at least sounding a warning to the status quo that younger people in Nigeria are angry, concerned, disenchanted, disturbed and disappointed about the turn of events, I realised that we needed to organise ourselves along the lines of a political party, the same way the older people whom we love to blame for ourselves have done over many decades. For we had enough ideas to put into a political party, such as to make it unique and interesting. The whole issue became larger than any ambition and we immediately saw opportunities for making a profound change and getting new faces into government AT ALL LEVELS. Thus came the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP).
We tried to find out what it takes at INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission). The name was checked and found to be suitable, and since then, we have been building structures and communicating. Luckily, we now have members from all the states of the federation, including the FCT. It has not been easy work, with the few of us at the centre of it all catching little sleep in the last few days; but I must confess it is exciting work. Since the 1920s when the likes of Herbert Macaulay started forming political parties in Nigeria, never has a generation been more docile than mine (the civil war and post civil war era, or those between 38 and 55 today). And you cannot blame us much. Many of us are faced with existential issues of survival, paying huge school fees for our children (our parents sent us to public schools for free but we are stuck with expensive private schools – up to university – for our children), and unfortunately, there are some of the problems that we have brought upon ourselves; namely our externalised focus, the unaffordable lavish lifestyles which we try to maintain at all costs, our failure to read or write, and the occupation of our times with activities that don’t add real long term value, such as time spent in night clubs and parties, watching football, and so on.
That is the situation today, such that in four days of creating an online platform for Nigerians to join the party, we have been able to record over 1,300 membership spread all across the country, and even in the diaspora. Nigerians seem to have been waiting for the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP). For now, I provide the firm leadership that such an organisation needs, lest it derails before it starts. I thank God I have been able to perform some of the roles. Others are also kicking in and we promise to do things differently from the past. Some of the critical issues we have agreed on include TRANSPARENCY (all our internal selections will be based on open debates and open – not secret – balloting). We have agreed and will document this in our constitution, including that all who join us MUST commit to frugal management of public resources, including that they must PUBLICLY declare their asset and liabilities before and after service to country, if and when they are elected or nominated into such. We will commit that if we take government, we will freeze unnecessary spending on appurtenances of office that this country can ill-afford for at least two years (just like President FD Roosevelt did in the USA between April 1942 and December 1944) in order to rally his people around the World War II effort and get his country out of the Great Depression. These, among others, make us unique.
What is more? We have ‘shadow ministers’, because this can serve to focus the party and make us busy and productive even in opposition. This is a feature of parliamentary systems of government but a country like Thailand, after it had to shift from parliamentary system in 2014, retained shadow governments as part of opposition. If political parties are not lazy, it should not be hard to do. We have done this because we intend to be serious with governance in Nigeria – even in opposition. However we intend to contest every position in the land and we have the people to do this.
That is as much as I will say about that for now.
Let me briefly list some reasons WHY Nigeria NEEDS a new party, and why we (ANRP) are that party.
- We are a GREEN Party. Shockingly, almost every other country in Africa has a Green party, from South Africa to Kenya, to Mali, Guinea, even Somalia and others. With Green, White, Green for a flag, one would think there will be a party drawing our attention to the environment, to sustainability, to agriculture and so on. But we have never had any, as our existing political parties pay lip service to these ideals. The result is that we have totally despoiled our environment in a way that tells foreigners and visitors of our carelessness and inability to foresee the future consequences of our actions. So whereas we are not tree-huggers, we are one party that has sustainability, and the achievement of the SDG goals as one of its core ideals and deliverables. We see the environment as the last bastion of employment and business in Nigeria; the most neglected sector, which is also the last pressure/trigger-point for our economy. It is about focusing attention on the details. We believe that there is so much value to be unlocked from a focus on sustainability.
- Since the days when Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and their colleagues formed parties while in universities and just getting out of their teens, we have not had a coalition of young and not-so-young but young-at-heart people coming together to form a party. We believe that the civil war and post civil war generation (anyone between 38 and 55) has been too laid back and there is no better time to coalesce their concerns than now when there are frictions in all the major political parties, with disgruntled elements threatening to form a mega party. We believe we are best suited to form that mega party and that is what we are.
- With the demographic that we are targeting, even though we are open to every age group, we hope to get new ideas on board, as different from the ideas with which Nigeria has been run for decades now. After recycling the same people and ideas for too long, they naturally wear out. There have been too much of godfatherism in the existing parties and in-bred ideas that lead to stunted and deformed results. We intend to emphasise opportunities for the young, and for women, to take active part in the administration of Nigeria. It needs to be known that even the relative gains of the youth and women in governance under the much-vilified Jonathan government, have shockingly and almost totally been rolled back in the Buhari government. We intend to encourage young people to contest for elections within the ambit of the constitution, and without prejudice to members who are advanced in age.
- We have formed this party because Nigeria needs new ideas, new people, new perspectives, new thinking and new results, if I may borrow a comment from another brother of mine, Leo Onogu. With the economic calamities we are going through, it will be wicked and totally unfeeling for someone to suggest that all we can do is sit here and stew in our misery, or go to existing parties to queue for ‘our turn to eat’, when we can actually TRY and do something profound, altruistic and original about it.
- We need a new party because Nigerians are looking for avenues and opportunities for new expression and they want to do things differently than before. Einsten it was who said two things; that it is insanity to do things the same way and expect different results; and that we cannot solve the problems of today, or tomorrow, by using the same instruments and circumstances, or even people, who created them.
- We need a new party now, which will continue to grow in the next two years before the elections, and which will field people for all elections, because Nigerians hope to take their country forward. We are a much-castigated, infamous country, increasingly grouped as a country of terrorists and fraudsters. Nigeria is retrogressing when smaller and less-endowed African nations are getting their acts together. We need a new party for those who understand and appreciate the URGENCY OF NOW! We need that new party because this country needs to understand how fast the world is moving and that it is presently one of the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged countries in the world.