If you're passionate about politics and you're concerned about the state of the nation, what reason do you have for not being a member of a political party?
How I learnt to stop complaining and start taking action
When I first came back to Nigeria in 1999, I quickly realized the centrality of government to the economy. I lived in Lagos and it was always obvious when the state government was not spending money- the entire city would become a shadow of itself.
Through my contacts in the state government, I had the opportunity to provide technical support to government departments. I was serving the government but I was not yet a part of it.
It wasn't until the 2003 elections that I had my first real experience of Nigerian politics. The 2003 Lagos Governorship Election was a hard fought battle between Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the late Funsho Williams who had the full backing of the Federal Government with all its power and glory. The People's Democratic Party's (PDP) Election Strategy was personally directed by President Olusegun Obasanjo who was determined to take Lagos away from the upstart Alliance for Democracy (AD).
My job on election night was to collate election results streaming in from various constituencies in Lagos. It was an exhilirating and alarming night- exhilirating because I got to see up close the high level of organization and discipline of Asiwaju's ground game, and alarming because I could also see how easily the PDP kept manufacturing and changing results.
From that night on, I knew that I had to be at the centre of things to ensure that I could make an impact. I joined the party in order to take the lessons learned that night and push my vision for a more advanced election monitoring system. I was able to achieve this aim by the next election (2007 election). You can see the results in this blog post.
Will you join me?
Every Nigerian, young or old, should join a political party in order to have a say in the formulation of political ideology, development of policies and programmes and selection of candidates that emerge from the various political parties. It is not enough to simply show up to vote on election day.
If you're not involved in the activities of political parties, then you'll be forced to choose between whatever unpalatable candidates they might present at the election. This is particularly true because our political system doesn't yet allow for independent candidacy. Even if it did, there are still more reasons to be part of an organized political party then to try to go it alone (these reasons are beyond the scope of this article but if you would like to discuss further you can email me or hit me up on twitter ).
The importance of being active in politics should be a no-brainer- yet its quite disheartening that many good people would rather remain on the fence because of a fear of tarnishing their 'good' name. This is a short sighted and defeatist viewpoint because ultimately your 'good' name will be spoilt anyway when the society degenerates because of a scarcity of good men and women at the helm of power. People will ask you where you were when the society was going to hell in a handbasket, without a compass or a whistle to raise the alarm.
Here's a summary of reasons why you should join a political party.
5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Party
Reason 1: According to the 1999 constitution, you can only be elected into a political office if you are a member of a party. This point is reinforced by INEC in a recent public notice.
Reason 2: Even if you don't ever want to run for office, if you are passionate about politics, you should want a seat at the table when decisions are made about who gets to run for office. These decisions are generally made during party primary elections and only party members can vote in such primaries.
Reason 3: Under our political system, the government is formed by the party that wins the election whether at local, state or national level. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it is easier to become a federal, state or local government appointee if you are a member of the party in power.
Reason 4: If you believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction, the first place to begin to change this is through the political parties which in theory formulate the ideology, policies and programmes that their members will execute if and when they get into power. If you are as intelligent, exposed and experienced as you say you are, then you should be able to make your voice heard within the party system.
Reason 5: Parties are run with a relatively high level of secrecy. You will always be an outsider if you don't join a political party. Of course, not everyone is built to be a member of a disciplined and hierarchical organization like a party. But when you're young, politically aware and passionate about your country, there's no better place to make your presence felt.
A Call to Arms
To summarize- young, politically aware Nigerians will make a stronger impact on politics, policy and governance if they join and become active members of political parties which form the bedrock of our political system.
Do you want to join a political party today? Here are the steps you should take.
- Define yourself: what do you believe in ? Write out your political ideology and your vision for your community and for the nation. You will need this to be able to make a choice about where you belong.
- Identify all the political parties which have a presence in your area.
- Research: go online and research their history, constitution, manifestos and performance
- Network: Talk to members of these parties to get a sense of their ethos.
- Register in your local chapter and begin to attend meetings. All politics is local.
Are you currently a member of a political party? Have you ever tried to join? What was your experience? Are you planning on joining a party in the near future? I would love to hear your thoughts. Let's talk in the comments section.