Far Away From Nigeria.
Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle Private Estate,
Lagos or Abuja,
Why I cannot work for you
My name is David Hundeyin, and I am a journalist who has caught your eye. That’s what I believe anyway, judging from your decision to reach out to me for a possible collaboration on your forthcoming attempt to crack the pinnacle of electoral politics in Nigeria at your very first attempt. You want to be President, and I think that is lovely. You also want me on your team and I am flattered by this. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join your team.
You see, it’s not that I don’t like you or respect what you stand for in the most general sense. Younger candidates with track records of productive work creating value in the private sector, who can use a computer and address an audience without sounding like a moron – what’s not to like about that? I for one am thrilled that younger people with newer and better ideas are coming into the political space. There’s only one problem.
A story from 2007
You see, the thing is, I know a thing or 2 about Nigerian politics. Much of what I know about it, I found out against my will, because when you grow up living under the roof of someone whose entire career revolved around the civil service and its interaction with politicians and the private sector, you cannot avoid knowing things. Things like, for example, the use of electoral no-hopers as strategic spoilers or simply as gimmicks for greater post-election leverage.
When I was a 17-year-old during the 2007 general elections, my dad had a close friend whom we shall refer to as “Guvvy.” Guvvy was the nickname dad gave him because he had announced that he would be running for governor of Lagos in 2007. Overnight, Guvvy went from plain old Mr so-and-so, Real Estate Consultant with a Mercedes Benz V-boot, to “Dr. S.O. So-And-So, FPe, UPDm, LLX, *insert acronym*, Gubernatorial Candidate of the *insert now-defunct party.*
His V-boot disappeared and was replaced with a gleaming new Toyota Landcruiser, complete with 2 motorbike escorts and a Toyota Hilux with 4 armed mobile policemen. Guvvy was a Very Important Person now. Even the texture of his voice changed. Dad wanted to know – where did you get the money to go into politics? Guvvy laughed and let him into a secret.
The whole political campaign, you see, was funded by a certain ex-General in Minna. This ex-General had summoned Guvvy to his hilltop mansion and instructed him to run for governor in Lagos. Using the money and contacts provided by General Minna Hilltop Mansion, Guvvy was convinced that he had a chance at succeeding Bola Tinubu in 2007. Well, the elections came and went, and Guvvy unsurprisingly came nowhere near the top 3 candidates. In fact, he barely scored any votes at all except in his stronghold where he got a little over 10,000 votes.
A disappointed Guvvy discovered after the election, that General Hilltop Mansion never actually thought he stood a realistic chance of winning – or even wanted him to. The real reason behind the general’s decision to sponsor his candidacy was simply to score as many votes as possible in his stronghold, so as to take those votes away from Babatunde Fashola, the ACN candidate. In electoral terms, Guvvy the “3rd Force” Candidate was what is known as a Spoiler. Nothing more.
Why are you using me to play?
The reason I am telling the story of Guvvy in this letter is that I am sure that none of you is naive or ignorant. You all know what a spoiler is and why politicians use specific candidates as electoral spoilers. Those candidates always fit a specific profile aimed to achieve only one goal – to strategically siphon votes from one of 2 front-runners. The tactics differ, but the goals are always the same.
Sometimes it is the Candidate who is a well-known religious leader with no political pedigree. He will obviously lose, but the votes from his church members are votes that would have otherwise gone to a frontrunner. Sometimes it is the “First Woman XYZ” candidate, who will never win that election but will siphon female votes from a frontrunner. The same goes for the “Not Too Young To” candidate, the “I Have a Ph.D.” candidate, and the celebrity candidate. Different candidates, same electoral purpose.
It is no secret that the next president of Nigeria will come from either the PDP or the APC. It is also no secret that none of you whom this letter is addressed to, has any chance of running for president under those platforms. Your use of “3rd Force” platforms to run for president 12 months to the end of campaigning is either an admission of defeat or a vainglorious attempt at honourable failure. It could also be a strategic play to position yourselves for appointments after the election, but that is academic.
My real purpose for writing this letter is to plead with you to keep those shenanigans to yourselves. Please do not reach out to me. I consider it an insult to my education and all the knowledge I have acquired, for any politician – legacy or 3rd Force – to try to use my services as a stepping stone to post-election appointments, strategic vote-siphoning or pointless failure. I am sure there are hundreds of young Nigerians who do not mind using their time and energy to play games that have no benefit to them.
I am not one of them. I take myself and my work very seriously indeed. It is that seriousness that has forced me into exile and constantly puts my personal safety in question. The question of who becomes the next president of Nigeria is quite literally a life-and-death one for me. I cannot afford to waste my time engaging in utopian flights of fancy or mischief with anyone – the business of identifying the least terrible presidential candidate of the terrible candidates that APC and PDP will produce is not a joking matter for me.
I hope you can understand where I am coming from and why I have not replied to your messages or returned your calls. One day, if you are in a serious political position and actually have a chance at cracking the electoral equation, I would be happy to work with you on a pro-market, pro-freedom, pro-liberalisation, pro-human rights political agenda.
Until then, I have appointments with the UN Refugee Agency to attend.
David I. Hundeyin
Culled from BusinessDay