Social media amplifies social and political issues nowadays, making it easier for virality. Such was for PACT – Presidential Aspirants Coming Together, a coalition which was created to produce a consensus candidate for some presidential aspirants mostly young and new in politics in August 2018 for Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election. PACT has since after its major congress hit the brick wall. Let me situate PACT in context.
President Emmanuel Macron of France is 40 year ago, fascinates young people all over the world. PM Justin Trudeau of Canada is 46 year ago. These are young leaders presiding over some of the most powerful countries in the world. Members of G7. Macron rise to power is remarkable. Nigerians found him more captivating when he visited the country in summer of 2018, paid homage at Fela Shrine to the legendary Fela and revealed that a few years before, he worked as an intern in the French Embassy at Abuja. Macron’s meteoric rise to power as an unknown aide who at 39 was already a minister, a centrist and former investment banker, built a party machine from scratch and won the French election against established and traditional politicians. Macron’s story is inspiring and has continue to reverberate.
In 2018, Nelson Chamisa aged 40 could have become the Macron of Africa. Could still be. He almost won Zimbabwe presidential election. Nelson Chamisa 40 (2.1m – 44%) almost defeated Emmerson Mnangagwa 75 (2.4m – 56%). Lost by a slim margin. Maybe he won or maybe he was rigged out. He I think should be a model for young Nigerian Presidential aspirants. He contested on the platform of MDC-T which is the main opposition party.
The above background is perhaps the inspiration for young aspirants in the 2019 presidential election who desired to avoid fragmentalization and present a consensus candidate akin to the bigger Coalition of United Political Parties which is led by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking to unseat President Buhari in 2015. PACT has come and gone. It was initially composed of 18 aspirants which came down to 13 (depending on your sources) on the day the coalition met to vote for a consensus candidate. After a lot of intrigues and suspense, with young people on social media following the live streaming of the event, Mr Fela Durotoye emerged, a leadership expert, motivational speaker and lifestyle coach who is well known among middle class Nigerians and the effete latte-sipping bourgeoisie in Lagos and Abuja. However, winning the coveted crown which many expected to have been clinched by Mr Kingsley Moghalu who is a technocrat having retired as a deputy director of the Central Bank of Nigeria, a thoroughbred economist whose popularity has bolstered in recent times among Nigerian youth; tore PACT apart. After the congress, Moghalu was the first person to pull out of PACT and reiterated he was still in the presidential race under the Youth Progressive Party. Moghalu isn’t so young, he is 55 years. The second aspirant to pull out is Omoyele Sowore, the vibrant, subservient and militant former SUG leader and publisher of Sahara Reporters, one of the top online media platform on which the ruling party, All Progressive Congress rode to power in 2015. In fact Sowore didn’t pull out, it was revealed that he never gave his blessings from the start, never endorsed PACT.
Following the disintegration of PACT and its anti-climax, many youths came hard on the coalition. They taunted PACT aspirants saying if they couldn’t present a common front and obey their own rules of engagement, if they could not step down for one another, how can they manage a bigger enterprise, project Nigeria. That the lack of tact in dealing with issues of PACT reeks of unpreparedness needed for national leadership. That they needed to show internal democracy and unity among the aspiriants While these criticisms may not be misplaced, I feel that the sledgehammer on PACT is a bit harsh. Why kill an ant with a hammer?
Those who bulkanize them and have written them off should not throw away the baby with the bathwater. I have not been an ardent follower of PACT because of my political ideology which is more inclined to Macron and Chamisa’s approaches to politics which involves instigating a seismic usurpation within the establishment, incursion into existing political parties and driving change from within. It is possible to overthrow the old forces and establish a new order in existing political party. Although Macron founded a new party, he was a member of former President Hollande’s government and built his foundations on existing structures. Chamisa was more lucky, following the demise of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai a long time foe of former President Robert Mugabe, he had the opportunity to lead MDC.
Now to PACT, I read an insider account of how things fell apart by Tope Fasua, an economist and one of the presidential aspirants of PACT. He recounted in details behind the scenes activities which took place away from the prying eyes of the public and how he advised from the beginning that the coalition was doomed to fail from start. It was clear that the time for PACT to choose a consensus candidate was too short given the enormous expectations. It was a short lived romance before PACT was unpacked and the expected imPACT truncated. He lamented the cavalier, laissez faire and fire brigade approach with which the group was organized. Tope’s account came as one with insights into the inner workings of the coalition. In contradiction, another publication on Duisaf.com, titled ‘Durotoye’s PACT is currently the biggest joke in Nigerian politics and it is a sad sight’ was scathing and overly critical, bemoaning issues which besieged the coalition such as poor decision-making, naivety and haphazardness. It dismissed the aspirants as politically inexperienced and labelled PACT “one of the biggest jokes in Nigerian politics”. Such criticisms are overly harsh and extremely antagonistic, seemingly from armed chair critics. That’s the bane of attempts by youths to displace the older generations who have held Nigeria in an iron-grip. Youths turning on each other, infighting and neglecting the major goal which is taking over the mantle of leadership from gerontocracy; dislodging the old guards.
Attempts by young people are dismissed out rightly by their contemporaries who haven’t lifted a finger only to sit behind the keyboard to vituperate. The fact that many young people have thrown their hats into the ring to challenge established and perennial candidates is a plus. Innovating towards a consensus candidate is another positive development. While the aspirants under PACT started out the coalition arrangement late into the election season, it is praiseworthy that such a platform was formed. While I do not absolve PACT of any of its shortcominngs, it is pertinent to note that such failures do not outweigh the gains. These young people aspiring for presidents could go on and take up governorship/legislative aspirations of their states. They radiate hope.
These aspirants should keep the fire burning and emulate Macron and grow their political movements and rally youths around them. They should not view their presidential campaign as a one off event. They should not quench the fire they have ignited in the youths many of whom believe in them. They are the best chance of having a young person from their among them running the affairs of Nigeria in 2023 since 2019 seems intractable for any of them. Politics is all about remaining relevant in the polity. In the developed world, aspirants work through the years to warm their hearts into the minds of the people. If we have 10 of the aspirants under PACT as governors, legislators and presidential aspirants going into 2023, these aspirants with their sterling qualities could go on to lead the country in the near future. Therefore, let’s not dismiss PACT; they are the future of Nigeria.