By Rachel Onamusi-Kpiasi
Oppression can be an insidious thing. It is not always the loud brutality of a military man on a “bloody civilian”. Sometimes, the “agbada” employs long-learned military techniques and “weaponizes” societal ills – fear, poverty, hunger, religious and tribal bias, and stereotypes – to much greater impact.
For over 58 years, Nigerian politicians used these tactics to silence the Nigerian masses. Wholesale rigging, thieving, murdering and destruction at the very fabric of the nation while Nigerians were compensated with finger pointing and despondency.
The oppression was so thorough that it quieted any dissenting voices, and turned Nigerians – renowned worldwide for their resilience and resourcefulness – into quivering cowards, grateful to just be alive to “see another day”, regardless of the untold hardships they were waking up to face.
The centerpiece of this oppression is the “godfather”. By financing the election runs of major candidates, and determining who emerged via corrupt party primary processes, they ensured ready, steady access to the Nations coffers, pausing only to throw bones to the next candidate who promised to provide access to yet another cache of the “national cake”.
To truly complete the cycle of oppression, the average Nigerian was taught that this was the only way politics could be practiced. They took turns producing stooges, calling it “zoning”. They sponsored messages of division, employing details like “state of origin” and “political sharia” to divide Nigerians amongst ethnic and religious lines.
Meanwhile these godfathers stayed united in their vision of raping, pillaging and looting Nigeria into nothingness, looking beyond any ethnic or religious lines to divvy up the country as they saw fit.
Omoyele Sowore, the Presidential flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) party, and his ‘Take It Back movement’ have systematically dispelled myths and fallacies perpetuated by the ruling class to hold Nigerians in a vice-like grip of corruption and fear. By running a crowd-funded presidential campaign, they have disrupted the status quo of Nigerian politics. They have also proven two things to be true, foretelling the end of “godfatherism” in Nigeria.
You do not need Godfathers to finance a true campaign.
Perhaps the most crucial part of any political campaign is fundraising. After all, money is the bicycle with which the gospel is disseminated. Whoever raises the funds in a political campaign not only determines its trajectory, but the heart, soul, and complexion of the incoming government. This, to a large extent, is how godfathers have thrived.
By injecting millions and billions of Naira – most of it stolen from government – into campaigns, they retained, and even expanded their influence. Many Nigerians acquiesced to this “reality”, thinking it impossible for ordinary Nigerians to fund a campaign.
Sowore and the AAC envisioned a campaign solely funded by the Nigerian people – a vision that was initially mocked. Their foresight has now been validated. On the eve of the 2019 elections, crowd funding for the campaign has reached an equivalent of 150 million naira!
These are donations from Nigerians! Home and abroad, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian, some gave as little as 50 naira, while others gave as much as 1 million Naira. All of it to sponsor their cries for freedom from looters, thieves, and yes – Godfathers.
Nigerians can volunteer.
Money, however, isn’t all that a campaign needs. Campaigns require different kinds of resources and skill sets. A successful campaign needs strategy and policy analysis and development; grassroots engagement; communication with electorate; logistics; security; and planning, amongst others. A significant portion of the resources of a campaign are typically spent on these activities. Sowore has run a world class campaign without the financial resources other parties would have thrown at these necessities.
He did this by pooling remarkable staff from all over the world. Now, this too, can be achieved with money – lots of it. The difference is that most in his campaign are volunteers, an almost alien concept in Nigerian politics and even everyday life. Beyond the monetary donations to the campaign, people have donated billions of naira’s worth of skills, resources and time.
Many wonder how Sowore’s upstart presidential bid and a five-month old party could have catapulted into becoming the alternative to the two failed establishment parties. They need to look no further than the thousands of global experts his campaign has attracted, in areas as diverse as policy, as specialized as analytics, and as involving as political strategy. The Take-It-Back movement of people drawn from all around the world – within Nigeria and spanning every continent –birthing a true revolution of ideas.
Nigerians are ready for true change.
Perhaps the most telling indication of this new paradigm is the extent to which Nigerians claimed the campaign as their own. Beyond the official strategies implemented by the campaign, this organic movement saw Nigerians take full ownership of their politics.
Unprompted, they created jingles and flyers; eagerly, they engaged their fellow Nigerians on street corners and in public transport. These patriotic Nigerians stoutly defended their new-found hope to the hilt; refusing to return to the brainwashed days of APC and PDP.
Godfathers have oppressed Nigerians by emphasizing money in politics. Bankrolling incompetent officials, sponsoring violence, vote-buying, etc. are all just pavestones on the way to situating thieving government officials to steal for them by proxy. By de-emphasizing the influence of money in politics, Omoyele Sowore and the AAC party have disrupted Nigerian politics, beginning with the ringing of the proverbial bell for the demise of the godfather.
Head, media and publicity
Sowore campaign organization / TakeItBack Movement