#BelieveInBetter: This MARATHON of Political CHANGE

I have chosen to write this epistle to the youths of Nigeria to achieve two purposes — (i) to showcase the need and possibilities of political participation and (ii) to encourage someone out there to see the need to join in this race towards a new and better Nigeria. It’ll also serve as a summary of my experiences in our recent campaign.

'National' Youth Leader!

As will be evident at the end of this epistle, I chose to run for the Councillorship seat for my ward in Osun State for a couple of reasons. The primary objective was to get off the horse of asking people to participate politically and lead that charge by example.

As National Youth Leader, I had met lots of young people across the length and breadth of Nigeria and most of those meetings had ended with I have termed the political altar call. In the end, we’ll have one microgroup meeting, at times, a town hall meeting and then get back to social media. This was necessary but not sufficient in realizing the Nigeria that we want, that I personally dream of.

Something more has to happen to make this new and better Nigeria a reality. We had contested in Lagos State elections with a lot of work in Ikeja LGA. It was an humbling experience for me seeing I worked to the best of my capacity within the political exigencies of the time and our lack of structure became crystal clear. It wasn’t still enough! After taking an objective look at the state of our party in Ikeja then, our then candidate switched camps. This broke me!

No matter how much talk or motivation we give to others or analysis we did on social media, we would need something more.

Something more …

As if recently helped from a strange amnesia, the governor of my state, Osun decided to organise for the first time local Council Elections just 8 months to the end of his 8 year tenure. It was as though opportunity presented itself right when these thoughts had overwhelmed me. I put myself forward.

I was running for the councillorship seat for my ward. A ward is the smallest political unit of leadership in our democracy. If we could take a ward, we could replicate the strategies in the 8500+ other wards in the country and take Nigeria. This was and still is my fundamental argument. There were wards that had 8 polling units, some 5, mine was 13.

With approximately N170,000 I packed my bags and moved back home to Ilesha.

Telling my story ☺

Until I began my campaign, it didn’t occur to me why it was a slap on the face of a politician that s/he lost his/her ward. No matter how popular one is politically, you’re most popular in your ward.

I was the stubborn boy, born to moderately comfortable parents who played football with every guy on the street, got flogged for it and came back the next day, lost my brother in a fatal gun accident during #OccupyNaija, had led the entire state in common entrance examinations in 1999 and rejected the scholarship that followed and the only child who couldn’t stay in boarding school (ISI, UI)because I was too playful, too popular that I had to be brought home after two terms. To cap it all, I had crossed from the faculty of Pharmacy after four years to study Philosophy despite all arguments to the contrary by everyone and most of all my pharmacist father, just so I could face politics.

In my ward, almost everyone knew this. There was nothing to hide. My entire history was told over and over again in places where I had never been in ages and in communities I knew existed but never reached. My dad had done reasonably enough for the people that it was annoying for those who we couldn’t reach to tell personally of my campaign.

We worked and talked and drove to communities where we would have to park the car metres away so we could walk. Most considered it annoying that we would drive past! I am now agreeing to the notion that we had a viral campaign on social media. It was nothing compared to what we had going on offline. Every opportunity we had where there was a need to tell my story, I did.

Like a 9 month old pregnancy, it was obvious why I did what I did and my resolve. I believe that is what people saw and believed!

Campaigning for #Better

From organising small teams to door to door organising to meetings with elders to raising the finance to our first town hall meeting, it was HUSTLE! My N170,000 had finished after the first week, organizing primaries, posters and setting up a fundraising team of 3.

We ran the contacts, sent mails, called members and posted on social media. When money trickled in, there were at any point in time more than five things competing. As is evident from our consolidated financial statements for our campaign, we raised N860,369.53 and spent approximately N1.05 million +. ~87% of those who made donations were people I knew personally and had established contacts with via previous work, our party, a meeting. 13% were donations recorded from anonymous donors who responded to our tweets and posts.

Whatever we did, I had resolved had to lead to building our own party base in the end. So when people said they could only work for our party and our campaign if we had an ile egbe (party house), we spent the next few weeks putting up one. When it came time to put together an executive team for the ward with each polling unit having one representative on that board each, we organized and put up one. When it came time to not just rally people who will vote for us but get people who will be card carrying members of our party, we set up a process for that.

Today, there is a KOWA presence in my local government and I and the people of Ilesha owe our #BelieveInBetter campaign for that.

Baptism of Dirt

‘Politics is Dirty and Dangerous’.

This phrase I am sure is not alien to any young person who has thought at one time or the other to do something political about Nigeria. The way at which our campaign ended was one that could only be characterized by dirt.

After our primaries which was witnessed by officials of the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission, almost everything went radio silent. The state officers of our party only heard about meetings after they had been held. To our utter amazement when we found out after this repeated itself the third time, KOWA PARTY had been represented all along. A ‘state chairman’ had continued to appear for KOWA PARTY and insisted that he didn’t have any candidates. Even though KOWA had registered in the beginning to be a part of the elections, all correspondence had gone to this ‘state chairman’ who happened to have been suspended from the party.

From insisting that KOWA was not presenting any candidates to missing letters of appointments in INEC’s database to querying INEC Osogbo as to why they sent the name of an impostor to OSIEC as our state chair to IPAC insisting that they would not recognize the authentic state chair in spite of an acknowledged letter by INEC Abuja stating same, I have tried to document this story in the official statement my campaign put out

As I write this, our party is ongoing a through review process into the elections campaign in a bid to identifying the loopholes that were exploited that ensured we were not on the ballot. The extensive review will also be recommending necessary legal actions we might need to take to ensure this serves as deterrent in future elections and in other states where we have presence.

I and the Osun State Acting Chairman have since penned an apology letter to the party for allowing this to happen. We have to do better!

We will be making a mistake if we think that this challenging the status quo is going to be a fair battle. I have since learnt bitterly that it is not going to be.

What’s left? What’s next?

LEFT ::

More than 174 potential members of our party in my ward have been identified from our campaign. This is outside of those who will vote for our party but will prefer to remain non-partisan.

A partially staffed party office that is capable of serving my entire local government is also in existence. As one of the tangibles that we have remaining, it has remained the point of organizing and administration for our party since the elections.

For all the 13 polling units in my ward, we now have committed organizers who want to see a different party and a youthful candidacy become a reality.

A full organizing machinery consisting of ward executives, polling unit organizers, community leaders and potential voters.

NEXT ::

Leveraging on the existing structures we now have, we will be targeting 10,000 members for KOWA PARTY in my local government before September 2018.

Using my ward as a template where we have 13 polling units comprising of communities, streets and joints, each polling unit will have a team of 4 organizers each — 1 main organizer and 3 assistants. Their targets will be to secure 40 houses around their polling units where we can get at least 2 members. I plan to update reports about the progress of this endeavor here on medium.

In simple mathematics … 2 members X 40 households X 13 polling units = 1040 members

There are 11 wards recognized by INEC in my local government. When we successully replicate this in my local government,

1040 members X 11 wards = 11440 members

They say Politics is a game of numbers, innit? This is not the question however, the question is how do we sustain 11440 members without sharing rice and salt? JFK, will you basically just stop all this oyibo you are typing and get real?

Getting real?!

I’ll start with something I remember in a discussion with one of those who have supported my drive for more than a year financially and morally ( I wish I could mention his name, but I can’t). He said. “This money I am giving you is for rice”.

How do we organize the masses of the people who we require to vote for us without resorting into the tactics of what those who have destroyed this nation use — rice, indomie and what have you? Can we really change our country without engaging stomach infrastructure?

A few people in my party might differ with me on this, so this is entirely my personal opinion. My finding is that (i) politics is a game of numbers (ii) if we have an election where everybody votes, those who are illiterates are higher in number than those who are not (iii) because those who currently rule us have mastered the art of engaging those who are illiterates and getting them to do their bidding, they continue to ensure that there are more illiterates than literates through their policies (iv) if illiterates refuse to vote for us, we can not win any election and (v) if we don’t win any election, we cannot change this country.

A little history. On Saturday, June 16, 1951 the inaugural meeting of what was supposed to be the Ibadan Peoples Party was formed. It was a merging of two groups from the N.C.N.C and the Action Group, basically because both parties refused to appoint Ibadan indigenes as officers of neither of the parties. What is important here is the inaugural speech of A.M.A Akinloye, the group’s president in Mapo Hall. George D Jenkins had reported the speech as follows.

The justification of this coming together of members of the two major parties in the Ibadan Peoples Party, with Akinloye as its President and Adelabu as its Vice President came in Akinloye’s speech. There he pointed out that existing Ibadan organizations were not purely political, being concerned also with social and cultural activities; that there was a need for a purely local political party, not linked to any national organization; and that no already existing body was able to bring literates and illiterates together for common action.” [emphasis mine]

How then do we engage illiterates who have not seen any impact of government in their lives and will only vote based on the incentives of rice, box of matches, indomie and salt, who majorly think that public service is a personal achievement and have never heard about nor can comprehend what separation of powers mean?

We must begin a re-orientation process. This is part of what we are doing next. As much as we will continue to provide welfare NEEDS to members of our party in our local government for those who crave it, we will follow up with re-orientation sessions on the tenets of democracy, what governance means, what the role of a councillor is, how the people are taxed, what governing a society should look like and even videos of places where things work and why they work.

Knowledge is Power. Majority of our people don’t know these things and can only relate to the things that they know — rice and salt in exchange for votes!

So starting from our general meeting on the 18th of February, we hosted Mr Zadok Emmanuel who is the convener of What Is Democracy, a platform focused on explaining what democracy entails to as many Nigerians as possible. There will be a 20 minute session on Democracy, Separation of Powers and the role of public officials and a re-orientation process of changing their mindsets.

The Pragmatics of REAL CHANGE

#RealCHANGE

From my days volunteering in Enough is Enough Nigeria till my recent experience running for council, I have seen a core need for our generation to understand that wishing and lamenting about how bad our country is and how fake this recent wave of CHANGE is will not bring us the REAL CHANGE we desire. We will have to be pragmatic about what we want, what we need to do to get what we want and how to go about getting as many people as possible to join us in doing what needs to be done.

That is why I have written this book. I believe if we choose to do what it takes and what it requires and the few steps I have in my opinion highlighted as the way forward in this book, we can realize a new and better Nigeria.

In the wake of the success of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill that we are about to begin celebrating as a generation and because I also understand the challenge of raising finances for the campaign of young candidates, 50% of all the profits on the book will go into funding political campaigns for young people in the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria.

At approximately $6 each, If we sell 1 million copies, we would have raised $3 million dollars for campaigns for young people in 2019.

Each Senatorial District has approximately 21 public offices — 1 Senator, 4 House of Representatives members in a senatorial district, and 4 state assembly representatives in each Federal Constituency making 16 state representatives.

This means we can channel $0.5 million dollars to 1 Senatorial District in each geo-political zone and campaign for all the 21 candidates as an entire campaign team. From the budgeting experience of my campaign, $0.5 million dollars used judiciously can be used to wage a senatorial campaign.

Effectively, every buyer of the book would have participated in a 3 dollar movement that will hopefully be successful in infiltrating the establishment for a new political order.

A New and Better Nigeria

I am optimistic about the possibilities of a new and better Nigeria. I know that there are currently enough hands to make change happen in a little corner of Nigeria and use that as a pivot to take over the establishment. I have no doubts about this. A lot of Nigerians will agree that Nigeria is not worth dying for, but I am strongly convinced in the notion that it’s worth living for. So I continually remind myself of this creed,

Even if Nigeria is not worth dying for, the vision of a new and better Nigeria is worth living for. If not for our own generation, for our kids’ generation and those that come after them.

As with all marathons, every single one meter advance counts. What counts most of all is that we start! The more young Nigerians are on this race however, the higher the chances that at least one of us will reach the finish line.

May God Bless The Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Quick Links —

Financial Expenditure — HERE

Statement on Campaign — HERE

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Jude Feranmi

Jude Feranmi

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A Man For The People! || Founding Africa || Fmr. National Youth Leader for @KOWA_NGR || Technology X Politics || Innovation Researcher