2023 Elections: Of Million Man Marches and More…

-O. Obaremi

For those of us who had the peculiar privilege of attending a public primary school, it won’t be hard to go down memory lane and recall the daily assembly ritual on hot, chilly or windy mornings in our chequered shirts and too-large shorts/pinafores. At the end of each gathering, our happy little selves would proceed to class with mismatched steps, hollering at the top of our voice the only assembly-closing song we ever learned – _March x3 We March Together…_

That was decades ago and many of us have since grown and gone on to other adulting aspects of life. However, these days of political campaigns have brought Nigerians marching out of their hibernating corners – pun very much intended.

It seems that everyone and their mother is marching these days or in this case everyone and their party. A thousand and one marches are springing across Nigeria’s major cities, with every organiser claiming the million-man turnout.

On October 29 1995 when controversial African-American figure, Louis Farrakhan organised the first Million Man March, it was “in the context of a larger grassroots movement that set out to win politicians’ attention for urban and minority issues through widespread voter registration campaigns.” And the result was a whopping 1.7 million new African-American registered voters.

Louis Farrakhan

Fast forward two and half decades later in Africa’s most populous nation, the concept of the ‘Million Man’ March has taken on quite a different dimension and meaning. Whereas the original intent of Farrakhan’s idea was to empower the ‘black’ electorate, the contrary holds true for these marches that have made news in Nigeria – a million men marching to empower the politician, a dangerous recipe for impunity in governance.

In the wake of the disruption to the 62nd national independence day celebration in some cities across the nation, the million-man march has become a hot topic for campaign banter between parties; now they get to compare whose ‘march’ is ‘bigger and better.’

The struggling traders and poor market women are coming out to march, and so are the unemployed and “out-of-school” youths. One would think that such numbers should be out to demand better governance not don on party ‘jersey’ in support of a candidate whose vision and policy inclinations are deliberately vague. Such is the craze: a fair chunk of the marchers do not have their PVCs!

While all is fair in love and war, the enablers and eventual victims of these manipulations remain the masses who are left to face the acute socio-economic hardships that have persisted in the country.

Analysts agree that the fabric of political parties in Nigeria lacks the texture of ideology or policy goals that distinctly defines such groups in other parts of the world. As a result, it becomes quite a slippery effort when the public tries to foist substantive accountability on intentionally oblique association.

As a nation, we must remain aware that our democracy is still young and encouraging the disillusioned notion of rallying the citizenry at the whim of political elites is a sure way of stalling its growth and jeopardising the sanctity of marching out in numbers for more humane and liberating causes.

Because those who “March today” in the ambitious interest of any political figure may not be afforded the freedom to “March tomorrow” in demand of promised dividends – a cursory glance back to the brutal extinguishing of the #EndSARS protest is enough warning for the wise.

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