A tale of Nigerian Political Parties; How innovative is your party?
It is no longer news that preparations are on top gear towards 2019 general elections and 2018 governorship elections in states like Osun and Ekiti by various political parties. We have also seen the recent proliferation of political parties in the recent times majority of which is championed by young people who seem disenfranchised in Nigeria’s political processes. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that Nigeria currently has 68 registered parties and about 40 are still in consideration. Indeed, 2019 is going to be the el-classico of politics and clash of the proverbial titans.
The political space in the country is changing and so the demographic as well as the psycho-graphics of the people. There is already a shift in the paradigm as the population increases with high birth-rates. The population of Nigeria is predominantly composed of young people with median age around 17 years and more than 60% of the population is below 35 years. Although, the UN describes youth as someone between 18-24 years old but the Nigerian National Youth Policy has extended the youth age to accommodate people up to 35 years of age. With this current shift in population, it is certainly clear that parties that want to win elections must take the affairs of people within this age bracket with all seriousness. It also means that candidates within this age bracket or slightly above 40 will appeal more to them than older candidates in their 60s or 70s.
Another striking observation is that this generation of voters like to do things with ease; from the comfort of their homes. Just like I am writing this from my home-office, the demography want to be participating in the political process without too much hassles. For a party that is interested in winning elections, you need to understand how and where to get these voters and do everything to get them on board. This is one way new parties can gain upper hand if older parties refuse to live up to it.
The first point of call is in the registration process. There is a lot of buzz around clamoring for youths to join political parties of their choice and actively participate in the emergence of candidates. But the question is, how well is your party making it convenient for them to join? Do you have a functional website that allows for registration without the huddle of going to their local ward? Have you thought of building an interactive mobile application where they can access educational resources on governance and politics? Do you have customer care at your party secretariat whom they can walk up to resolve whatever issues they encounter?
I took out time to assess some of the major political parties in Nigeria and ease of registration.
All Progressive Congress
The ruling party launched its new website along with new social media handles after an alleged hack or sale of the previous twitter handle. Although, the part officials denied the allegation but what eventually happened was that the former known APC handle has been serving the party since 2014 before, during and after they won the elections. The incident was immediately swept off the carpet with a new twitter handle @OfficialAPCNg.
The new website apc.com.ng is very responsive. It is quite easy to navigate for new users both on PC and mobile platforms. Additionally, prospective members can now easily register to become members of the party online. After registration, a local organizing member (maybe from your ward) will then contact you and the registration will be done seamlessly. For those that wish to still visit the party secretariat, manual registration is also available.
The website is not interactive as it should because users can hardly post questions and get it answered. The party can do well to create a forum on the website for its members.
People’s Democratic Party
The topmost opposition party in the country has a compelling social media presence with thousands of followers over its 16 years rule. The social media handle @officialPDPNig has 52k followers on twitter, the highest so far after APC twitter issue. However, the party is sleeping away too much in terms of innovation and following the trend.
A close look at PDP website shows a lack of deliberate efforts to recruit the younger generation of voters. While the news section seems to be on auto update, the entire website has maintained the same look for a long time. Also appalling is the mode of registration for the party. According to the register section, a prospective member needs to visit his/her local ward to register and pay subscription fee. This is in total contrast with APC that has not mentioned any subscription fees nor a visit to a local ward. This kind of hassle will automatically repel a young person sitting in his office looking for a party to join.
I think the PDP needs to do more if they are really serious about generation Y! voting for them in 2019 and beyond.
Modern Democratic Party
The Modern Democratic Party was conceived by 27 year-old Prince Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbeg as a party for the modern man and woman. They have been in the news for a while and a visit to their website says a lot about modernity. The website is neat and contains catchy information that appeals to first time users to stay glued to them. The party, unlike established ones is yet to have local base across wards and local government and therefore, most registration is online. As a membership driven party, they also rely on voluntary donations and membership subscription fees.
To register is simple. The party is also run by a group of young people which makes it easy to respond to members’ issues faster unlike others.
“In partnership with the brightest minds in Nigeria, MDP is focused on harnessing the mental and physical resources of this unique generation of youth brimming with fresh ideas and innovations which will finally put Nigeria in its rightful place on the world stage. But we need ALL youthful hands on deck!”- Prince Olagbegi
MDP still has lot of opportunities in social media engagement. Twitter following and engagement is still very low considering their demographic strength.
Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party
ANRP is another new and innovative party that has made both registration and payment seamless and secure in the modern day political process in Nigeria. The party like its modern counterparts also relies on dues and donations for the running of the party. A new member willing to join the movement only needs to fill the registration form and a party official will get in touch. They also have a very strong WhatsApp group following even though their twitter and Instagram presence is still low.
According to FAQ on the website, “Our party is not about ‘wrestling power’ from the ruling and major opposition parties. Our goal is to bring about a national renewal and rebirth in the way we think and do things, and to create a NEW Nigeria.”
So now you know how your parties are engaging younger generation.
By next edition, I would analyze other political movements and their engagement with younger generation of voters. In the meantime, if your party is not innovating, they are on a long thing.
Adetunji Adeniran is a civil engineer and a social entrepreneur. He also leads YNAG to encourage young people’s participation in governance and politics.