There’s A Method To Our Madness

A certain Mr Yomi Okusanya left a comment on a link I shared on my page recently and it really got me thinking. Sometimes the thing that causes you to embark on a dangerous and life risking journey to Sokoto state could easily have been found in your very own sokoto trouser.

Here’s what he said unedited.

“I’ll just like to add my views to this debate and to the original article which i might add i find very interesting. The main reason we have been producing the kind of leaders we have in nigeria is due to APATHY of citizens to the political process going on in Nigeria at the moment and why its is important for us all to participate in it to bring about the kind of nigeria we want . You dont necessarily have to seek elective posts but you should parcitipate in bringing about credible pple seeking elective positions. I’ll tell you my reasons. I happen to know how the process works because i have seen it first hand.
I’ill let u in on it so u can see why we are where we at 

This is currently how the process works from the ward level to the national level . Every Nigerian citizen can join any political party of their choice at the ward level . 
Each ward from the local govt level have meetings every week or fortnightly, this is normally held at the homes of self appointed leaders who is not stupid as he’s making a very good investment, which is where the problems start, He buys us ‘cabin ‘ biscuits and a bottle of soft drink is assured for every attendee and we even get paid transport allowance ranging from 200 to 500naira. I’ll remind you at this point that anyone from that ward can attend this meetings . Nothing tangible or remotely progressive are discussed at these meetings because of course the meetings are attended by unemployed people , area boys, few artisans and mostly poverty stricken people who come for their share of the’ cake’ 

This meetings are where executive members of the party are selected by the benefactor and his cohorts, The aggregate of the various wards then select the local govt exco’s as they are called who in turn select the senatorial exco’s and on it goes to the state and the national level. They are now able to deliver wards , lg’sl , senatorial, state to the latest money bag in town who wants to become the councillor, lg chairman, senator or whatever they choose to become all from ‘cabin’ biscuits and soft drinks and few wads of naira. OBJ attended my ward meetings before he became president to meet the ‘ward’ members
So my people this is how the process goes. The citizens are only called to vote for the selected people and they even fight amongst themselves about this as you all witness.
Therefore when people like you go to this meetings we can maybe start choosing credible candidates, This is the sacrifice we all have to start making if area boys can find time to attend this meetings so can you till then manna aint going to fall from heaven . That brings me full circle to that word APATHY. The Ibori’s , Tinubu’s , Bode George’s , know how this work and they exploit the apathy of the educated nigerians to the political process to the max after all politics is a dirty game we say YUCK .
So we can all be blowing all the grammer on FB it aint going to change nothing until we all start getting our clean hands dirty .
Ladies and gentleman THAT is what NIGERIA requires from us and thats what generations unborn deserves. It aint rocket science and believe me it is that simple to wrest power from this people we just have to make the sacrifice.
NIGERIA belongs to all of us. 
Thank you”

I underlined the word ‘deliver’ in Mr Okusanya’s quote. For me that’s the key word.

If it’s possible to have an epiphany after reading a comment, I certainly had one after reading the above. It struck me that Nigeria in fact has a well developed and entrenched political system that in fact WORKS!. It absolutely works.

Years ago before I left Nigeria, I had a neighbour who lived across the road from me. A certain Mr Cardoso or Engineer as he was called. He was an AD man [before it morphed into what is now known as AC…in 2011 it will become AB] through and through and his house was the venue for the party’s weekly meetings.

One of those times when ASUU condemned me to sitting at home twiddling my thumbs, I got into the habit of sitting with my mechanics [I’m a man of the people you see] who had a shed close to Mr Cardoso’s house and just generally gisting. They’d soon tell me who was having an affair with who in the area and who was the 419 guy driving fancy cars but with no known source of income.

On a few occassions, I’d sit with them while the AD meetings were going on in Mr Cardoso’s house and would sometimes hear loud arguments or generally people talking absolute nonsense…and I would laugh with my mechanics at the sheer stupidity of it all.

I never once strayed into Mr Cardoso’s compound even to see what in the world was going on there. It never even crossed my mind.

There was a lady who lived in the area whose husband was living in England at the time. We became close when he would send money or stuff to his wife and kids through a member of my family coming to Nigeria…that kind of stuff. At some point the man and the woman must have had a serious row leading to the man perhaps not sending money home for a while….or maybe the man fell on hard times here in London.

The woman never worked all the while I knew her…..she survived and took care of the children with the money the man sent home. 

Anyway around the time she had issues with her husband, I noticed she was attending the AD meetings in Mr Cardoso’s compound regularly. I was surprised at this as she was one of the people I had railed against the establishment with….generally insulting the political system as being corrupt..the whole nine.

I remember the first time I saw her coming out of Mr Cardoso’s house and our eyes met, she looked away perhaps feeling slightly embarrassed.

Finally one day I called her and asked in Yoruba ‘what is it you go to do in that place?’. She replied in Yoruba ‘Dont look at it like that o….they give people money there’.

In 2003 I was a registered election monitor for the National Conscience Party in my ward and I can confirm that the AD handed the NCP and every other party that contested the area a proper and comprehensive beating.

On the day I looked at some of the guys who I had tried to canvass and watched helplessly as they openly voted for the AD….no hard feelings of course.

I repeat; Nigeria has a well developed political system that works perfectly. For those who have benefited from this system, there is absolutely no incentive for them to reinvent the wheel. They are happy with the current arrangement and they will fight tooth and nail to keep it so.

Warren Buffett once said ‘those who understand compound interest are destined to collect it…those who dont, are destined to pay it’. Indeed….substitute compound interest for the Nigerian political system and you see what I’m getting at.

If you need evidence that our political system is working, just take a look at our Governors, Reps, Senators and other elected officials…the result is absolutely consistent; they are practically all rubbish.

But you cant knock their hustle….’good’ people dont take part in the process because it’s simply too dirty for them. Nature of course abhors a vacuum. 

Nigeria is today under a tyranny of mediocrity. It starts from Mr Cardoso’s house….and each step of the way it gets more powerful but doing so quietly. By the time the ‘elite’ manage to take notice, the monster of mediocrity can no longer be dislodged and rightly thinks it has earned it’s right of passage.

In the UK they call it hustings…in America they call it stumping. I dont know what they call it in Nigeria but it’s much more effective than the UK or US version.

We must begin to understand that there is a strong system in place designed to produce a certain type of political outcome. And the only way to unravel or perhaps influence this system is to start from the roots. 

One of the biggest mistakes of the elite in Nigeria is that it tries to get in at the top where the air is cleaner perhaps and they are less likely to get their hands dirty. You dont need me to tell you what’s wrong with that approach.

The current system works for the politician because he can get into office for a minimal outlay and then recoup his money in a few months in office. This is part of why our politicians prefer a ‘selection’ process instead of an election. There really isnt any point allowing the people to vote freely. Imagine you had been attending meetings in Mr Cardoso’s house for 2 years and come election time you were made a candidate to run for LG Chairman, wouldnt you prefer if only the people who had been attending meetings with you voted? Why bother with people like me who never came to a meeting?  In any case what could I possibly want from the political system as I clearly had food to eat.

The system also works for the area boys and the army of the unemployed [Nigeria’s biggest voting bloc] because it meets their short term needs. Hungry people have no long term needs….they simply dont think that far. 

In the task of nation building, people who have had no food to eat are notoriously unreliable. You can only hold their attention for so long…and even then you have to continue placating them…just enough to get them to election day, after which you dont need to worry about them for another 4 years. Hungry people are not deep thinkers and they really couldnt care less about corruption in so far as it favours them.

The only way left for the ‘elite’ is often by appointment. But the problem with this is that even then you are answering to man who has a completely different mindset from you. And he could possibly fire you on a whim. 

This is the reason why good people are always outnumbered and always outgunned in Nigeria; they dont understand the system and even when they do they are unwilling to get involved in it. They are on a hiding to nothing.

Now you might think Mr Okusanya’s explanation above is overly simplistic but I assure you it doesnt get more complex than that.

There’s no magic in 2011 that is going to produce a wonderful President that brings change to Nigeria in a blaze of glory. The system is not set up in a way to allow good people get that far. Once in a while they might sneak in but it’s always the exception rather than the norm.

I find myself wondering now; what if I had strayed into Mr Cardoso’s compound one day and just sat in on one of the meetings? What if I had made friends with a few area boys and some of the local champions? What if I joined their arguments and managed to elevate the debates they had to some level? 

Isnt it perhaps possible that today I might be in a position to influence policy in my local govt? As opposed to watching helplessly while a band of thugs take decisions that affect my life.

What is the benefit in not getting involved? And can change come in any other way other than from the ground up? 

So when the ‘results’ of the elections are announced in 2011 and someone you know to be no more than a petty criminal has found his way into the Federal House of Representatives, just remember that the system is working.

The genius of it all is in it’s simplicity.

We need more good Mr Cardoso’s who are motivated by a desire to advance the common good as opposed to ‘delivering’ their ward to the highest bidder. 

Let’s never forget that a certain Barack Obama started his life in politics as a community organiser or the Mr Cardoso of Chicago’s South Side.

Finally, using South West Nigeria as an example; in 2007 The System(c) produced Gbenga Daniel, Babatunde Fashola, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Olusegun Agagu, Segun Oni, Adebayo Alao-Akala [fine boy no pimples] as governors of the South West states.

From the list above, we can conclude that it’s very difficult to buck The System(c). With the exception of an outlier in Lagos state, The System(c) delivered the results it was set up to do. Even the outlier was a product of The Sytem(c) and perhaps the biggest beneficiary as no one had a clue who he was before he was imposed on Lagosians.

If you think the people who hold Nigeria by the delicates are going to give up without a fight, then you probably believe there’s an underground railway system currently working in Lagos State.


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