2018 will be an eventful year on the Nigerian political scene and that’s an understatement. After the ruckus of 2017 involving a plethora of stories from the comical and embarrassing, to the potentially disastrous, this full year of political campaigning before the 2019 elections next February should throw up more rancor.
The prime exchanges on the battle front will be between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). No other political party in the country is expected to be as prominent in the arm wrestles around the country within the next 14 months, but a movement is growing to upend the status quo.
The Red Card Movement is a Twitter campaign initiated by former Minister of Education and Vice President of the World Bank, Dr Oby Ezekwesili. According to her tweet on the 4th of January 2018, the movement is the expression of her political agenda for the year, aimed specifically at the disadvantage of the nation’s two most recognized parties.
I have a Political Agenda for 2019 Elections.
It is that neither APC nor its twin brother (yes, how does 6 differ from half a dozen?) PDP should win the 2019 State and Federal legislative and executive Elections.
I am totally committed to this Agenda.
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) January 4, 2018
My Political Agenda is SIMPLE.
I shall ACTIVELY campaign against APC and PDP in the 2019 Elections EXCEPT in rare cases where they field NEW MINDS with STRONG RECORD of Public Interest.
I shall ACTIVELY campaign FOR the BEST CANDIDATES of all OTHER PARTIES in the Elections.
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) January 4, 2018
A MOVEMENT, NOT PARTY
Dr Ezekwesili is not new to the trade of mass mobilization for a cause she believes in. The Bring Back Our Girls Movement and its hashtag took root from a speech she gave on the 23rd of April 2014 at Port Harcourt, creating one of the most universally acclaimed online campaigns on social media. Last year, the former Minister rallied support for a pro-environmental campaign #PickThatTrash which has gone from a mere twitter thing with its icon as a hashtag, to documenting its codes and holding an offline clean-up event in Lagos with Mrs Ezekwesili in participation.
None of the above has taken the form of a political party and the Red Card Movement will not likely deviate from that. As Aisha Yesufu once explained about BBOG, we can expect the “movement” to be an open door with free entry and exit whose lifespan terminates as soon as its agenda is achieved.
WILL THE TWEETS HIT THE STREETS?
How will the Red Card Movement organize itself into a real force to affect the kind of change set out in its agenda by its founder? Every momentous and ground-breaking twitter campaign eventually must go offline to create the sufficient outreach necessary for maximum impact. Compared to Nigeria’s population, the numbers of persons who are on twitter are just about the size of a local government in Ekiti state. Hence, a strictly online movement will definitely come up short in its ambition.
Should we expect to hear sponsored programmes on radio and TV stations on the red card movement soon, and how would the financing be done?
VOTER APATHY and OTHER CONCERNS
Critics of the movement have questioned the rationale behind wanting to kick out both parties with the 2019 General Elections in view. A situation where citizens “wave their red cards” to both the APC and the PDP will result in less numbers turning out to the polling stations where candidates of both parties are clear front runners. That could be the case with the Presidential elections where President Buhari is expected to retain the APC’s flag while the PDP’s ticket will be contested by former VP Atiku Abubakar and others.
Actively declining to support any candidate of either party, perhaps by voting candidates of other parties (such as APGA or GNPP) could inadvertently tilt the scale to a particular candidate (perhaps the less desirable of the top two), which will turn out to be – in theory – counter-productive to the set goals of the movement.
Another factor which comes into scrutiny on the prospects of the movement is the sheer number of beneficiaries that depend on the godfathers and establishment personalities of both parties for their survival. Political thugs usually find campaign season most lucrative, so it will be a wonder to see how they are convinced against making themselves available for use by the politicians. Then there are the market women and traders who form the base of the delegates of these parties at the ward levels, most of whom are not on twitter anyway. They don’t have the world at their feet but these delegates are made to feel somewhat valued by the trappings that come with their duties that it would be interesting to see how they are convinced away from their benefactor parties.
Many politicians in PDP today started from nothing and made it big politically. Don't let them tell you there's no hope for the common man in PDP.
Meanwhile they are forming their "3rd option" around Twitter intellectuals. What is the hope of the Akara seller in that plan?
— Somto Onuchukwu (@chosensomto) January 6, 2018
To add to these is a personal observation: will the waving of the red card to both parties produce a permanent solution through an overhaul or just a temporary relief for 2019, since a player issued a red card is only denied a few games at most but can always return subsequently and still win the competition?
The founder, Dr Ezekwesili, makes it clear the agenda is an “individual effort”:
My individual effort to CAMPAIGN AGAINST APC and PDP in the 2019 Elections may not amount to much, but it is at least a DEFINITE EXPRESSION of my personal CONVICTION. My CONVICTION is that it is TIME to END the tyranny of rulership of a WICKED minority Political elite class.
Hence it would appear there is no pressure to become strained by some of the criticisms of the movement. She has had to reply to some of the critics herself, but has also cautiously avoided the more caustic stabs such as those which advice people not to be “anyone’s mugu”
However, her over-600,000 followers, many of whom are Nigerian, are buying in to the campaign. It has not become a mega trend in the sense that political topics take a life of their own on social media, but what the antecedents of the founder say is that she cannot be overlooked.
Movements do not necessarily start off with a bang to create a resonating effect. Keep an eye on this