Since the day our foremost believer in a new Nigeria declared his intent to run for the highest office in the land, many reactions, as expected, have trailed it.
These reactions, if polled together, are not mere rants of jejune or of individuals who have forgotten that Fela is in the age range of those the constitution allows to run for presidency. When sift through, we will find those who truly believe in Fela but have deeper understanding of the whole process. This is not to say many have shouted on the top of their voices only for mischievous reasons. More than those who have questioned Fela’s chances are those who have resulted into insulting whoever questions his candidacy.
In the same vein, I guess as a response to calls from his numerous followers too, Yele Sowore of Sahara Reporters also declared that he would be running for presidency. It is a clear indication that by 2019 many young people would have turned on the heat and the leaders of yesterday who have stayed into our today can begin to take the quit notice very serious.
In Fela, whom I met at an event in 2012 at the Expo Hall of Eko Hotels and Suite, I see a man who truly believes that Nigeria can work and everything we have dreamt of would come to pass. For more than 2 years, I read, religiously, the Gemstone Creed. I carried it everywhere. It was always in my chest pocket. I didn’t memorise it but I read them very well that I began to have an idea of what I want Nigeria to be. Albeit, he was not my first teacher on a better Nigeria but his input and overall work in building young persons who would hold their own against all odds can’t be overemphasised.
Like Fela, Sowore is not a man who is not known to some people. He has given every government a run for their money by keeping them on their toes. We can liken his work at Sahara Reporters with what Assange did with WikiLeaks. And yes, Sowore is also human. He has his flaws. He has made mistakes but he has shown that Nigeria can be better and has always supported the cause of the common man.
However, like Late Fawehinmi and Utomi, Fela and Sowore would not become President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at least, not in 2019. And again, you’re free to insult me for this.
Politics in every part of the world is played the same way. It is dirty, brutal and unfair. Even when a level playing ground is provided, some people know how to uneven it. They have mastered all the tricks in the books and use it to their advantage. From Illinois to Imo, London to Lagos, Brussels to Benin and Taiwan to Taraba, Politics is local and must be played that way.
In the case of Fela who visited his home town of Okemesi Ekiti in Ekiti State last week has shown his detractors that truly he has no real connection with the people. It could be argued that Fela has built a strong network of people in his environment but it would haunt in this political journey that he was not one of them in Okemesi Ekiti.
Let us forget the countless number of students who have listened to Fela in several of his motivational outreaches and those who have listened to his tape, how many others do you think know about Fela Durotoye? Just like in the case of Fawehinmi and till recent times, Utomi, they’re indeed people who have fought the good fight for the masses from their vantage positions with no real connection with the people.
To emerge triumphant in any political contest, the electorates must be able to see you in the light of the office you’re running. They must be able to see you in the struggle as one of them. It is all about perception.
For the late Fawehinmi, beyond the walls of the courts and the streets where he led protests, the people couldn’t connect him with the highest office in the land. If Fawehinmi becomes President who’ll stand against him if he errs? The people couldn’t afford to lose their only voice to the office. They’d rather see him as their saviour from tyrants through litigation rather than nation builder from the highest office.
It is same for Utomi who was a student leader and since retreated to the struggles in air conditioned rooms and high powered meetings. This was the case for George Weah but he learnt the lesson early on.
For the people of Liberia, Weah was a god and his godliness must not be tainted in the murky waters of political adventure. His sacrifices for the country were not buried under the stones when they rejected him at the polls but none of them saw Weah in the light of a political saviour. Yes, they saw him dazzle on TV and brought glory to the land but there was not enough connection with the general public to trust him with their votes. Football skills and leadership (in political office) after all are not the same. Though in the case of George Weah, he took the lessons in good fate, realised that it cannot be a walk over, the rules of the game must also be understood and today, Weah is the president of Liberia and as his tenure gradually takes shape, I wish him success that would surpass the one football brought his way.
In politics, like every other venture, every step of it must be deliberate and taken in anticipation of better outcomes. When one only responds to situation, they’d lose good chances of covering grounds. Imagine that when Fela set out with his campaign for a new Nigeria some years back, he had built in the consciousness of his believers that politics is a part of the process, today, they would have all owned structures that would deliver the needed votes for him come 2019.
A presidential aspirant who visited his home town for the first time in a long time would show that he has not participated in the electoral process of that community. Why didn’t Fela just claim the unit where he votes in Lagos? That is if he has voted in Lagos before.
To rebuild Nigeria, we must consciously work to take over the machineries that are available. If in the last 6 years, Fela and his supporters have participated actively in Nigerian politics, they would hijacked all known structures and overhaul them for good.
And to truly win a presidential election, a total stranger would not sway the votes. In this contest, Fela and Sowore are strangers and they won’t win the 2019 presidential polls.