When Thugs Take The Place Of Youth.

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There are few persons who will go through the rigors of campaigning for elective positions without relying on the use of touts to fulfill some of their campaign desires. Thes patronage of touts has been identified as reason for increased violence during elections. In this aspect of politics, candidates (not parties themselves) of both the Peoples' Democratic Party and the All Progressives' Congress are not without blame. While the Labor Party is not known to frequently patronize touts, the All Progressives' Grand Alliance appears to be the only political party that is not been known to have the penchant for patronizing touts during electioneering.

Lately, I have had causes to visit Egbeda in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. Alimosho, the biggest local council in Lagos State is known to have produced some popular politicians like Ustaz Rauf Aregbesola, Osun State Governor and Hon. Adeola Olamilekan Solomon, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts. While the Ustaz it was who championed the inclusion of Ifa Studies in the curriculum of school children in his domain, the Public Account Chief was among members of the National Assembly that were involved in the gate scaling scandal. Yayi as Hon. Adeola Olamilekan Solomon is popularly known is an indigene of Alimosho and resides in the Egbeda quarters where the current Deputy Governor of Lagos State hails from. Otunba Olusegun Adewale Aeroland is also an indigene and resident of the same area. Both men I understand were once good neighbors until politics set in.

My visits to Egbeda have afforded me chance to observe the conduct of these two Nigerians as they are currently locked in the battle of their lives; both of them seek to represent the people of the Lagos West Senatorial District in the Senate later this year. Mrs. Joke Orelope-Adefulire (Gov. Babatunde Fashola's Deputy) once declared interest in the position but I was told she was pacified and asked to step aside on account of issues related to her vibrancy. Grapevine sources alleged she was “settled” with the sum of N150M to quit the race; I did not believe the source because it did not disclose who paid her the money. I shall restrict my findings about Hon. Adeola Olamilekan Solomon and Otunba Olusegun Adewale Aeroland to the extent to which they have engaged and carried the youth of their immediate constituencies along in their campaigns.

Hon. Adeola Olamilekan Solomon of the APC is suave and civil. He has shown high sense of decorum throughout the periods his campaign has lasted. If elections are won on the basis of reputation, hardwork and efforts put into the winning process, this member of the House of Representatives will trounce his rivals as far as the Lagos West Senatorial Zone is concerned. Yayi impresses me. On two occasions, I encountered his motorcade as I drove along Orelope Street, Egbeda. Till a friend told me it was him, it never occurred to me an (honorable) was (could be) on the road at that time. In terms of youth participation, Yayi seems to have a very huge support base among the working class and student population. Testimonies abound about his humanness and how much personal efforts he makes towards improving of the living conditions of members of his constituents. The testifiers in this case are traders and residents of his immediate quarters most of whom (I know) are non-Yorubas.

Impressive as these accounts seem, Yayi has left no stone unrolled in selling himself. His messages are clearly articulated. His presence is felt everywhere in the Lagos West Senatorial Zone. His media team did a great job creating beautiful posters, flashy banners, catchy handbills and other innovative campaign materials. He has engaged the youth constructively on several platforms; online and real time. These are typical conducts of a man who is aware he has an important task at hand and is determined to accomplish it.

Though Yayi's rival Otunba Olusegun Adewale Aeroland is a member of my party, he does not strike me (for now) as an individual who should assume any serious leadership position in Nigeria. He may do better as anything else. The impression he created when he featured on AIT's Kakaaki earlier last week was a remarkable departure from the Aeroland of Alimosho. To start with, he has a history of violence and is not known to be patient. Second, his presence frightens me. He is always in the company of very dirty looking, full time touts (including some derailed members of the Oodua Peoples' Congress) who are always armed with automatic pump action riffles and all sorts of talisman. They would shoot sporadically into the air (at their imaginary rivals) at periodic intervals and would never parade themselves with honor or the least form of respect. The implication of this style of campaign is that responsible persons who have a life would be constrained to avoid his team (for fear of a possible breakout of violence) leaving him with only street urchins and vagabonds who understand this approach while the inherent message in it is that he plans to win by any means.

This is a sharp contrast from the method adopted by his main rival. Although I was told he gave about 97 women the sum of N25,000.00K some months ago, I am of the view that those gestures are immaterial because very few persons are aware of them. Most people will be moved by the conduct of an aspirant who inspires them during campaigns. This is an area my party man has failed flatly. His campaign materials are scarce. His posters bear no tangible message of his intentions. His portrait on those posters (only two kinds) readily gives him away as an unserious contestant any day; anytime who is only waiting to be officially defeated.

I am constrained to write this note because the dynamics of Nigerian politics is changing by the day. Our politics is fast stopping to be a game wherein anybody is welcome as a contestant. There should be a common standard. In a note I wrote in this series, I had implied that the APC parades a collection of very bright and intelligent men and women whose only failure in life is their blind loyalty to Bola Ahmed Tinubu. While the same breed of personalities abound in my party - the PDP, it is often surprising that we would normally approach serious competitions as this with our 10th eleven. This way, it becomes easy for the opposition and their media mob to subject us to all forms of caricature which are usually avoidable. In an ideal setting where elections are won on the basis of substance, a typical Segun Adewale should be scared of seeking the same position a Yayi is contesting for; it is however comical that in the case of Nigeria, just anyone can aspire to contest any position at any given time.

As the 2015 election approaches, attention will suddenly be on 2019. There must be a paradigm shift which I shall work to ensure my party champions. The mediocres in our midst must be placed in positions that suit them. We have had enough of a few rascals making it difficult for Nigerians to agree that though we may not have built the Nigeria of their aspiration, we still remain the real change. This same group of persons makes it more difficult for me to launder the image of our party especially on the social media. In God's name, what purpose will three commercial buses full of touts armed with automatic pump action rifles serve in the campaign train of a contestant?

Though I have no idea how Otunba Olusegun Adewale Aeroland emerged flag bearer of my party for the Lagos West Senatorial District position, I am of the firm view that the delegates who supported him with their votes have BOMBED themselves. He will lose; Hon. Adeola Olamilekan Solomon will win.

Ezeani, Chukwunonso Elvis is the South West Zonal Director for Communication, Research & Strategy at the Peoples' Democratic Party National Youth Frontier. He can be reached via @NonsoEzeani1

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Articles by Ezeani Chukwunonso Elvis