The Emerging Popular Politics in Kaduna State
By ABDUL-AZEEZ SULEIMAN
A new brand of politics is definitely needed in Kaduna state today. The problem is what kind? At the moment, the prevailing politics is the one muddled by cronies of the All Progressives Congress whose programme is vague, and most times contradictory.
This is the old-time electoral politics with a slightly heightened shrill of progressive rhetoric; a politics based not on educating people but on mobilizing them, nor on creating an active public sphere, but on electing candidates.
That the APC was able to mobilize significant followership in the buildup to the 2015 elections may be proof that this outdated politics can sometimes work, not that the constituencies are more informed, politically knowledgeable, and more capable of acting independently on their own in order to develop a creative, fluid, and truly popular politics.
This type of politics is essentially counterproductive because people who are mobilized by charismatic leaders, centralized institutions, and power-oriented political structures remain masses, not independent- minded citizens. It is also dangerous because, while these types of politicians gradually become professionalized and guided by career interests rather than principles, the ordinary people become passive and inactive; institutions become bureaucratic and centralistic like in the case of Kaduna today.
But there is another kind of politics that is currently being played out by a new crop of distinctively pragmatic political leaders, whose goal is not merely to gain power, but to function effectively as a means to lobby and involve the population on how to resolve issues of practical importance to the whole community..
If this is actually what is needed, there is no doubt that Lawal Adamu Usman (Mr LA) has a workable formula.
Charismatic himself, LA, flying the Peoples Democratic Party flag to the 2019 Kaduna Central senatorial contest, is leading a new campaign model, supported by a corps of elite public figures, and a growing following of masses, many of whom seem to be following him with almost unswerving love.
The LA style that involves cooperatives, affinity groups, feminist, ethnic and religious organizations is an organic politics that is based on grassroots education, not mass mobilization. The power it primarily seeks is empowerment of citizens rather than the election of officials — citizens who can freely associate and mutually support each other with a view toward re-empowering the public as a whole. It seeks to create a body politic and a meaningful public opinion oriented toward a broad vision of social change and public involvement in the problems of their time.
So far, his campaigning for next month’s election remains largely institutionalized around genuine popular forms like neighborhood sensitization, town meetings, local associations and women and youth initiative groups which are ongoing forums for enlightening people as well as politically activating them.
The LA kind of politics represents the only real break with the long, dismal history of failures and betrayals that mark so many efforts in the past by offering a striking example of the success and political vitality a truly grassroots movement can achieve.
Ironically, these failures and betrayals are by no means cushioned about four years after the 2015 electoral successes of the APC nationally, or by Governor Elrufai in Kaduna state. Instead, the APC government has virtually frozen political life in Kaduna and siphoned into an opportunistic politics the creativity, and fluidity that preceded its ascent to power.
Electoral success without sufficient education within its own ranks has made the APC a combative arena at odds with people who are committed to the political ideal of a participatory democracy, and a creative vision of political and social change in the state.
As a result, the current Kaduna state administration is singularly lacking in cultural and educational value, programmatic focus, and genuine grassroots activity.
The people of Kaduna now have a chance to form a movement that could benefit every section and sector of the state if only they embrace LA’s inspiring example of local democracy, citizens’ initiatives, self-sufficiency, mutual aid, and respect for individual rights.
And by developing and promoting this initiative for genuine citizens’ politics, Kaduna state may as well be able to set an example that will eventually influence the country as a whole.
This is important because generally, the future of the current brand of APC politics, by failing to acknowledge real grassroots tendencies, stands the risk of been eaten largely by the negative media attention its leaders, particularly Elrufai, attract.
(Suleiman is Head, Media Directorate, Mr LA Campaign)