By: Adefunke Onafuye
The last few weeks have been interesting; gushing over the US elections and admiring from afar a system that works. Despite not understanding the electoral processes, from several continents away, we are pulled by their respect for democracy. A bare minimum that we cannot relate to in Nigeria.
The 2019 Presidential elections came and went like a flash. From personal observation [bias and convictions], because the candidacy was an in-with-the-old, out-with-the-new situation- from platform to financial capabilities- the new generation of the electorate could not be more uninterested in what is likely the most important decision we had to make as a collective. Since transition to democracy in 1999, we have recycled the leaders we learnt about in General Knowledge class in Nigerian schools so much so that choosing and queueing behind a credible candidate for the 2023 elections seems a difficult task.
The era of inactivity, however, is now over following the dismissive response to outcry about police brutality across the country. Within 12 days, faced by the possibility of bodily harm while experiencing the perks of a working system, the Nigerian electorate developed political consciousness. Boycotting elections and electoral processes is like putting a blade to a vein; we are now literally fighting to stay alive despite having a government whose oath reads “…to serve and protect.” Taking a cue from the inspiring story of Stacey Abrams, the first step to winning is accepting failure as a teaching moment and acknowledging that there is a world beyond our bubble. One we must not only access but also learn from.
“Anything less than full investment would amount to strategic malpractice” – Stacey Abrams.
Full investment is:
- Voter Education: Contrary to popular belief, literal education in lingo that only a select few understand, is counterproductive. To teach people whose realities differ from ours, you must first walk in their shoes. What is the average day in the life of the electorate who would accept a 5kg bag of rice in exchange for a vote? Before you think of an answer, ask yourself if you have enough information to inform your opinions. To effectively teach a hungry person, you should first consider feeding them. The same applies when you want to exploit them; a hack that has come in handy in our two decades of a supposed democracy. A solution to explore is investing (by crowdfunding) in soup kitchens and food programs that directly receive donations from food companies (as part of their CSR) and feed people who cannot afford to feed themselves. Think unhoarded COVID palliatives.
- Clear Expectations: “The bar is in hell”, we often say from a place of resignation, followed by a lazy plea to a deity- “God help us”. The question is what bar? What is being measured? In the context of Nigeria, ‘good governance’ is a vague ask. We must define our expectations from everyone who campaigns for a seat in leadership. In trade, we only pay for value; think of your vote as a medium for exchange. Weigh the what, the why and the how.
- Unprejudiced Financing: The EndSars protests in October taught us that crowdfunding through an accountable body is efficient. We built a makeshift system from a few tweets and sustained a leaderless campaign for twelve days. Ending godfatherism means opening our wallets and demanding accountability as opposed to slots and favours. It is imperative to understand the cost implication of running for office and be ready to fund the candidates we support.
- Security: Murdered aspirants, snatched ballot boxes, bullied electorate and a compromised electoral body are the norm. Expectedly, there will be attempts as with the past years, but it is imperative to treat our votes like our lives depend on them. They do. Safeguard every ballot box, blow safety whistles by speaking up and simply choose pushing back over backing down. We did it once and can do it again.
- Inclusion: Without women, the glass is half empty. Balanced representation is not a social issue, it is a need. We have lazed around it for long enough, only offering spots on panels and patronizing women with the idea of inclusion and unexecuted strategies. ElectHer’s primary mandate is including women at the table, not only because they are women, but because they also qualify and deserve a platform just as big as their male counterparts. Inclusion means a voice and real solutions to real social issues. It means less decorated panels and more data-driven policies. It means impact.
In the face of irreparable loss, the year 2020 was a perfect opportunity to take back democracy. This is the what, wait on the how on your next read. Also lay a brick every day until we have built shelter. Start a conversation, join the cause, win back your democracy.