For Ogbeni Aregbesola, It’s Love Stupid…By Ismaeel Ahmed
In 1992 when a little known Governor of Arkansas, a small rural southern state clinched the nomination of the Democratic Party to run for president against an experienced political veteran and an incumbent George H. W. Bush, many thought it was going to be a walk over for the Republican. The country was fresh out of the Cold War with the Russians and had engaged the Iraqis in a gulf war to “protect” the Kuwaitis. It was a National Security predominance issue campaign. Bush was not only a Vice President for 8 years and a President for 4, he was also a former CIA Director, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican Party and a former Congressman, he personified experience and establishment, and has been in the hallmark of the National Security food chain for decades in America. Compared to him, Bill Clinton was a malnourished political toddler on food stamps.
But Clinton understood the game very well: He had to bring rural politics onto the National stage. He had to change the conversation and invent a new narrative. He had to tell his own story and most importantly, he had to develop a transactional emotional relationship with the voters and make them see themselves in him: He had to make them LOVE him. In changing the national conversation Clinton coined the famous phrase “it’s the economy stupid…” What that means is that National Security matters, but it’s the economy, which was in the tank at that time, that should matter more. America had won enough wars, it should win back it’s economy and a rural Governor who had run a state for 11 years, knows a little bit about that. And so the economy became the dominant issue on that campaign, and Clinton won handsomely.
In politics, it’s the ability of the players to communicate emotionally with the voters that ultimately decides their fate. Elections are hardly objective, they are usually very subjective heart decisions based on either personal, ethnic, racial, religious, regional and rarely rational considerations. Those who can tell a better story of an emotional invocation could have an upper hand in a society where it is truly the people that vote.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregebesola, the incumbent and re-elected Governor of the State of Osun understood this as well. He cultivated an affectionate relationship with his people. He created an emotional patriotism between the people and the state. They don’t only love him for him, they see an attack on him as an attack on the state. He changed how the state is being called, created a state anthem that is emotional and heartfelt, he built a nexus between Government and the governed. In return, he got the unalloyed loyalty and love of the Osunites.
When the APC Youth Forum (APYF) organized a million youth rally for Ogbeni in Osogbo, we walked from point to point in the procession to Freedom Park. The infectious love and affection the people have for the Governor was nothing I had ever seen before. I knew that this was more than just an election to them, it was a statement of determination. Ogbeni was theirs and no one, no matter who, under whatever guise, would take that away from them.
Politics is like acting on a stage. To be a star, the audience have to love watching you. And so Ogbeni and many other politicians like the late Abubakar Rimi of Kano and many like them understood that ” it is love stupid” that’s all that matters.
Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed holds a Law Degree (LL.B) from University of Abuja, a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America.
Ahmed also holds a Masters of Law (LLM) from the University of Chicago, USA. He is a lawyer and a politician. He is currently the chairman of the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF), a Youth body under the APC.
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