2015: NURTW Chairman & Us


 When it comes to deciding during elections, does the online crew or the social media gang really count? If we are to have an election today, can our opinion really swing the votes? I mean how much premium does the politician place on the votes of socially urban young Nigerians? Who matters more – the NURTW chairman, Iyaloja, Chairman Association of “anything informal”” and me?

I mean these are the ones who for a bar of soap, late night meal, employment in LASTMA, bus stop chairman, free bus rides for their children, yard of Ankara decide who they vote for. They are numbed to issues of accountability and with the politician in sight, all you hear is loud obeisance like “Baba Tuale”.

The politician is also in this cult mode as he makes his/her responsibility a privilege for the citizen. No one see that lens of how a politician was hired by the people to manage our economy and polity. In the same manner, a master can sack his house- help in cases of incompetence, theft or breach of agreement, we have the same power to ensure that elected officers should be booted out.

A screenshot of a piece by my former boss Ifeanyi Uddin http://goo.gl/39QrHj

A screenshot of a piece by my former boss Ifeanyi Uddin http://goo.gl/39QrHj

As a group of enlightened Nigerians, can we really enforce change when votes of a large group are so vulnerable to petty issues? Is it that we are so outnumbered and doing not enough that we can’t really tell the facts for these people?  I mean the vote placed in the hand of someone will decide who controls allocations, raises debt, writes laws on our behalf, represents us in international spaces, decide if we need nuclear codes or not, decide fuel prices and the manpower for public institutions. How come we leave such trivial matters to the large army of folks that trade it for a meal or choose which dividing lines to believe?

This how we are kept in the tangle of chicken and egg problem. This is how we wonder what really is the problem – the leader or the led. We must understand that this is a market with demand and supply sides. The politician is at the supply end and will only respond to forces of demand. If the politician knows that folks at the other end have their votes at a price and he/she can carry on without the enlightened few, the incentive is there to follow what works.

If the politician knows issues of ethnicity resonate with the voters, he plays the tribal card beclouding the majority as regarding his/her incompetence or disregard for transparency. If it is about a Christian Governor or Muslim President, the politician plays the religion card by posturing to be a good Christian visiting churches and asking for the prayers.

We are the ones at fault. We wax abstract approach on changing Nigeria like we can finance logistics for a local councillorship election.  We don’t actively join political parties thereby making meaningful impact. We don’t stay on the other side of the market to keep amplifying our voices.

In 2015, we need to explain what a vote means to everyone because the politician is just following the trend – poverty, ethnicity, inferiority complex etc. The incentive of the politician is to grab power and if he/she finds a gaping hole to be exploited, he/she thrives on it.

So its left for us to creatively think how will people of the streets understand that voting is a decision that vests their authority on an elected officials and they are also making such decision on behalf of under-18 population who can’t vote. It is left to us to disabuse those that label us Christians, Muslims, Northerners or Southerners.

How do we meet them at the half way? Get Saheed Osupa and Alabi Pasuma to do a track laced with a viral slang on voters education?  How do you get them to understand the roles of vigilance and untiring demand of accountability? This is our role. We are not doing enough and nothing will rapidly change as keep typing away. 

Disrupting May Day Rally

Gbenga Sesan's tweet on June 22, 2013. June last year, Gbenga Sesan and I met a senior US diplomat and above were his words to us.

Gbenga Sesan’s tweet on June 22, 2013. June last year, Gbenga Sesan and I met a senior US diplomat and above were his words to us.

It is 0930 on May Day. I was trying hard to close an infographic. The designer was not just getting it right. I was so ready in “spirit”. I wanted leash my full anger as I looked the stream of tweets on the Lagos protest to bring back our girls. I learnt that the canisters of tear gas have been fired. I verily believe my good people will not despair.

Finally, I made it to the protest. The faces were obvious  – many amazing beacons of inspiration.  I tried to count we the protesters; we were not up to 234. Suddenly the number strikes me again – 234 girls. I mean putting 20 football teams on a single pitch at the same time. The numbers have even inched up to 276 and one cannot even imagine the state of mind of these innocent, brave ones. When I looked at the other side of “town”, the Onikan Stadium where the Labour Day rally held, I felt overwhelmed.They were just having a great time with exchange of bottles of cheap gin and N1000 notes. A cluster of banners and flags raised high each announcing their organizations. The NURTW boys were in multiples in their traditional green and white colours.   A rough count puts them at least 500 times than we, the protesters. We were just outnumbered. When I tried to peer into the stadium looking into the sea of heads just unconcerned, I was in despair. I wished for an instant that we reverse scenarios; like we don’t care and they are the ones protesting.

 I was wondering how will they hear us? Do these people even listen to news? Do they know about kidnapped girls and Sambisa forest? We decided to change route and walk into the Stadium complex. At that moment I was getting very angry, pumping my fist in the air. Screaming at the Labour Day-happy folks  that can they afford their children away for 17 days? I flung the everything I had in the air. Teniola was just telling me to be calm. I was already drenched in sweat.

 Governor Fashola looked at us for a second. He was now barely audible and he quickly finished his speech. The Governor stood still ready to take the parade. We, less than 200 in the midst of over 5,000 people, wont just allow the parade. We did not move an inch for them. They could not find their way. We were screaming and the Governor just looked helpless at a point. Maybe because we weaved our message with “stolen dreams”, a lot of folks still looked on, unclear about what we were passing across. However, constant honking it in their ears, they finally got it.

Some called us students. Some came to accept understanding and sink into deep thoughts about our worthy cause. Some were asking “How much were we paid?”

A nice way to end with Fela “Me and you no dey same category” A gust of  happiness mixed with sadness. This is not victory. Victory is bringing back the girls alive form Sambisa Forest. However, this is instructive, what we need is a tireless minority. We are the ones standing the in gap. The NLC wont shut offices unless its a drain on their pocket like fuel subsidy or minimum wage gets shortened. Everyone thrives on personal incentives, disregarding the crisis our commonality.

 The elites in the upper notch are incentivized not to care. The ones in the lower cadre are fed with a buffet of ignorance mixed with ethnicity and acute passiveness. The enlightened class liberates the nation, they are the ones that shine light and raise the expectations of the critical mass. We just need more committed people who trample on comfort and ease and clearly understand how this is all connected. People who are quickened to act and will not be indifferent.  Nigeria of our lifetime will be better than it was. God bless you brave Nigerians.

I believe the girls will come back alive. Belief – the staple that incompetent leaders keeps feeding me. That’s all I have got. This time I hope it is enough. I pray victory comes quick. Like the small victory of #FreeCiaxon, we another hashtag.