Sunday, May 31, 2020

A High-Level Plan for Challenging the APC's Dominance in Lagos

Voter turnout in the Lagos State 2019 Gubernatorial Election

Only 1 out of every 7 registered voters in Lagos voted in the 2019 gubernatorial elections . Of the approximately one million people that voted, 739,445 of them voted for the APC, electing Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu as governor of Lagos State.

Including its previous incarnations as the AD and the ACN, that was the APC’s sixth consecutive victory at the gubernatorial polls in Lagos. Clearly, the APC has built a solid base in the state. But has this unbroken string of victories been good for Lagos? Would the state benefit from the political opposition mounting a stronger electoral challenge?

I couldn't easily find usable data from 2009 and before, but it tells a similar story if my memory serves me right. The APC is firmly in control of Lagos.

I believe Lagos would benefit from a strong challenger to the APC. Healthy competition will benefit the people as parties will be incentivized to seek office by serving or offering to serve the electorate better. That is in contrast to the current situation where the APC’s near-certain hold on power elevates internal kingmakers and party delegates above the wider Lagos electorate. Healthy competition will also yield better transparency, as successive governments from different parties are not incentivized to cover up the previous administration’s misdeeds*.

So how can this become a reality? How can a party unaffiliated with Jagaban win gubernatorial elections in Lagos or come close enough to seriously challenge the APC’s dominance?

I think the answer lies with the nearly 85% of registered voters who could not be bothered to vote during the 2019 elections. While many of these people would vote for the APC if they voted, many more of them can be convinced to vote for the right opposition candidate. They just need someone who is worth going to the polls for, someone with a differentiated vision for Lagos, and someone who they think could win.

They also need that person to constantly articulate their vision for Lagos and build trust and followership over many years. This effort cannot be limited to election years only if it will be effective. The opposition needs to be constantly in touch with the public, commenting on governance and constantly describing what they would be doing differently if they were in office.

We have seen several upstart brands leverage social media to gain market share from larger established competitors. Clever use of channels such as Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram offer an opportunity to build a following without splashing out on TV and Radio adverts. There is no reason this tactic cannot be reapplied in politics. As Trump has demonstrated, if you keep up a steady stream of communication on social media, TV and Radio news networks will carry your message for free as part of the news.

Rather than compete with the APC for the roughly one million people who turn up every four years to vote for them, the opposition needs to attract a whole new set of voters to the polls. This is hard work and will take time, so we are unlikely to see parties do this work. Instead, they are more likely to continue throwing money at the challenge every four years, thereby perpetuating APC’s dominance in Lagos.

* Some may say the APC needs to continue serving the electorate to consolidate their hold on power in Lagos. That is true, and there will be many instances where the interests of the party and the interests of the state coincide. However, there will also be instances where these interests will not coincide. In those instances, the near-monopoly means the APC can prioritize its own interests over what is best for the people.

Numbers are sourced from the INEC website and the graphics are mine.

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