The Battle of 100,000 by Omagbitse Barrow
When Plato, the Ancient Greek Scholar remarked and I paraphrase: “Those who think they are too intelligent to get involved in politics will end up being led by people who are less intelligent than they are”, he must have been speaking about Nigeria.
I will like to start by taking everyone on a journey of Nigeria’s post-independence political history. Let’s start from 1960 – the Government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa President Azikiwe and all the way to Ironsi, Gowon, Mohammed, Obasanjo (I), Shagari, Buhari (I), Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo (II), Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari (2). These administrations and regimes have been collectively responsible for the “mess” that Nigeria has become and each set of leaders, their cabinets, close aides and associates have contributed in their own ways towards the “Problem with Nigeria”, some much more than others, but all of them culpable and guilty. During each administration or regime, I imagine that there were less than 100,000 people that were directly involved in running those administrations including the Head of State/Government, his own Cabinet, Special Advisers and Assistants, Chief Executives and Board Members of Government Agencies, the Governors/Military Administrators/Premiers and their own cabinets, advisers and political functionaries, Party leaders, Legislators at both Regional/State and Federal Levels and then add to that all their private-sector cronies and lackeys who helped them perpetuate the mis-rule of our country. Add them all up and you may discover that at each point in time, they totaled not up to 100,000 people.
Essentially at each point in our turbulent history, Nigeria and Nigerians have been held hostage by no more than 100,000 people. A country whose population was 45 million in 1960 (450 times 100,000) and is now about 190 million people (1,900 times 100,000) has been mis-managed by 100,000 people, while the rest of us sat back doing what? Whining, complaining, discussing the problem of Nigeria, allowing ourselves to be swayed by the ethnic and religious politics that they fostered and allowing them to buy our votes and continue to leave us poor, destitute and eternally indebted to a rogue political class (in military or civilian outfits).
Interestingly, most elections to the Senate in 2019 were decided by less than 100,000 votes in Senatorial Districts that had more than five times that number of registered voters. Ditto for House of Representatives Constituencies. I imagine the real average will be significantly lower than 100,000, and in some places as low as 30,000 votes were cast. Imagine if the greater majority of people who spend more time discussing the problems with Nigeria without doing anything decided to actually try to do something. For example, getting more actively involved in the political process, joining political parties, being courageous enough to vie for political office, being more vigilant about political issues, acting against inept and incompetent leaders, voting on election day and voting their consciences rather than being blackmailed by the cabal of 100,000 into voting for them (with the usual money, tribal and religious sentiments)
We are a much larger and more potent force than these 100,000 people, so why have we allowed them to hold sway each time. It’s simple: they have kept us too busy worrying about our livelihood – barely enough food on our tables, electricity, water and other amenities and keeping us distracted with their political antics and tricks and too dependent on the paltry jobs, businesses and opportunities that we are too busy constantly scrambling for than paying attention to the bigger prize. We too being inept followers are more than happy to continue following and complaining and decide to leave politics and governance to these people who are in charge.
We claim that politics is dirty but forget that everything will be dirty if only “dirty” people are involved in it. In reality, we too are dirty, because all we are really concerned about is getting an opportunity to become a part of the elite 100,000 that are ‘running” things, as happens each time there is a new Government in town. The average Nigerian business man or professional is not really interested in having things change – they are more interested in things continuing as they are, and then getting a window of opportunity to join the 100,000 who are in charge either as their Personal or Special Assistants, Cabinet/Board Appointees or preferred Contractors in the various agencies of Government.
I recall how when I started writing more politically and socially relevant articles in the Nigerian newspapers since 2014, I will get calls and texts from family and friends encouraging me to hook up with one politician or the other (part of the 100,000), so that I could end up with an Advisory or Executive role. Fortunately, I was never interested because I always understood that once I got sucked into the world of the 100,000, I would lose my soul and my ability to independently build political power and strength and use it courageously to shake-up and shake us off the hold of the 100,000.
We need to however form our own band of 100,000 – not on a crusade to just ‘overthrow” the existing oligarchs only to create our own despotic government (as is being touted across the country), but to build political institutions and ideologies that will stand the test of time and create the Nigerian renaissance that we all yearn for.
It almost seems like colonialism or apartheid, where a minority population with power, money and influence continue to subjugate the majority, who actually can take back the reins if they muster up the courage to do so. Let’s be courageous and fight the good fight in this battle of the 100,000s. in fact if we could just find 100,000 Forward-Thinking Nigerians in each State decide to rise to this challenge and become Forward-Acting, we will successfully wrestle power from the ‘establishment” political class, and re-direct the fortunes of our country. #Let’sGetInvolved.