We need a new party now… 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.
Should I, or shouldn’t I be shocked, reading from my ‘brother’ Simbo Olorunfemi, who made me the subject of his article published here in PREMIUM TIMES 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’.
The surprising thing for me is that Mr. Olorunfemi has my numbers but failed to even send a text to get my side of the story before penning one of his beautiful and compelling articles. And poor me, I was slam bang at the centre of it! It feels odd, because as an average Nigerian, I have hardly been the subject matter of an article, certainly not from someone as IMPORTANT as my ‘brother’.
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. I recall having discussed some of these with Mr. Olorunfemi in the past, and also asking him quite naively, how he manages to support most – not all – of the policies of this government.
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 RENEWALParty (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, WATCHINGfootball, 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.
…in saying that some Nigerians are cynical, and are giving us grief and heat (not everyone will sign on or believe in what we do, we understand), let Mr. Simbo know that he is presently holding the trophy for the group of cynics, and he did not only give us heat, he tried to throw us into a large incinerator altogether.
That is as much as I will say about that for now.
Back to my ‘brother’ Simbo. Luckily, I’m a writer too, I know the tricks, and how we bury our real intentions in clever words. In SHORT, I know where to look for to unearth the ‘dead bodies’. Simbo stopped short of advising INEC not to recognise us as a party, or perhaps to advise President Buhari to pronounce a blanket ban on the registration of new parties. He made references to INEC’s statements about the number of requests it had received, but he refused to find out what those other names are, and what decisions were taken on them. Instead he tried to rain on our parade at ANRP, well, thus giving us unsolicited publicity. Matter of fact, we hadn’t approached anyone for publicity, not even PREMIUM TIMES. The mobilisation for members is from the ground up, organic, verifiable, and a lot of that is going on on social media. My brother Simbo used the word ‘bolekaja’ (a Yoruba word that translates literally to ‘come down let us fight’ and conjures the image of a rickety, expired old Bedford lorry) to describe our humble efforts, and denigrate the idea in the minds of right-thinking Nigerians. He inputted that the party was formed on selfish grounds because those behind it – especially myself – have refused to ‘work’ with those on ‘ground’. This, in a country where many are pushing clandestine agendas. He said such an idea is ‘dead on arrival’. Very interesting. He doesn’t know the workings of this party but assumed that there will be no internal democracy (irrespective of the fact that the INEC is there to ensure that and they have their own templates for doing that).
He suggested instead that we ‘infiltrate and weaken’ existing political parties and thus take some of them over, as if that was easy to do without a tonne of dollars at one’s disposal. The words ‘infiltrate’, ‘weaken’, or ‘hijack’ (as some people had suggested to us in the past) are negative to us and we decided not to go down that route. Not only that, such a cocky attitude suggests that those running those political parties presently don’t know what they are doing, which will be uncharitable to them, no matter who they are. We believe that that type of know-it-all attitude that inflicts today’s over-educated ‘youth’ need to be gotten rid of in the first place.
And so, from an unbiased point of view, anyone reading his article without the benefit of the other side of the story, gets two clear messages; one, that INEC should refuse to register the party (too late), simply because there are too many other groups trying to get registered (even if none of those other groups have hit the ground running like we did, and shown seriousness and purpose), and that Nigerians should simply not bother joining a ‘bolekaja’, ‘selfish’, ‘undemocratic’ arrangement which is ‘dead on arrival’. All his words, not mine. Is that what a person with whom one has related for years should write without as much as a text or PHONE call trying to know what the idea was about? And if it is about contacting him as a guru before we set out, my explanation is simply that we were very unsure of our tentative steps and didn’t know how this would pan out. I personally am not good at convincing people to take risks with me. And in today’s frenetic world, someone should not be too angry if things happen without their knowledge. So much is going on that we’ll never know about. As they will say where we are from; Oga Simbo, “well play”! I have heard a lot of advices since this project started, and many people say they have put poor me on their prayer list. I just know it’s something that NEEDS to be done, and that knowledge alone keeps driving me, and I’m prepared for whatever the future will bring. Yes I am.
Interestingly, when Gani Fawehinmi, Tunji Braithwaite, Kris Okotie, and so on launched their parties, we didn’t see or hear their contemporaries coming out to pooh-pooh their initiatives. That tells a story. We must not be a generation of hecklers; an argumentative bunch who never gets anything done but tears down other people’s efforts simply because we know how to ‘blow’ grammar. All big initiatives start from somewhere. Even the PDP and APC were formed from someone’s singular idea, and someone gave the leadership that turned those parties into today’s behemoths. We of ANRP want to do things ourselves, not to be spoon-fed by our father’s generation, and we have absorbed people who are old and young. This issue plays out on the socioeconomic front too. In many parts of Nigeria today, due to economic and social mismanagement, we have 35-45 years old men still living with their parents, hoping for those parents to die so that they may inherit – the same way we who are between 35 and 50 are waiting to inherit age-old, tired political structures formed when Nigeria’s nationalists were in universities in the 1940s. On a few occasions, these ‘children’ find ways to fast-track the demise of their parents. Many Nigerian men today are unable to even build the “face-me-i-face-you” BUNGALOWS that their illiterate fathers managed to build. We are already in disaster. Why would someone be suggesting even more lethargy, more unconcern with our present situation? Why would anyone denigrate an innocent attempt for a distraught people to build something they can call their own?
Mr. Olorunfemi launched a treatise on parliamentary government in the conclusion to his article, in which he says that the easier thing to do is to join the status quo, take over from within and change things (even though we at ANRP don’t like doing easy things and we believe that the gravitation towards doing easy things has been largely responsible for Nigeria’s problem today. For nothing is easy in this world anymore. If it is easy, it is dangerous). But he contradicted himself in analysing how the parliamentary, unicameral system will come about. Who will propose and pass the bill, he asked? The same beneficiaries? But what we have done at ANRP is to realise that we have to stay within the ambits of the law and commonsense in whatever we do for now. And if the law says we should register with INEC, we will. If Nigeria is running a presidential system, we will conform until we have an opportunity to cause a profound change. We are not hotheads who are busy rubbishing everything Nigeria stands for. That may be the ‘easy’ route, but it has led absolutely nowhere. We are balanced, we are sound, we are futuristic, we are Nigeria-centric, we are cooperative, but we are fiercely principled.
So in saying that some Nigerians are cynical, and are giving us grief and heat (not everyone will sign on or believe in what we do, we understand), let Mr. Simbo know that he is presently holding the trophy for the group of cynics, and he did not only give us heat, he tried to throw us into a large incinerator altogether. As an aside, another contemporary idea is that of Onyeka Nwelue, who we hear is floating Progress Party. That party was never mentioned once in the article, so we wonder; why us? Is it because we are organised and really on ground trying to make a difference and living true to our words?
Having dealt with the subject of the shocking article, let me briefly list some reasons WHY Nigeria NEEDS a new party, and why we (ANRP) are that party.
1. 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.
We have formed this party because Nigeria needs new ideas, new people, new perspectives, new thinking and new results… 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
I could go on and on, but I take note of the fact that Simbo Olorunfemi is one of the smartest Nigerians I know. And he is a fighter. I have seen him take on banks and other institutions. I know that this is being played like a chess game. The aim may be to distract, provoke, and expose, and get someone into a bind. I believe it’s too early in the game not to respond and so I seize this opportunity to explain what we are about. I urge anyone reading this to think through what is afoot and support our little attempt to save our country from failing.
As an experienced writer myself, I wonder what motivated Mr. Olorunfemi to write. By now, I am glad that he knows, and has now confirmed to other cynics, that our party is not populated by bus conductors, sent out by some godfathers lurking in smoke filled rooms, to go and ‘shadow’ passengers for the moment they shall step out as the big masquerades. We are running ANRP from the ground up, and not collecting any money from anyone. We shall see where this organic experiment takes us.
‘Tope Fasua is the Convener of the Abundant Nigeria RENEWAL Party (ANRP).