My fascination with the UK election and related matters, by Omoniyi Ibietan

Labour’s Sam Carling, 22, Commons’ youngest legislator, heads to Westminster to represent North West Cambridgeshire. Dubbed, “Baby of the House”, Mr. Carling, a graduate student of science at Cambridge University, defeated a veteran Conservative Parliamentarian, Shailesh Vara by 39 votes. Yet, Carling called his election a ‘political earthquake’. I think this is quite revolutionary. Indeed, election results do not have to be landslides to be revolutionary. 

It’s also of interest to me that 6 Nigerian-British personalities won in the elections. 

And certainly, it’s so good to have Edward (Ed) Miliband, as Energy Secretary in the new cabinet emplaced by new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer. I have followed the politics of the Milibands, descendants of Polish-Jewish immigrants, right from their father, Samuel, a Marxist thinker. Ed and his brother, David, both Labour ideologues, once represented the tendential politics of Labour, once arrowheaded by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown,  hence Blairites and Brownites. 

It’s interesting to see how siblings signpost differing political tendencies, or how ideologues or thinkers on the same pole of political spectrum could represent tendencies of the same political family, like Achebe and Soyinka in the old People’s Redemption Party.

It was in the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) that I saw the destructive power of tendential politics. Sadly, I was involved. I was a Mayist. The climax of NANS’ tendential politics at Ife Convention in 1994 signaled the death knell of ideological politics in the Nigerian student movement. A dual power structure would emerge to destroy the influence of the students movement in the Nigerian sociopolitical landscape. 

By fate, I returned to the centerstage in the year 2000 when I was elected the Chairman of NANS National Convention at the University of Maiduguri (the year I was graduating at Uyo, after spending a total of 10 years across three universities to take a degree due to expulsion and suspension for students rights activism). Anyway, the Maiduguri forum put an end to dual, perhaps multiple power structure in NANS, hence it is referred to as The Unity Convention. 

What role is NANS playing at the moment in contemporary Nigeria? I ask in the context of my experience in South Africa while I was a student there. In SA, there are no visible tendencies within the student movement on campuses because elections are contested only on the auspices of the political parties in the larger society. Students contest Executive and Parliamentary elections on the campuses as cadres of political parties registered in SA – ANC, DA, EFF, etc. So, the political platforms recognised by University authorities for students to contest are the same parties existing in the South African society. 

It explains why the SA Parliament is peopled by those who rose through the ranks in their parties, either as cadres of youth wing in counties, or students wing, and perhaps workers movements. You cannot become a Minister in SA in your father or mother’s name, like the Milibands in the UK, you must have worked for your political party. HE Thabo Mbeki did not become president because his father was Mandela’s friend and comrade. President Mbeki was a Cadre of ANC and rose to the pinnacle in his own right. Also, Mama Winnie did not make the pantheon of SA’s authentic women because she was Mandela’s wife. She worked for the ANC and earned her place in history. 

We need to remake our society.

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