July 21, 2018

‘Poorlitics’: Model for aspiring young leaders



By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

In the words of the former governor of Yobe State and serving member of the senate, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, in his book titled, Poorlitics, ‘’If you follow your people, you have no problem in leadership.

Explain the issues to them as thoroughly as possible, and if they know you act in their interest, trust them to help you decide by voicing their real opinions or taking a vote, then follow the majority.”


There has been this apprehension, especially among the youth, on how to jump into the political waters for elective positions. The notion in Nigeria context is that for you to contest any elective position, you must have amassed stupendous wealth to make in-road. Even with the Not-too-young-to-run Bill that was recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, there is still the fear that political contest in a country ravaged by poverty is not for the poor.

However, Senator Ibrahim, in what he described as Progressive Political Leadership in his book, ‘Poorlitics’, co-authored by Dr. Sam Agba Egwu, has made it clear that contesting an elective position does not necessarily demand financial affluence. The book simply introduces two concepts; the politics of the poor and mass mobilization. Using himself as example, Senator Ibrahim said that from his youthful age, he put into practice poorlitics method which helped him to rise from poverty to become governor for three terms.

The concept of Poorlitics is useful for the youth who may have something to offer for his immediate community, state or country but without the financial muscle to realize his aspiration. It is a concept, if put into practice as espoused by the senator, that will make one excel without deep pocket or engaging in corrupt practices.

The concept of Poorlitics teaches how to become a successful politician even when one is poor by offering practical, project-based and progressive political leadership. It is a concept when applied by more people could transform the country.

Poorlitics is a concept which translates to a truism: “if you give to the people, they will give back to you many times over”. For instance, the author of ‘Poorlitics’, Senator Ibrahim was said to have contested for the position of Yobe state governor at the age of 42 and with only N20,000 in his bank account but was able to weather the storm as a result of the contributions of the people he had helped who decided to provide the rest. Incidentally, as at that time when he made up his mind to throw his weight into the political ring, he had neither political godfather nor the thugs to carry ballot boxes for him.

For the youths, the concept of Poorlitics and Senator Ibrahim’s method is a crucial lesson and inspiration to those interested in politics. As a young man, he faced and defeated powerful godfathers with branded vehicles and thugs. He only had friends, their cars and the people. They tried to rig, the people defended him and he won with a landslide.

The lesson here is that he decided not to engage in the traditional Nigerian politics which is not only costly and money oriented, but also involves bribes, publicity, security, thugs, rigging, violence and even ruthlessness by the candidate to undo the opponents. Even if the person becomes successful through this brand of politics, he needs to recover his funds even with profits, reward his supporters which should be part of the bargain and encourage corruption.

But the Progressive Political Leadership is cheaper because it is people oriented contrary to the other one that is money oriented. It involves no bribe but requires good reputation. There are no thugs, no rigging because the people are always there with you. No violence and failure means little loss and there is no need for ruthlessness. On victory, there will be no funds to recover, there will be more dividends to the people and this concept has no room for corrupt practices.

The impact of progressive political leadership is that practical projects are done regularly before seeking office and people believe your sincerity; give you full support and even vote for the person as many times as possible in various elections and political positions.

This has some benefits which include people fighting for the person; they raise funds for the person so as to make elective position less costly, campaign and defend the person’s votes. It increases service to the people, it leads to more victories and guarantee career in politics.

Although this progressive political leadership is not common in the country, spreading the concept can change the face of politics in the country positively..

Under this method, individuals, non governmental organizations and companies can volunteer to identify with a person who has been recognised to be of immense importance to the society through selfless services.

Although the method may not be popular, it has been adopted by some of the founding fathers of the country such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Aminu Kano, Chief MKO Abiola, Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam, Senator Olusola Saraki, Dr. Abubakar Rimi, Ibrahim Waziri, Tarka among others.

The author of Poorlitics, Senator Ibrahim, an adept practitioner of progressive politics stated in his book, “I would dedicate my future years to teaching younger politicians how to use the principles of progressive political leadership to become politicians that succeed no matter how poor they are.”

The former Yobe State Governor also said that with the people around you as an aspiring leader, you do not need much money, thugs or godfathers. Your concern should be how to get the common man to trust in your capacity and leadership capabilities.