Exclusive: Nigerians learn from Emmanuel Macron’s experience

By Muyiwa Olayinka

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President Emmanuel Macron (left) receiving the medal of Napoleon I at his inauguration ceremony in France

Prologue

On 14th May 2017, the new President of France at his inauguration said this:

“My mandate will give the French back the confidence to believe in themselves,” President Macron said at the elaborate Élysée Palace ceremony. He vowed to see the EU “reformed and relaunched” during his time in office. He takes over from François Hollande, whose five-year term was plagued by high unemployment figures.

The article

The Presidential election in France has produced Emmanuel Macron as the President. This Presidential election has been dramatic with twits and turns,  becoming  a turning point in French elections.

The incumbent President Francois Hollande of Socialist Party refused to go for a second term. The 62-year-old, faced with very low popularity ratings, has become the first sitting president in modern French history not to seek re-election. This has thrown up 5 contenders for the office. They are:

1 Emmanuel Macron

Age: 39

Party: A newly created political movement that roughly translates as On Our Way! or Onward! (En Marche!)

Political positioning: independent centrist

Mr. Macron, a former economy minister, was one of the main drivers behind the socialist government’s shift toward more pro-business economic policies, including allowing stores to open on Sundays.

Last summer, Mr. Macron left the government and started his own political movement, which he says is neither on the left nor the right, leaving some wondering what he stands for. He has pitched himself as forward-looking and socially progressive and is running on a free-market, pro-Europe platform.

2 Marine Le Pen

Age: 48

Party: National Front (Front National)

Political positioning: far right

Ms. Le Pen is the daughter and political heir to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, a far-right, nationalist, anti-immigration party. She’s French  equivalent of Donald Trump talking tough on immigration policy, preservation of French supremacy and values, have questioned the role of NATO, and advocate closer ties to Russia. The difference between her and Trump is Trump was a political outsider, whereas Le Pen has been steeped in politics since childhood. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ran for president five times and is notorious in France for remarks widely seen as racist and anti-Semitic.

Since becoming head of the party in 2011, she has tried to clean up its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image, leading her to split with her father and then oust him from the party. For years, she has put criticism of globalization and Islam at the center of her platform.

If elected, she has promised to hold a referendum on a French exit from the European Union

3 François Fillon

Age: 63

Party: Republican Party (Les Républicains)

Political positioning: right-wing conservative

Mr. Fillon, a former prime minister, is a socially conservative and pro-free-market political veteran who has called for deep cuts in public spending and major changes in the French workplace.

He wants more controls on immigration, and he has said that Islam threatens traditional French values. Mr. Fillon was accused of embezzling public funds during his time in Parliament, upending a campaign that was, in large part, based on a projected image of probity. He has denied wrongdoing and refused to withdraw from the race.

4 Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Age: 65

Party: Rebellious France (La France Insoumise)

Political positioning: hard left

Mr. Mélenchon, a one time Trotskyite and former Socialist politician, left the Socialist Party in 2008 to create the Left Party, backed by the Communist Party. For this year’s presidential run, he created a new political movement, La France Insoumise.

Like Mr. Fillon and Marine Le Pen, he is in favor of working with Russia on international issues like Syria.

5 Benoît Hamon

Age: 49

Party: Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste)

Political positioning: left wing of the Socialist Party

Mr. Hamon, a lawmaker and former education minister, left the government when his party shifted its position toward pro-business, austerity policies.

An outspoken voice of dissent in his fractured party, Mr. Hamon has appealed to young socialist voters with an environmentally friendly, socially liberal platform, putting forth proposals to phase in a universal revenue, legalize marijuana and tax robots

The 2017 French presidential election was held on 23 April. The two leading candidates left after the first run off were Marie Le  Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

As  no candidate won a majority in the first round on 23 April, a run-off was held between the top two candidates, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and Marine Le Pen of theNational Front (FN), which Macron won by a decisive margin on 7 May. He won with 66% margin against his rival, Marie Le Pen.

 How Macron won the Presidential election

The French electorates were tired of the old order, they needed a new breath of fresh ideas in a changing world.

The two major political parties in France, the Socialists and the Republicans, are decades-old forces with extensive resources and party members that make it tough for anyone else to truly compete. Since the start of the French Fifth Republic in 1958, no independent candidate has successfully captured the presidency.

In 2015, Macron announced he was no longer a member of the Socialist Party but an independent; he resigned his post as Economy Minister in August 2016, then formally launched his campaign that November. With the similarity  of 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, with the slogan of “Change we can beleive in”, Macron launched his as “En  Marche” (“On the move”).

A year ago, Macron had no party, no operation, and was still serving as economy minister under President François Hollande. With a quarter of a million members in his En Marche (“On the Move”) movement, he cemented his status as a frontrunner in the French election

The 39-year-old candidate created a political movement of his own, one with a real chance at victory, and all in just over a year. He benefited from center-right candidate François Fillon’s scandal and the shrinking support for Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon. Macron bills himself as a centrist candidate who can combat the populist appeal of the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen.

Using U.S.-style mobilization techniques that, in some ways, mirror the organizational style of Barack Obama’s campaigns. Before the election, En Marche had more than 3,900 local volunteer committees and hundreds of small events each day across the country.

Macron’s team clearly welcomes the association with the former U.S. president Barrack Obama: Just three days before the election, they released a video of their candidate speaking with Obama by phone, in which Obama wishes Macron “good luck” with his campaign.

His victory  serves as a repudiation of the French political establishment and as a vindication of a type of technology-driven, volunteer-heavy campaigning that is still new in France.

He had the Grande Marche, a nationwide door-to-door campaign that aimed not to secure votes but to function as a sort of listening tour across France. Macron’s team wanted to know what French voters were thinking, which issues interested them most, and what they liked and didn’t like about the country’s politics.

The Grande Marche was unprecedented in France, both for its scope and for how long before Election Day it was conducted. The effort also benefited Macron’s campaign because it served as a training ground for new volunteers, many of whom had never volunteered for a campaign before.

With the combination of grit, energetic, resourcefulness and a passion to realise a burning ambition, Emmanuel Macron had re written the course of history in France.

He has since been sworn in to office on May 14th as the next President of France for the next 5 years.

Lessons to be learnt by Nigerian youths.

In Nigeria we are fond of complaining about the political situation but yet, we sit on the fence, hoping miracles will happen.

Nigeria is a deeply religious nation, many beleive God will in His supernatural powers  intervene and kill all political detractors. So it is not un usual to see many Nigerians praying fervently in different mosques and churches.

I beleive in prayers but it is totally inaccurate to wish or think that prayers only will solve our political problems. This is wishful thinking. We must act, take the bull by the horn and embrace our future.

Every four years, Nigerians go to polls to elect leaders to various political posts. We need a lot of education to choose wisely.

The youths have a lot to do because the future of this country lies with them. We need education, re orientation and dissemination of information that will trickle down to the grassroots.

The youths have to be involved in politics with the sense of  history and responsibility. We have poor reading culture among our teeming youths. It is becoming a serious and systemic problem. If they are not educated, how will they be articulated to develop a critical mass of educated lot among  themselves.

A  situation where our youths show lethargy, uninterested and whingeing will not make any meaningful difference. There is a common excuse among Nigerians that the leaders kept on recycling themselves making it so difficult for youths to be involved. The truth is that we have to  force our way through and challenge them with powerful and realistic alternatives.

If  Emmanuel  Macron had been complaining and refused to be involved, he will not be where he is today. He went to good schools, equip and groomed himself, learnt the history of the country and joined a political party.

He learnt the rudiments of politics and was found worthy of being appointed a cabinet minister of the Socialist party. From there he broke ranks from the party and started his political movement based on his conviction and vision.

In Nigeria, many used to say the former President Goodluck Jonathan was a lucky politician. But the truth is that he joined local politics when he left OMPADEC and the rest is history.

Nigeria is at a cross road today, simply because the leaders kept on recycling themselves. The Nigerian President is battling an undisclosed but possibly old age related illness. It is natural because President  Buhari is 74, the rigour of office is taking its toil on his health.

It  would have been highly  unlikely if he had been much younger.

Failures give excuses. If we continue to give excuses, or relying on the common thread that “Nigerian politics is dirty”, we shall  continue to wallow in self pity and political despoliation.

It was not easy for Emmanuel Macron to upstage the traditional political parties in France, so also, it is not going to be easy to break the norm in any traditional establishment

I congratulate Emmanuel Macron for his victory and his  ascension to office of the French President. He remains  a beacon of hope to all youths of the world

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