It is a new dawn in the evolution of political governance since Nigeria’s independence. A move that, if sustained and the electorate lives up to their responsibilities, the psyche of the average Nigerian – down to grassroots dwellers – would change and the electorate would snap out of its doldrums. The result will see voters directing the course of societal and political propriety in grassroots governance across the country.
Gone would be cash-in-hand or money-politics and the drive to be accountable in leadership positions across board would become a standard.
A tall dream for a nation so politically distorted, but the foundation was laid in Lagos on Saturday, July 15th, 2017, by a collection of people, passionate for good governance and hungry for the elusive change credible Nigerians have been chasing for decades.
Under the aegis of Ojodu People’s Parliament, the group went on a massive electioneering sensitisation road march around Ojodu Local Council Development Area (LCDA).
Beginning from Haco Junction (Adekunle Village) in Adeniyi Jones, the march took off about 9 o’clock in the morning and rounded up at Oluwole Estate also in Ikeja, after some seven hours of music orchestrated neighbourhood campaign through Muyibi Street, Ajayi Road on to Yaya Abatan via Excellence Hotel and Ogunusi Road – all the way to Ojodu, Berger, Oke-Ira and the Lagos State Secretariat.
Clad in white branded t-shirts atop jeans, skirts and jumpers according to choice, the Parliamentarians moved in a motorcade, led by an open truck equipped with high powered amps, a running generator with one of the leaders, septuagenarian Mrs. Olaide Ogunlewe blaring out the creed of the march and the message was clear and simple:
“Come out and meet the people who are asking for your votes. They want to govern you? Then come out and know them one-on-one. We are asking you to come and ask them questions and tell them what you want them to do for you.
“Come and know the candidates you are voting for so you can hold them accountable. Stop selling your votes for a cup of rice.
“Power belongs to all of us…Come out and play your part. This government, na we get am.
“Stop asking the wrong people questions. Come and tell the candidates about the gutters around you, the state of your markets, electricity, water, ask what they will do about your roads.
“Before now, you did not know. Now that you know, come out and ask them questions. It is your government; they are your servants. Come to Excellence Hotel, Ogba, on Tuesday from 5pm – 9pm,” and lots more.
To clear doubts about who they are, the message adds: “We are not politicians; we are not canvassing for votes. We want you to know that you have the power and the vote and you can hold your leaders accountable.”
The passion and zeal that powered the march were unprecedented and uncommon in the Nigerian polity. Everyone was mobile and a handful of them carried bold placards with inscriptions that amplify the message of the theme:
*Know your candidates. You can hold them accountable *Power belongs to all of us. Come and play your part *Stop selling 4 years of your life for a cup of rice *Se na like this we go de deh?, among others.
Each Parliamentarian engaged standers-by, they approached those watching from behind their gates or inside their compounds; market women in their shops, tricycle operators loading in garages, motorists caught in the traffic, etc. Even residents, motorists, commuters and market women and children were visibly impressed as the convoy blared the message along the long route round the Ojodu LCDA. At strategic points, the convoy stopped to draw sensitise members of the public and drive the message home.
The people behind the great effort took a leaf from the “Road Show” of the 1960s when you had to make a public show to attract attention. They had a group of young theatre arts children, extremely exciting dancers-cum-demonstrators who drew large crowds of people to gather and as they watched, they listened. And the message was blaring, members of the team engaged people in their shops, at their gates, in their tricycles, even mechanics at their duty posts in a heart-to-heart discussion.
At the transformed Berger terminal, the group engaged hard core area fathers, taxi driver’s association officials, even National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) officials and some radical youths on a “let’s-reason-this-out-together” discourse.
At Shonola Street junction, off Ogunshola Street, inside Ogba, the rally team ran into some APC counselors and chairmen campaign convoy. There was apprehension on the part of the politicians suspecting that the Peoples’ Parliament rally was campaigning against them. They were however enlightened that their candidates have to face the people on Tuesday and answer questions from the electorate.
The march on Saturday unveiled different levels of understanding amongst the electorate. While a section sneered and muttered that “they are politicians, na money dey talk”, a greater category of people were visibly impressed. Some responded, saying “Yes, it is time we question them! We cannot continue like this,” while a different segment appeared indifferent.
It was indeed a new dawn, a show of passion to get things right for a change and a very healthy, laudable interactive development.
But laudable as the project is, it was clear that the culture of “money-for-vote” polity has taken root as corruption. And to compound the situation, unemployment, poverty and a bleak future have made a larger section of the electorate so vulnerable that this kind of sensitization and vision would no doubt require sustained consistency and drive to be able to remove the veil from the eyes of the average electorate and really encourage the people rise up to their rights.
The Tuesday Town Hall Meeting
On Tuesday July 18, 2017, the Banquette Hall of the exclusive Excellence Hotel in Ogba, Ikeja began to gather crowds from late afternoon. Officials of Ojodu People’s Parliament had set the stage to receive candidates of the political parties and stakeholders – and they were not disappointed.
Apparently, some political parties and their candidates were not comfortable with the invitation to come and defend their manifesto or face the electorate, for it was observed that all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed to show up to face the people.
However, the turnout was about 60 percent of the expected 200. Candidates of the Accord Party and their supporters were fully represented and other counsellorship and chairmanship candidates were present.
The questions and answers Parley was encouraging and promising as both sides showed renewed awareness and dire need for accountability to the people. However, officials of Ojodu People’s Parliament acknowledged that this is just the starting point.
Mrs. Olaide Ogunlewe, reviewing the parley on Wednesday morning, told The Daily Times that the 60 percent turnout was a pass mark.
“It was a good turnout; everything went very well; the Baales were there; reps of Oba of Aguda were there, the clergy and people from all walks of life were present.
“The people have asked their questions and the candidates have answered; let’s wait and see what will happen after the Saturday polls.”
The next step, it was gathered, would be a continuation of the Town Hall Meeting.
“Immediately after the inauguration of successful candidates, we will give them a few months to settle down, and then invite them to periodic parliamentary meetings, just like the one we held on Tuesday,” Ogunlewe continued.
“We will say to them: Now you have been voted in, you have settled down, what are your plans? What are you going to do? These are the things you told us you will do if voted in, and so on. The idea is that we want to begin to hold them accountable for good grassroots governance right from the beginning.
“The Parliamentary meeting is planned to be a regular feature but we are yet to determine its regularity; may be once in a quarter, whether once in two months, etc.”
The Daily Times learnt firsthand that the Ojodu Parliamentarians are not working alone. According to a release signed by Steering Committee leader, Comrade Omoaholo Omoakhalen, the Rally and Town Hall Forum are part of many efforts designed to foster citizens’ participation in grassroots governance across the country, and aimed at enriching the democratic space; the activities are important aspects of a recently launched initiative, My Local Government Nigeria (My LG NG).
While My LG NG is intended to target the over 800 Local Governments and LCDAs in Nigeria in the near future, Ojodu LCDA is chosen as the pilot project.
The Rally was deliberately timed to prepare the people for the Local Government elections in Lagos State coming up tomorrow, Saturday July 22, 2017 and the end purpose is to create an all-inclusive Ojodu People’s Parliament (OPP). This is expected to contribute and shape out the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2017 and beyond and, in the long term, institute a culture of good grassroots governance whereby citizens hold their local government leaders accountable, and by extension, their commissioners, ministers, governors, senate constituency representatives and ultimately, the president and vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The group, The Daily Times gathered, has been working behind the scene in areas of policy advisory for the development of programmes that redress systemic failure in public secondary schools and for civil liberty groups like Save Nigeria Group (SNG), among others.
Another arm of the body is the International Centre for Reconstruction and Development (ICRD), which, The Daily Times learnt, has been quietly reconstructing the community socially, economically and politically.
ICRD is a neutral, none partisan, None Governmental Organisation which has been involved in the social and economic aspects of the society behind the scene but now launched to enter into mainstream politics.