The Kowa Party Paradox

There is currently a great deal of introspection going on, resulting in various epiphanies about the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria. The prevalent feeling among those who supported President Buhari’s campaign is regret -either at standing behind him so staunchly, or at the fact that he seems to be underperforming, to put it mildly.

While the mood amongst most supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan is an increasing We-Told-You-So, the discussions that arise end up holding the entire political system as it exists up to the light, with the reluctant admission that there are no real differences between the two leading political parties in Nigeria. Many of the politicians have been members of both parties, some more than once each and the ideology common to both is being in power.

The discussions then move on to the alternatives at the last election and Kowa Party invariably gets mentioned. Professor Remi Sonaiya, Kowa’s candidate won the third least number of votes at the election but for some reason the party appear to be the most-discussed of the also-rans. This would ordinarily be a good thing (and I suppose for the party stalwarts it is) but a lot of the opinions are haughty sneers at the ‘audacity’ of Kowa and its candidate to put themselves forward for consideration.

According to this camp, Kowa has no ‘financial muscle’ (which we all know is a euphemism for access to the public purse), its candidate was/is a virtual political unknown, its grassroots structure is still emerging, etc., and as such was not entitled to even contemplate any office above local government councils. Here’s the problem with that argument.

There’s clear frustration with the in-bred crop of the APC and PDP and a growing acceptance that the much-needed fundamental change cannot come from within their ranks. There’s a broad consensus that both parties fund themselves primarily from sources outside membership dues and conventional fundraising. If what is needed will not come from within the APC/PDP hegemony, why do young people, the ones with the greatest stake in the future, the largest demographic by age, insist on lining up behind them?

Kowa is organising, it is recruiting members and building itself from the ground up, it is growing organically, it is becoming more robust in its response to government policy and behaviour, yet daily it meets with cynicism and ridicule, mostly from the same people complaining about the status quo. We need new parties and a new way, but heaven forbid any group of people actually try to do more than just talk about it.

And perhaps this isn’t necessarily about Kowa specifically, but about the “mushroom parties”, as President Buhari called them during the campaigns. If people are going to keep complaining about APC/PDP then it’s time to pick a mushroom party and do your bit to help it grow. Otherwise, let’s all simply resign to their dominance and, as they say on social media, quietly take our collective ‘L’.