it is my candid opinion that politics is about having a say in what affects us. That’s my summarized definition based on my experience since beginning active politics in 1998. It may not be an accurate one but serves as a working definition for me. For instance, if we consider the necessities of this electoral season and circle, for many, politics would be about having a say in the quality of representation they get across levels because for them that would determine the quality of governance they receive.
I have also found that the challenge in politics, that is, in having a say in what affects one within a political system, is that one’s voice is just one amongst many, who are equally seeking to have their say and, therefore, their way in what affects them. Given this scenario, there are bound to be contention and competition that may lead to either consensus or election. If consensus, it would mean an agreement of the collective to act in certain a direction. If election, it would be the decision of the collective to determine the majority outcome of their contest by voting. All of these happen in a number of ways because we cannot all have our way in what affects us, even when we do have our say, that is, hold an opinion.
This challenge is also the beauty of politics and democracy. While we can each have our say, the tenets of democracy presupposes that the majority of similar or same voices will coalesce or aggregate to form the body of prevailing wishes within a political system. This is where those whose wishes do not grow into an overriding opinion of the majority would have to accept the overriding wishes of others above theirs.
Lobbying is one of the ways through which an idea, one person’s opinion or the opinion of the minority, can grow to become the opinion of critical stakeholders and then that of the vast majority within the system. Lobbying is a perfectly legal way to sell ideas and influence the decisions of critical stakeholders and the vast majority. It’s about people talking to people and people understanding themselves. It’s one of the ways to sway and change the decisions of the vast majority and it is perfectly in order.
This is why it is not just enough to hold an opinion, or better put, have your say, even if it is a popular one. It is also important to lobby critical stakeholders to have a buy-in on that opinion for it to hold sway. Otherwise, those opinions can lose their biting hold overnight, if critical stakeholders are influenced in a different direction. Critical stakeholders are those whose decisions influence the flow of politics. In some climes, they are called super delegates. In other climes they are called godfathers or even the illuminati. But it doesn’t matter what they are called. What matters is their influence.
Come to think of it, what is politics without influence? Influence is at the nerve-center of good politicking. It is the tool for creating compromise since we cannot all have our ways, while having our says. This is why we should never lose sight of the fact that no matter how well we play the game of politics, we cannot always have our way. We would win sometimes and then lose some other times as it is with any sports game. While it is fine to win and lose, at such times when our cards don’t turn up their right sides or we are outwitted, we are not expected to lose our heads. What is expected of good politicians and sportspeople, which we all are or should be, is to return to the drawing board and rework the strategy for relaunch. That’s how games go.
A salient point that is worth acknowledging, however, is that there’s no good politics without good purpose. At the heart of our political decisions must be noble intentions so that in the end politics brings good to society. If that is done, it doesn’t really matter who gets what, when and how, society is better for it.
Oraye St. Franklyn is a barrister-at-law. He is senior special assistant to Governor Nyesom Wike on Social Media. He is a strategic communicator and good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He tweets from @SaintOraye. He is also on Facebook.