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Love does not win election, except it does

It was Abdulkareem Baba Aminu, editor of the Daily Trust on Saturday, who first told me about Ayisha Osori’s book: “Love Does Not Win Elections.”…

It was Abdulkareem Baba Aminu, editor of the Daily Trust on Saturday, who first told me about Ayisha Osori’s book: “Love Does Not Win Elections.”

Abdulkareem reads a lot of weird books, and some normal ones too.  So I didn’t know which category to slot this one.  But he told me, “The book is too well-written.”  Too well-written? Isn’t “well written” enough? I took a mental note of this hyperbole  on account of whose mouth it came from – after all, editors are trained cynics and critical consumers of knowledge. It would take an exceptional book to receive an exceptional praise from a person paid to read and write.

Therefore, I was eager to check out the evidence.  Abdulkareem promised me his copy of the book the following week.  Next week came, but when I went to the editorial board meeting, I didn’t remind Abdulkareem about the book, rather, I avoided him because I had not finished writing my column.  Another week came, the same thing.

It was some weeks later when visiting a friend at NIRSAL that I saw Ayisha’s book in his car.  We were driving to another meeting, so I used that time to read a couple of chapters. Interestingly, at that strategy meeting, I referenced insights from Ayisha’s book more than once.  The book had started yielding benefits!

So when Ayisha exclaimed in Minna during her book reading that “even I don’t know my book the way you do, Dr. Dooba” she didn’t know I had been using and taking benefits from the book for a while.  

Later, I received a call from Nurdin, owner of Amab, the most lively bookstore in Minna, informing me that there would be a book reading by Ayisha Osori and that I would be one of the discussants and that I should come and take my copy any time I was available.  “Is she coming to Minna?”  I was excited!

This  was an opportunity to finish the book.  And Abdulkareem was right, the book was well-written.  The author is a skillful writer and has an uncommon facility with the English language. You could spend five years and you wouldn’t find a book this good written by a Nigerian. It’s a bundle of wits, satire, humour and a how-to guide on contesting elections in Nigeria. It made me laugh (page 31) and it made me cry (page 234).

 It also taught me many things including some techniques I can use as a writer.  While reading, many times I said “Wow! Howwas she able to express that?” She has this near-native ease with the language.  I know editing of the book contributed to the polish, but what a writer!

Therefore, during the book reading in Minna on February 3, 2018, I shared nine insights I unpacked from the book.

 One, page 239 is the titular page and where the author stated her thesis: “Do not assess your chances based on how much people claim your opponents are disliked or [reviled]: Love is not a currency at the ballot.”  During her campaign to get the ticket of the PDP in Abuja, many “supporters” told her that her opponents were not liked by the people on account of their poor performance.  But these sentiments didn’t reflect at the ballot because Ayisha lost the primary election.

Two, budgeting is good for the campaign. Ayisha herself budgeted N15, 253, 250 (page 22)to run for AMAC/Bwari House of Representatives seat.  Three, you can raise money through donations from friends and family for your campaign, Ayisha raised N9, 471,000 (page 25). Although you may not be as well connected as Ayisha, you can repeatedly remind your potential donors to donate, the way she did.

Four, the author sprinkled her writing with a good deal of vivid analogies that engage the reader’s imagination, nudging me to want to spice up my own writing with such poignant comparisons. For example, while describing how the Abuja office of the DSS was built in the middle of a large compound on page 200 she wrote: “like a drop of stew on a plate of rice.” 

Five, still on language, the author was so creative with it that she seasoned the book with her own unique coinages.  For instance, on page 206 we read: “it was getting harder to differentiate the scammers and the scammees and the screwers and the screwed.” I so much love the “screwers and the screwed” that I’m already thinking of using it as a title of a book I’m writing.

Six, and this is the part of the book that made me sad.  On page 234 Ayisha Osori expressed her frustration on the failure of Buhari to use his leadership “to mold the party into something different from the norm…” Tears welled up in my eyes when I was reading these pages because I share the frustrations of the author.  Since the president also complained about it before the 2015 elections, we the supporters of Buhari felt that the first thing he was going to do was to tweak the leadership recruitment process – at least that of his party – making it easy for the people to choose good leaders.  

But in a situation where you have to spend millions – billions even – for good people to access power, voters don’t get to answer “who is going to be a good leader?’ rather, they answer “who’s the smaller devil?” after the degenerate delegates from the parties have chosen bad candidates for them through dubious processes. 

But can you imagine that even the amendment of the Electoral Act wasn’t an initiative of the Presidency but that of the National Assembly?  When attorney general should be consolidating the place of card readers in our elections so that the Supreme Court doesn’t defecate on it again, he was facilitating the return of Maina.

Seven, I agree with the sentiment of the author that we need a critical mass of good people who think they have nothing to do with politics to join politics.  Perchance, in doing so, we can crowd out the bad guys.

Eight, anyone who doesn’t have the time to read Ayisha’s 250-page book, would do well to read four pages beginning from 238 to 242. On those pages, she documents “survival tips… for those considering contesting elections.”

Nine, the author sought a math model to draw the relationship of our development, quality of representation and the election process (page 234).  On Saturday in Minna, I told her that as a data scientist, I’m willing to accept this challenge.

In sum, I agree with the author’s claim that love does not win elections in the context of how we choose leaders in Nigeria.  Some people use Buhari to debunk this thesis.  Buhari however, is the exception that proves the rule. Like Aisha said in Minna, “Buhari is an outlier.”  

Yet, if we remove the deliberately planted bottlenecks and allow the people to choose freely, love can win elections.  If you doubt me, please go to the city of Sokoto (Sokoto North LGA) and ask people to tell you the story of my friend, Abdullahi Mu’azu Hassan.


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