" ITREALMS: 2023: Much ado about party ‘structure’ in digital era - ITREALMS

Monday, July 11, 2022

2023: Much ado about party ‘structure’ in digital era - ITREALMS

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Lately, the issue of party structure in the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria came to the fore, ITREALMS' REMMY NWEKE examines this against the backdrop of a 21st environment driven by social media.
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Since the emergence of the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, as the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate in the forthcoming 2023 general elections, a new political movement has emerged which is mostly populated by Nigerian youths, whose extra-curricular activity is being Netizens, invariably without the usual structure or physical office ‘structure.’

Extra-curricular, ITREALMS gathered is also known as extra-academic activities which include sports, student government, community service, employment, arts, hobbies, and educational clubs. Educationists equally posit that ‘Extracurricular activities’ all complement an academic curriculum, coincidentally bulk of Nigerian youths and students specifically have been at home since February 2022, courtesy of the industry action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Netizens structure vs physical office:
Whereas Netizens, according to Wikipedia are users of the internet, especially a habitual or keen one at that. ITREALMS gathered that the term ‘netizen’ is a coinage of the English words internet and citizen, as in a "citizen of the net" or "net citizen". Thus, Netizen describes a person actively involved in online communities or the Internet in general, moreso using social media to engage on the Internet. Having in mind that social media is primarily a collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration, therefore, people use social media to stay in touch and interact with friends, family and various communities.

However, by the end of primaries for the political parties in Nigeria to produce their various candidates at the national levels including presidential and National Assembly candidates, some political players have entoned that elections are not won on social media just as they used to say that elections are not won on pages of newspapers.

Their reasons being due to assumption that Peter Obi’s Labour Party does not have purported physical office structures nationwide and would have an uphill task to put up the structures before the election, especially as the flag-bearer is known to be literally ‘stingy for good reasons’ and most likely not akin to vote-buying, which have been a semi-norm in Nigerian politics and was conspicuously involved in party primaries of PDP and APC.

Much Ado about structure:
Towards the end of May 2022, Dele Momodu and APC were reported to have asserted that the Labour Party nor the National Conscience Party (NCP) have any expansive or major structure across the nation. This comment may have spiked off the movement currently known as OBIdients with the likes of Nigerian song star, Peter Okoye also known as MrP on Twitter who replied him "With all due respect sir, Mr. Dele Momodu! Yes, Peter Obi might not have the money and structure. But he has the youths, the masses and the people now.”

MrP reminded those who care to know that 2023 presidency is beyond party delegates who where obviously bought-over by moneybags during party primaries in the hitherto two major parties of APC and PDP, with the emergence of the third force.

They're only strong on social media:
Just last Friday, Gov. Hope Uzodinma of Imo State aimed a dig at the Labour Party when he spoke at a gathering of Imo party members and stakeholders. He cautioned them not to fall for such opposition without a political structure, which was an apparent swipe on LP, insisting that APC is the party to support and the one best suited to address the concerns of the electorates.

PDP, Labour Party, APC
"You are listening to this opposition that is just strong on social media and has no political structure on the ground. Our citizens must not be misled. Don't fall for anyone's lies. You don't have to blame anyone if you choose to support a party that only serves to remind you of your past suffering and shows no interest in advising you on how to improve your tomorrow. But I am here as the governor of the state through a political party called the APC, as a people, and as a party,” Uzodinma who is largely tauted as ‘Supreme Court Governor’ among Imolites, urged all APC leaders and members to struggle for the party's accomplishment in 2023.

Youth, masses our structure says Obi:
Obviously responding to the questions of presumed lack of party structure, the LP Presidential candidate in the forthcoming election, Mr. Peter Obi, reiterated that he does not need party structure but the youths that want to take back their country in Nigeria and over 100 million hungry and unemployed Nigerians.

So, it was not surprising when the OBIdients Movement picked like a fuel fire and even transcended with the choice of the Labour Party Vice Presidential candidate in the person of Senator, Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed which some of the youths have paraphrased as being 'OBIdient and Yusful' as a thorough combination and better choice for 2023 presidential election. For Datti, in 2023 'social media' will vote to the chagrin of those canvasing for structure because for him, LP has the human youthful structure.

Social Media & Election influence:
Experts at the Maryville University noted savvy leaders have often taken advantage of new media technologies, especially social media to influence politics, citing for instance social media influence on election which came to the fore in 2000 given credence to the emergence of Barack Obama in his first presidential campaign, stressing that as at 2008 Obama election about 74 per cent of Internet users sought election news online which helped in rallying voters and eventual win, as foretold by Pew Research Centre.

The impact of social media on Donald Trump, for example, cannot be over-emphasised on the leverage of some social media platforms not limited to Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok to name a few.

Thus, most social media and political watchers pointed out that the fallen economic situation in Nigeria with hyper inflation, recession and corruption; despite APC’s government claims the country has exited recession for instance coupled with the inability to resolve the lingering ASUU strike which is on its fifth month as at the time of this report.

Civic engagement & your PVCs:
The Independent National Electoral Commission early June 2022, raised fears over the 2023 elections following some unclaimed 20 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in its vault, decrying the poor participation of citizens in the early parts of continuous voters’ registration exercise.

INEC Deputy Director on Voter Education, Mary Nkem, said in Abuja, during the launch of the PVC Bus Drive project, organised by a non-governmental organisation, the Advocacy for Civic Engagement. She enjoined Nigerians, especially the youth population to be actively involved in the process of electing new leaders that would effect true change and move the country forward, beyond social media activities.

Reminiscing 2014:
Those making assertions, tend to forget soon that in the run-up to the 2015 general elections, the same social media was used extensively and undoubtedly played a critical role in the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led presidency which brought in the retired-General Muhammadu Buhari, into office at Aso Rock with their change mantra which many have described as a fraud given the level of backwardness Nigerians have seen across economy, education, security to mention a few.

The likes of Dele Momodu may be reminded that their inability to convert the estimated 2.5m Twitter followers does not mean any other person cannot leverage the conversion.

The rate of the ‘OBIdient and Yusuful’ movement has been described as political tsunami looming over 2023.

Before then, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and INEC needed to invoke their mandates around vote-buying as envisioned in the new Electoral Act and attempt to bring such culprits to book than merely being complaisance.

And like some Nollywood actors have began to say … OBI-Baba-Ahmed may be coming to the door next to you with their door-to-door; a strategy they used in the ongoing continuous registration exercise; a confirmation of Peter Obi’s declaration on LP structure and reaffirmation that in 2023 as said by Baba-Ahmed, ‘social media’ will vote.

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