Nigeria’s New Political Party: Learning from the Telecom Sector


As for PDP and her members bent on destroying the new party and sustaining their monopoly of being grand recipient of Nigerian curses, words of Niccoló Machiavelli may be a good tonic “You must bind men to you by benefits, or you must make sure of them in some other way, but never reduce them to the alternative of having either to destroy you or perish themselves.

Recent debates dominating the blogosphere and Nigerian society is about a new party which is an amalgam of known opposition parties which intend to challenge the ruling party in the next general election in a bid to wrest control of the country from their grip.

As many people welcome the development, (un)surprisingly the ruling party and its henchmen went into town with all manner of mudslinging. The focus is on a couple of its founders and past reputation of one of the parties which glorify godfatherism in Nigerian politics. All these, along with doubt about the workability of putting diverse group of (selfish) people together to orchestrate Nigerian’s political rebirth as well as lack of clear-cut ideologies have made the new party a target of pundits left, right and centre.

As I ponder on the situation, I cannot help but laugh at my people who, not long ago, were desperately yearning for an alternative political party that can challenge the ruling party in a free and fair election. It is no brainer that none of the mushroom parties in Nigeria today can defeat PDP in a free and fair election as they do not have the requisite national spread to upset PDP which is firmly rooted across the country. Unfortunately, PDP is a party that had acculturated rigging to such a level that even when it is clear it will win the election, the fear of upset will drive it into committing electoral frauds, just to be sure victories will come its way.

Those aside, so why are many Nigerians suddenly up in arms against a newly formed party that has not even been officially registered but is mobilising for merger while talking to other smaller parties in a bid to convince them of its missions. Why are the majority of Nigerian critics pessimistic about the future?

The answer lies in the reality that some of the arrowheads of the new party are unpopular among Nigerian critics and political saints. Some have been accused of corruption, while some are seen as parasites feasting on their political godsons. There is also fear that an ex-dictator who once ruled the nation with iron hands may return to power. Aside this, there is also fear that there will be no internal democracy in the new party due to past experiences. Be that as it may, I keep asking myself if these accusations are justifiable enough to plunge Nigeria into a one party state. I am seeing differently!

In some of their efforts at justifying their opposition and criticism of the new party, they asserted that the new party has no ideology and it contains same people who migrated from the ruling party. The common rational is that all politicians are the same. So if all parties and politicians are the same, why are they yearning for change knowing that the change must be driven by politicians and why are they not working to raise new generation of politicians/leaders or form a strong political party that will fulfil the condition for their desired sanctimonious leadership?

When people make collective and conscious decision to embrace or reject a political party, the party will naturally return to drawing board to see how to sustain the romance or win the heart of the majority. More often than not, the parties tend to fashion their strategies for political survival after the wishes of the majority. Since majority always win the vote in a democracy.

For instance, where people made it clear that they can only vote along tribalism and religion divide, the parties will nominate candidates along that path in a bid to win the people over. I also observed that many people will not come out to vote in an election without monetary or some form of inducements, and this motivated some parties/politicians to spend a lot of money in this direction. It is no more news that most Nigerians, especially in neighbourhood sell their votes directly or indirectly. Some will vote for you on the condition that you nominate “their son” as part of your team. And “their son” is expected to return the “favour” after the election.

Where there is what look like perfect party (some people call it progressive party as if the others are regressive), there is amalgam of selfish and overambitious leaders all of who see themselves as potential presidents, Governors or party leaders. They therefore worked on cross-purpose with each trying to outwit the others. They betray one another and open door for shameless flirtation with rival parties with prospect of forcing their own parties to look at them as formidable candidates.

I personally think branding all members of a party as evil and branding another as saints is wrong and absolute error of judgement. There are bad eggs in all parties and there are jewels among them.  One of the reasons why we are still in the wood is our tendency to commit fallacy of generalization. It is much like saying since some of the cyber fraudsters caught by Interpol are Nigerians, then the whole people carrying Nigerian passport are fraudsters: Or that because some Nigerian leaders are looters, all citizens are also looters.

I recall when the international community stereotyped Nigerians this way, most Nigerians had to fight back and make it clear that they are not all fraudsters. This is the same sin being committed by people glorifying one party and condemning another. This is the way I look at the people who are quick to condemn the new party even when it is yet to start operating officially and has yet smell power.

I understand the fear of those who feel the new party may go in the way of the ruling party and those who are looking at the composition of its founders.  Yet, I have to admit that it is impossible to truly judge the new party until it actually get there and control power. It is also impossible for us to know which party will perform better until there is a level playing field. It is my strong conviction that we will never be able to make parties do our bidding unless we have readily available alternative(s). I am firmly in support of two parties or even three parties as against what we currently have... It is only when the system is balanced that we will begin to see parties evolve ideologically and people will begin to use their voting power to decide which party to support and which not to punish at the poll.

What we currently have is a system where all parties aim to win elections for politicians to earn fat salaries and ridiculous pension and not to serve the people. There are however, millions of youths who can turn things around. They should see the formation of a new party as an opportunity to be part of the players and work for change. Rather than spending their valuable times looking at a few men in the party and writing articles on why the party MUST and WILL fail. They should join or flirt with any of the two parties and work from inside to hijack it. Let them encourage the two to be stronger and then pressure them perform. Let them encourage the few bold ones who want to go into politics.

One of the reasons why most people hate PDP was because PDP is the only party they know at the centre and they have not seen any change. PDP has become synonymous to everything that is wrong with Nigeria. We should realize that this is how monopoly works. If they want change, let them have the change and let them see with their own eyes if the other party is better or not. I personally think PDP will become stronger and more responsive to people when it has a direct strong rival. 

Allow me to digress to reveal how Nigerians will react to new stronger parties, using the most practical experience we all know:

When MTN came to Nigeria, the company was the leading telecom provider and Nigerians had no other option aside the Econet which was also offered poor services. NITEL was in comatose and Nigerians yearn for effective telecommunication services.  MTN told Nigerians that per second billing was impossible and that we have to live with the extortion and the exploitation. No one, not even the government had the power to stop them as they were practically the leader. Most Nigerians found Econet as better alternative, not because its services are better but because it was slightly cheaper. I can remember many activists shouted and protested over it, but MTN stood its ground and the activists achieved nothing even when they protested by switching off their lines. 

Then entered Globacom which rolled out per second billing system from inception and them reduced her tariff significantly, yet while offering quality services. What happened? Nigerians started holding two phones and most of them started embracing the new provider. With the better alternative in town, MTN that once said it was impossible to have per second billing immediately introduced the system and also slashed its tariff. Since then, the telecom tariffs have been coming down and today, more players had entered the market with the leaders outdoing one another to win the heart of the customers. Those who couldn't cope had to sell their stake or manage to be alive in the shadow of others.

But wait, does it mean the Glo networks dominate forever? Nigerians soon discovered that all of them are the same. However, the power to carry more than one phone is their real power as they know when to dumb a poor service provider and recharge a better one... And what happened to MTN that they loved to hate? The company is still there; though no more enjoying the monopoly in the market, it had managed to learn to response to Nigerians' need. All the operators are now looking for ways to serve their customers and retain them...and this is what keep them going. One network can no longer dictate the market exclusively as in the past or take the whole nation to ransom.....This is what I think will happen in our politics if we encourage second or third strong parties to emerge...

It doesn't matter who set the party up, with time, the parties will understand that their survival depends their ability to fulfil electorates’ needs. We all know that most if not all the founders of PDP have been pushed out of the party. The same will happen to the new party with time... When the new party fail, Nigerians will turn to the PDP again just as we continue to turn to MTN when other networks fumble....

For this reason, it is wise to encourage the new party and let them grow. It is only enemies of Nigeria and Nigerians that will not want new parties to evolve aside PDP.

As for PDP and her members bent on destroying the new party and sustaining their monopoly of being grand recipient of Nigerian curses, words of Niccoló Machiavelli may be a good tonic “You must bind men to you by benefits, or you must make sure of them in some other way, but never reduce them to the alternative of having either to destroy you or perish themselves.”

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