Jimmy Agbaje says he is now a debtor because of his failed bid to become the governor of Lagos State. He is just one of the many people who have suffered great pains because of their involvement in politics. The other day, my friend, Paul, told me that his father would not have suffered a stroke if he hadn’t delved into partisan politics. I tried to educate him that he was just being superstitious, but he refused to agree with me. After Abubakar Audu’s death, Paul reminded me that Nigerian politics was enough to give anyone a high blood pressure – he even thinks all Nigerian politicians are hypertensive. If you would want to be a politician or you are already one, and would love to have good health and protect yourself and loved ones from any dangers, this article is for you.
Before we go into the main conversation, I would like start with some remarks. You might be right to think that all you need in Nigerian politics is a strong Godfather. But, be warned that you might have to show your loyalty until all the blood in your veins runs out. What do I mean? Even though you might have served your Godfather with all your might, he might still demand more even when you get into office. What is the alternative to ‘Godfatherism’? Or rather, apart from having a Godfather, what else should an aspiring or current politician do? I will attempt to let you know what to do in the succeeding paragraphs.
As someone who has observed Nigerian politics for some time, the most important advice I am going to give you is to be prayerful. Why? James Ocholi’s family might be right that something fishy happened to their brother. Contrary to what the federal road safety corps (FRSC) boss told the federal executive council, we have just heard from drivers in the labour ministry that Ocholi’s driver had a valid driver’s license. The driver’s colleagues went on to tell us that he was very experienced and had over 25 years’ experience. These drivers went on to contradict the FRSC boss’s account of the crashed vehicle not having an MOT. Besides, burst rear tyres are not as dangerous as a burst front tyres. Also, an experienced driver would not have immediately stepped on the breaks after having a burst tyre. Well, since no official statement has been released on the cause of the minister’s death, I will just advise would be and current politicians to be prayerful.
Because all politics is local, I advise you to have a local presence. Even though you might live in Abuja, make sure your presence is felt in your village. Imposition from Abuja might backfire. Some people are already doing this. For example, there is a very erudite professor who served a former president as an adviser and he is now serving a governor as an adviser. I have tried as much as possible to convince my friends that this professor is doing the right thing, but they wouldn’t listen to wisdom. My friends see it as a demotion. How I wish their eyes could be opened to see that Professor Sylvester Monye is a strategist. There is another professor who is now a local government chairman. I offer my sincere congratulations to Professor (Mrs.) Rose Onah. Professor Onah is a person with a vision and an ambition. In the London, some CEOs of some Fortune 500 companies would die to be the Mayor of London. That’s the level at which you can touch your people.
It was Ambrose Bierce, who said that you cannot adopt politics as a profession, and remain honest. I think the renowned American journalist was referring to politicians who didn’t have a second career and might live in a perpetual fear of losing their job. Those politicians will always tell the Governor in meetings that he has said it all and that there is nothing to add. The fear of not wanting to go come back to where they were coming from is real for most politicians in Nigeria. Having a second job might help reduce the fear of falling back to nothing should you lose your political appointment. If you can eliminate this fear, I assure you, your blood pressure would be checked.
Now, let us look at the quest for political power – elections. There is no doubt that anyone who has invested time and resources in an election would like to win. Sadly, we can only have one winner in an election. People have died and have become hypertensive because of elections. Do not attempt do it on your own. Politics is all about talking and reaching out. Reach out to all the gladiators in your jurisdiction, raise all the money you can from associates. If you raise money from associates and loose, you might not be very broke afterwards. Did I hear you say it is very difficult raise money from friends? Don’t worry, if they hear that a big man is supporting you, they may decide to invest in you because they might believe you would win. If you are not humble, pretend to be when reaching out to powerbrokers. Nigerian Godfathers hate proud people, even though they are very proud themselves.
Rutherford Hayes said that nothing brings about the lower traits of human nature like office seeking. As a former American president he knew what he was talking about. You might suppress the animal in you during electioneering by having an open mind. There is life after elections!
Your hands might get burnt because you might feel the opportunity you have might be one in a lifetime and decide to loot the treasury. However, I sympathized with politicians whose desire for money is borne out of the need to satisfy their constituencies. In Nigeria, as a senator, you have to pay school fees and hospital bills for people from your constituency. I know someone who lost elections because he wasn’t doing this – in fact, people said he was inaccessible even though he regularly held town hall meetings. As a senatorial aspirant in Nigeria, nobody is interested in the bills you are promising to sponsor in the senate, they want to know what they can get from you. Thus, I advise you to have an open mind, being a politician in Nigeria is not easy.
If you have a second career before venturing into politics, chances are that your career will be further enhanced after leaving government. For example, Bill Clinton made a lot of money from his public talks after leaving government. There are so many people making money in Nigeria today because they have the name recognition politics gave them.
On a final note, if you are a member of the APC, I would advise you not to see a PDP guy as an archenemy. As I write this piece, I am watching, on Bloomberg TV, the review of a book written by two former American senators. One was a former majority leader and the other a former minority leader. If you have been observing American politics, especially the recent campaigns, you would agree with me that it might not be easy for people with real ideological differences to work together. Though you might argue that there are no ideological differences between Nigerian politicians, and that they are all friends. Sadly, it seems to me that, these days, there are some serious bad blood in the system.
If your family and friends are still worried about your venturing into politics, educate them that society can only change when people like you get involved in politics. If you leave it for street orchins, you might have yourself to blame 20 years from today. However, if you follow my advice you might not suffer serious health or emotional problems after getting involved in politics.