Meet an author: Ayisha Osori
Ayisha Osori is a Nigerian lawyer, author, international development consultant, journalist and politician known for her work on good governance, gender equality, women’s economic and political participation and ending violence against women in Nigeria. Her book Love Does Not Win Elections gives insight into the Unique Nigerian Politics.
1. What was the reaction you got when you initially pitched the idea for this book?
I wrote the book first before trying to pitch it but when it was written and I shared it with a few publishers, the sense I got was that it was welcome because a few wanted to expand their reality/non-fiction catalogues and others thought the topic of the book was worthy and would fill a much needed gap in the market.
2. What was the main aim and audience you wanted this book to reach?
The main aim was to share what I found out about an important part of the political & electoral process: the party primaries and the implications of how political parties function on our democracy. I also wanted to democratise information i.e., to let everyone know what I knew because until I went through the process I confess to not knowing how the election sausages were being made. Finally, with the book, we could take some of what we had heard in the past, out of the realm of ‘rumours/water cooler gist/beer parlour talk’ into reality – no one, quoting my book could be dismissed when talking about some of the dysfunctions of the political party primaries process. I did not think specifically for an audience but in the end, with hindsight, Love Does Not Win Elections is primarily for Nigerians – both at home and abroad. It is also a book for those who work in Nigeria or know Nigerians and often wonder why we can’t seem to get the ‘right leadership’ – this helps answer some of the questions.
3. In your book, you really addressed the impact of your campaign on your family. Can you tell us a little bit on how your family adjusted to your movements.
Did I? Other people have read the book and felt that I did not cover enough of what the impact was to my family. Sadly- only my family members can answer this question because it is not something we have discussed. My sense is that children typically think their upbringing; home life is what is normal until they start to discern that other people live differently. I grew up in a home where my mother always worked and I am raising children who have a mother who works and travels quite a bit – it is normal and nothing to adjust to. Hopefully when they are adults they will make the right decisions for themselves and their families and will understand that their decisions can change based on their circumstances.Love Does Not Win Elections is primarily for Nigerians – both at home and abroad. - @naijavote Click To Tweet
4. Do you think Nigerian politics can evolve to a level where money isn’t really required at every stage?
There is no politics without money. There are many legitimate reasons for the use of funds around politics such as paying for party forms (a legitimate way for parties to raise funds), for campaigning (meetings, rallies, media time), campaign team costs (salaries, communication (i.e., cost of airtime), etc etc. So any serious participation in politics will require funds and the good news, at least from my experience is that there are a growing number of Nigerians who know that to see growth within our political industry and development of our democracy, we will have to contribute to people’s campaigns. This should encourage different types of candidates to aspire to elective office. Not only the god-father funding model is available to us – people donated as much as N1000 to my campaign and I was grateful – 100 people donating N1000 is N100,000 – enough to buy recharge cards and some posters. Now, that said – the total general cost of campaigning and winning elections in Nigeria is way too high and we should be asking (and investigating) what these high sums are used for. I know that a lot of the extra costs go to compromising (or inducing) the party officials to ensure certain results after the primaries. This is one of the reasons why one candidate can win the primaries and when the list of the party is submitted to INEC, the name of the winner has been replaced with another name. This type of theft costs money. Then we have the statement of Ibrahim Mantu – the former Senate Deputy President (2003-2007) who said on Channels TV a few months ago that elections are rigged with the connivance of the security agencies and INEC. Again, the co-operation of officers of these state institutions is not free – there are financial rewards and some of the news headlines covering some of the State Residential Electoral Commissioners provides us with clues on where the bulk of the allocated price tags for winning elections goes. When people say – to be governor you need 2 billion naira or to be a member of the House of Representatives you need 350 million naira, we must learn to do several things: one, separate the legitimate costs from the illegitimate costs, two, demand that officers of these institutions that are complicit be prosecuted for their role and three, keep demanding for electoral and constitutional reform to make rigging harder, make being a public officer less financially lucrative and governance less expensive for the people.
5. The letter you wrote to the then sitting president, President GoodLuck Jonathan was quite interesting. Did you think he would have responded? And if he did, did you think it would have been in your favour?
I knew he would not respond but I thought (and still do) that it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt and to have a record of my attempt to reach him with a perspective he would most likely not get from the PDP party officials. In other parts of the world, citizens routinely write to their Presidents/Heads of State and while it is assumed that not all these letters reach them, it is the role of those around them to pick the most interesting of these letters and put them before the president who can then choose to respond however he/she wishes. I would like to think my perspective was interesting and if there were conscientious aides attached to the president, such a letter would get to his table. As it is, we will never know if he would have decided in my favour. That said – the thrust of the letter was not a request for a magic wand to smooth my path but to ensure that free and fair primaries took place and not the ‘automatic ticket’ that many PDP incumbents wanted as a trade – off for supporting President Jonathan’s bid for the presidential ticket when many members of his own party were against it.
6. This book was very transparent. Did you have to get permission from the people who’s names were mentioned? Did you have any fears about publishing it?
No. I did not get permission from them. It is my story too and they played roles in it. My sense is that if anyone was ashamed of the role they played, then they should not play that role again. And if they were not shamed by it…what loss is there? The beauty of story telling is that different perspectives to an event can be told. We’ve been warned, rightly about the danger of a single story and that is my simple cover. I did have fears but managed to over come the fears by thinking of some of my primary objectives in telling the story in the first place. As I said earlier, one objective was to take what we are beginning to learn about our electoral process out of the realm of ‘gist’ into fact and changing names or fictionalising it would have done just that.The beauty of story telling is that different perspectives to an event can be told. - @naijavote Click To Tweet
7. This book deals with a lot of pending issues in the nation. One of them is women inclusion. Apart from making forms free for women, what other ways do you think political parties can increase women participation?
There are many ways. For one, joining a party could be easier. Finding ones ward office can be as difficult as looking for an orange pip in drum of gari. If people could register online, I am sure more women would join. The second is that we all have a duty to change the narratives we repeat about what politics is in Nigeria – unpleasant, not worthy etc. The framing we should have for politics is that it can be noble, it should be for the best of us (mentally, values and experience wise) and tackling issues that plague our society should be for the best of us who want to truly serve – not serve themselves. Third, parties could try harder to be more appealing – to brand themselves in a way that makes people want to associate with them. Football clubs are a simple example – despite having so many – fans can tell them apart. Yes, we have the party logos but what do they stand for? If our parties were branded for example in ways that women could know that these parties stood for issues they cared about e.g., unqualified reproductive health rights, ending the menace of SARS so that their children and family and husbands were safe (from at least this one things amongst other things) or any of the many issues women and girls care about, then I am sure more women would participate. Finally, if the primaries process was not rigged (with the selection of delegates, the actual conduct of the primaries e.g., with different tactics related to the ballot boxes and the counting of the ballots or the inability of the delegates to write) then I think more women would be open to participating. It is the sense and in some cases, the knowledge that the entire process if compromised that keeps some who are interested away.
8. Are you a supporter for the Not Too Young To Run movement? If yes why? If no, why?
Yes – for the simple fact that many countries have no age restriction to running for various offices – once you are of voting age (18 in most places) you can vote and be voted for and as such there was no real reason why the 1999 Constitution restricted participation this way. That said – from my experience, the age of candidates has little to do with why we do not have more young people in elective positions. The new law is nice to have and the NTYTR team have done a great job of showing us how to run a creative, sustained and successful campaign and we are all the richer as a society for this example. However, what matters at the end of the day is how well we understand the way our political industry works and how prepared we are to build a better, fairer, more impactful democratic and governance process which will ramp up the development of our country. What we have now is an exploitative governance structure that is enabled by undemocratic political parties and weak electoral processes.
9. Do you still plan to run for office? If yes, under what party?
10. Since “Love Does Not Win Election”, in your opinion, what really does?
Still working that out by sharing my thoughts and the book with as many people as possible. No one is the repository of all knowledge and in writing this book, one other objective I left out was my desire to learn more. Many people write about things they want to understand. The writing process helped me process what I experienced and what I learnt. In sharing the book, I am hoping to learn even more through the thoughts and opinions of people and as such, I am happy to start a challenge so people can share their thoughts on ‘what wins elections if love does not’. Maybe TheBookDealerNG wants to take on that campaign with me.
Ms Osori was interviewed by Mercy Munyale Kwabe for TheBookDealerNg. Ms Kwabe is a graduate of Political Science from Covenant University. She has a diploma in Global Leadership and also holds a Masters degree in Terrorism, International Crime and Global Security from Coventry University. She is currently running a PhD program and her research is centered on Sexual Violence Against Children. She has passion for writing and reading as well. She is the Lead Coordinator of Eccentric Readers Club which is an Abuja based book club that focuses on African Literature. She is currently a Lecturer at Baze University, Abuja. She is also a team member of the Baze Univeristy Muse Club which is a creative club that also does a lot of charity work within its environs. She can contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org