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Thursday, February 29, 2024

THE FIVE STRATEGIES FOR PARTY-LEVEL ELECTORAL SUCCESS IN NIGERIA By Dr Gbenga Adefulu

Many Nigerians in public and private sectors are desirous of venturing into politics to contribute their quota to the development of their respective states and the country. This desire begs the question: how does one get into politics and more importantly, how does one succeed in it? Success here means realising one’s political aspirations which may be ward chairman, councillor, local government chairman, state lawmaker, federal lawmaker, governor, president etc. To get any of the aforementioned political offices, anyone with such an ambition must join a political party and secure a ticket because the Nigerian Constitution makes no room for independent candidacy. By obtaining a political party’s ticket which is intra-party success in one breadth, a politician is well-positioned to actualize his/her ambition in the general election. This article seeks to x-ray strategies for achieving intra-party success which provides the gateway to success at the general election.

A careful study of the Nigerian political landscape in the last several decades revealed five strategies that assure success for any politician or prospective politician at the party level. In order words, for a politician to record success (i.e. secure the party’s ticket) within his/her chosen party, 5 strategies can be deployed with varying degrees of success and “time-to-success”.

The first strategy is ‘strategic headhunting’: Strategic headhunting means being plucked by a high-ranking party member or major decision-maker with overwhelming powers, influence and leverage within the party who clears the path and delivers the party’s ticket to an aspirant for one or two reasons which could be trust issues, covering tracks, loyalty or reward for past effort. In order words, this is practically an imposition of an aspirant on the party by fiat by a Godfather. There are several examples of this. The first example is Babatunde Fashola, a relatively unknown quantity in the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2007. He was imposed on the party as its Lagos governorship candidate by then incumbent and outgoing governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. This was despite overt resistance and threat of mutiny by several party leaders, party loyalists and even cabinet members in the Tinubu administration. Fashola got the AC gubernatorial ticket on a platter, probably without even showing interest in the job and well ahead of previously highly favoured and well-touted frontline aspirants who had been laying the groundwork many years ahead, to succeed Tinubu. The second example is Akinwunmi Ambode who was also imposed as All Progressives Congress (APC) guber candidate in 2015 despite the outward resistance and stiff push-back from the incumbent and outgoing governor, Fashola. A third example is Governor Sanwo-Olu who was imposed as a replacement for Governor Ambode who was denied a second-term ticket by the APC hierarchy.

The fourth and more recent example is Ganiyu Ayuba, Special Adviser on Urban Development to Governor Sanwo-Olu. Ayuba was practically imposed as APC’s candidate for Alimosho Federal Constituency for the 2023 election. Who can compete with the spending power, influence and leverage of a sitting Governor with an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of more than N40bn per month? The governor and his loyalists practically bought over the Alimosho party leaders. The leaders were given offers they couldn’t refuse and told to work for the ‘chosen’ candidate with a promise to get more after the candidate wins the primaries and is elected in the general election. A variation of example 4 is first getting an appointment into the cabinet of a governor or president, or being an aide to a minister or lawmaker and using that position as a springboard (including name-dropping your principal) to launch a successful bid for the party’s ticket for an elective position. The time-to-success for strategic headhunting is the fastest of the 5 strategies. It is the quickest route to clinching the party’s ticket. It is just the imposition of a candidate down the throat of other party members. Party members and leaders who are loyal to the high-ranking party member or major decision-maker are advised to work for the success of the imposed candidate and that’s all. The similitude is heaven cracking your palm kernel on your behalf, just like how Tinubu nominated Osinbajo ahead of Wale Edun and Yemi Cardoso as Buhari’s running mate in 2014. Anyone who desires to achieve rapid political success should consider this route and warm his or her way into the heart of the powerful and influential major decision-makers of their chosen party.

The second strategy is the filial strategy. This means being the ward of a prominent politician, usually a past governor, president, minister, lawmaker etc. The prominent politician then uses his influence, clout, wide contacts and leverage including financial warchest if necessary, to secure the party’s tickets or nomination for his or her child. The first example is Hon Olumide Osoba, Representative, Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi Owode Federal Constituency, Ogun State who is the son of Chief Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State. A second example is Hon Babajide Obanikoro, Representative, Eti-Osa Federal Constituency, Lagos who is the scion of Musiliu Obanikoro, a former senator, minister, ambassador and council chairman. The third example is Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State who is the ward of Olusola Saraki, Senate Leader, 1979 – 1983. The time-to-success for this strategy is the second fastest.  All that is required is to tell your Dad that you are interested in a particular political position. Sometimes, the father even prepares the son in advance by laying the blocks that put him in a vantage position to get the ticket. At other times, the ticket is imposed on the son by the father even if the son does not want it. The execution of this strategy is dependent on the strength, weight and leverage of the prominent politician within the party. The strategy does not guarantee 100% success as several prominent politicians have failed to secure tickets for their children. Here, the political weight of the parent counts.

The third strategy is the technocrat strategy: This means an aspiring politician desirous of speedy political success should first, be a successful, accomplished and distinguished personality in the private sector or his or her chosen career. Having distinguished yourself in the private sector, you become highly attractive to the powers-that-be in the political party especially when they want to hand the party’s ticket to persons with specific profiles. The major decision-makers simply call the accomplished or distinguished personality to come and take the ticket almost on a platter. The first example is Senator Tokunbo Abiru, Lagos East. Abriru who is the immediate past Managing Director of Polaris Bank, was given the APC Lagos East senatorial ticket in 2020 almost effortlessly following the demise of Senator Bayo Osinowo. Meanwhile, several members of the party in Lagos East have for years, been jostling for the ticket without success. They were overlooked for Abiru. That is the power of the technocrat strategy.

Another example is Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. He was an Executive Director at Zenith Bank before being given the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial ticket by then-outgoing Governor Godswill Akapabio in 2015. Bayo Adelabu, former Deputy Governor at Central Bank and APC Oyo gubernatorial candidate in 2019 also comes to mind. A third example is former Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State. He had a distinguished career in the banking industry at GTBank and Societe Generale before he was appointed Commissioner for Finance. In 2011, he was given Kwara State’s PDP Guber ticket and went on to be elected a governor. The fourth example (appointive) is Ben Akabueze, former Chief Executive Officer of the defunct Nal Bank Plc. He was appointed Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos after he left Nal Bank. The fifth example (appointive) is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Operations, at World Bank. She was plucked from the World Bank and appointed Minister of Finance by Obasanjo in 2003. A final example (appointive) is Arunmah Oteh, Treasurer and Vice President at the World Bank. She was appointed Director-General, of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2010. The time-to-success for this strategy is the third fastest for elective political offices. However, for appointive political offices, this is the fastest route. In this case, the party leaders need someone who has a distinguished career in the private sector, especially for critical and sensitive appointive positions that cannot be filled by just anybody or a charlatan.

The fourth strategy is the money-bag strategy. This means being a flamboyant, free-spending and sociable billionaire with name recognition and buying your way through. Here, the billionaire heavily outspends any other aspirant, funds other candidates, gives party leaders the kind of money they cannot refuse and promises to give them more after securing the party’s ticket. An example is Governor Dapo Abiodun who secured the APC Ogun Guber ticket in 2019. Abiodun is the billionaire owner of Heyden Petroleum. Another example is Senator Demola Jackson Adeleke, governor-elect, of Osun State. Demola Adeleke was given PDP’s senatorial ticket for Osun West after APC denied him the opportunity to replace his billionaire brother, late senator Isiaka Adeleke (Serubawon) who passed while in office.  Adeleke’s elder brother, Adedeji Adeleke (Baba Olowo), the billionaire owner of Pacific Holdings Ltd, outspent everyone and got him the PDP ticket. Baba Olowo, Davido’s father, also bankrolled the governor-elect’s victory at the Osun polls last July. The time-to-success for this strategy is the fourth fastest.

As a billionaire venturing into politics, you may not get the party’s ticket the first time or even the second time but you will most likely get it the third time or even get it from another party. Worst case, you will be begged and given the ticket for another position if the party leaders are unable to hand you the ticket for your desired position and yet, unwilling to dispense with you. They will rather compensate you with a ticket for another office or work out a political appointment at the Federal level for you than allow you go to another party where you can do incalculable damage to the electoral prospects of your former party with your huge financial resources.

The final strategy to be x-rayed is the ‘active party member’ strategy. This means a prospective politician should register as a member of a political party. Upon becoming a card-carrying member of the party, such a person will grow through the ranks; fund the party by monthly party dues; attend monthly and ad-hoc party meetings; congratulate party leaders on birthdays, naming, housewarming, coronation ceremonies; pay condolence visits during bereavements, show up at their events/Ileya/Christmas and dropping shishi; being prevailed upon by party leaders to pay school fees or foot childbirth bill of poor members of the society especially in areas that are the vote banks of the party; and going to party leaders house for political tutelage and ‘guidance’ etc. Such active and dutiful party members contest positions but are told several times by party leaders that a lot of people are in the queue (i.e. those who joined the party before you and who have been contesting the party’s ticket for years) and you should wait. Other times, they bluntly tell you to step down for a more favoured candidate. Sometimes you are allowed to contest and lose, recontest and lose again. Sometimes, you win the ticket but you are forced to withdraw or your ticket is bare-facedly withdrawn and given to someone else. At other times, you may win the ticket after several tries over several electoral cycles only for your name to be substituted with another name in the final list sent to INEC. Worse still, a directive may come from the national secretariat to give all incumbent officeholders a return ticket and in a flash, all your years of toil and service to party leaders will come to nought.

In essence, as an active party member, you are wholly at the mercy of your party leaders both at ward, state and federal levels. This is because you joined the party without bringing anything to the table. You were not singled out by an influential God-father, you are not the son or daughter of a prominent politician, you are not an accomplished and highly sought-after technocrat in your industry and you are not a billionaire who can fund the party. So what exactly are you bringing to the table? That is why you are at the party leaders’ mercy and they can toy with you as they like. They see you as coming to the party so that you can become ‘something’. Put another way, you need the party more than the party needs you.

An example of active member strategy is any and all politicians who did not get their tickets through any of the first four routes/strategies earlier mentioned. This is the route for most politicians as it is an all-comers affair. This is the typical route of hardcore politicians like late Senator Bayo Osinowo who had paid his dues and was a loyal party member before being given the ticket. He slaved for the party leaders for years. The time-to-success for this strategy is the longest. Worse still, there’s no guarantee. Here, you have to work for the party and party leaders for years. Some people have been contesting for councillorship tickets, LGA tickets, and House of Assembly tickets for 20 years and they still haven’t succeeded. Why? Because there are senior members in the party who joined the party before them. The queue is long and they need to wait for their time. With this strategy, it is easier to get party positions (i.e. positions such as Youth Leader, Publicity Secretary, Women Leader, Legal Adviser, Organizing Secretary etc.) within the state’s party structure after serving the party for several years, attending meetings, contributing membership fee and so on.

So, are you in the private sector or you are in the civil service and plan to play active politics in Nigeria someday, it is up to you to decide the strategy to employ. Good luck!

Dr Gbenga Adefulu is an economist, digital media consultant and public affairs analyst who writes from Ikeja, Lagos. He can be reached through gbengaadefulublog@gmail.com and blogs at https://gbengaadefulumusings.blogspot.com/

Disclaimer: 

The opinions and views expressed in this write-up are entirely those of the Writer(s). They do not reflect the opinions and views of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or any of its employees. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of materials herein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or its employees concerning the legal status of any country, its authority, area or territory or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers. Equally, the sketches, images, pictures and videos are gotten from the public domain.

NzeIkay
NzeIkayhttps://nzeikayblog.com
Nigeria is an Enigma. The capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of her is undoubtedly God’s endowment to us, her citizens. As a citizen of this lovely nation, I’ve spent decades of my life trying to understand this, Mirage. Hope someday, this Mystery that houses about 250 million blacks will be globally understood, widely accepted, and given the opportunity to play its vital role in the world stage. So, help us God! #NigeriaDeservesBetter #AfricaDeservesBetter

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