Chile’s President-Elect Gabriel Boris: A Lesson For Nigerian Youths

The just-concluded presidential election in Chile is a test and a pass, on some long-established principles in the acquisition of state power and government reforms or I should say a true win for the people, particularly in a democracy. It remains like a power most available to the vigilant. In other words, you cannot acquire power by playing on the sidelines, or by merely being interested in it. Instead, any serious power-seeker for whatever public good must be mainstreamed and must openly campaign on a mainstreamed platform that has been rescued from ruthless powerbrokers or one that has been created by political revivalists in a formidable alliance. One as surely cannot isolate politics from political reforms. The mistake most Nigerians who seek social change make is their assumption that politics is the exclusive preserve of politicians who go at any length to secure political power and use the same for their purposes. The reality very strongly suggests that social change, no matter how simple, reforms no matter how desperately they are needed and irrespective of how the government has failed, protests and other forms of citizens’ actions in form of social movements are far inadequate to realizing the true essence of the people’s aspirations.

Social change no matter how insignificant, reforms and all other legitimate demands of the citizens from their government can only be realized by political means. Social change is political by nature. Demands by citizens on their government for one reform or another, are equally political. What these mean therefore is that trying to get a government to comply with these demands contrasts with what can be obtained within any defined political environment. Not minding the risk of how this may sound, the point is that any group with less relevance to the aspirations of power, or perhaps, schemes for power, can always be ignored with little or no consequences. Hence, no government anywhere in the world would panda towards the demands of its people simply because they are in the majority, or because they have a voice, or maybe because their demands are good. But then, a politically savvy minority naturally has a higher stake in any polity.

This, therefore, suggests that a lasting change, daring social reforms among others, can only be realized from within and by political means following established political processes. Usually, many people erroneously assume that government bows to pressure or coercion, well, the reality is that no amount of pressure can bend any government that is worth its name, this is largely true, although the government can always make minor concessions when need be. I am not saying that this is either good or bad. But as always, such concessions are far below expectations. For context on truly if government bends to pressure, look at Libya, then look at Syria, and look at Nigeria where certain forces are experimenting how the will of government can be tested and changed. Again, look at Ethiopia with a Nobel Peace Prize-winning President. It just does not work that a people coerce their government to do as they wish and a people seeking a more responsive and responsible government must get conversant with what does not work.

“We are a generation whose involvement in politics began with social movements”, said the thirty-five years old Chile President-Elect, Gabriel Boris. Why this is even more profound is that only about ten years ago in 2011, Boris was a student leader and among Chilean students who were demanding reforms and insisting on free and quality education for all citizens of Chile. Then in 2021, he has been elected President of Chile. We can see clearly that Boris knew that there is little or nothing he or other Chileans can do with their consistent protests and social movement. In fact, since 2019, Chileans have been protesting and demanding different reforms from their government. Although the government conceded to a constitutional amendment, yet, the demands of the people are far from being met.

What Boris and indeed Chileans understood was that social movements simply cannot deliver their country back to them. In perspective, if you are not in charge of your politics, you are simply not in a position to initiate or implement bold reforms. In other words, you cannot change your country from the outside. This is a big lesson from Chileans and Boris, to Nigerians and citizens of other countries whose youth populations desire social change and other reforms from their government.

Although I must concede that the view from the inside is many times radically distinct from the view from the outside, which is to say that it is almost certain that not all proposed reforms of the new government in Chile upon assumption of office can be realized. This is because; some untested ideas may simply not work at the point of implementation as a result of an innate gap between principle and practice. But then, some may not work for political reasons; opposition politics in the legislature, and among other political difficulties.

But what is sure is that Boris and Chileans will have many more than they can ever possibly bargain with any government they are not in charge of. This is also the reality for Nigerian youths who are making various demands for social reforms; that social movement cannot deliver your country back to you.

Ahead of the 2023 Presidential election, Nigerians and Nigerian youths, in particular, must become politically organized to be relevant in the politics of the country as a means to their end desire for social reforms. If the existing mainstreamed formidable political structures cannot be hijacked, then, a new structure should be formed to drive the purpose of dismantling the current powerbrokers and enthroning a new political order that is more favourable to the people’s demands. Whatever the situation may be at the moment, let this process of a serious bargain for power begin so that in any event, even if it is not realized in 2023, then, it can be realized in 2027 or 2031.

Adekunle AYOOLA

Politics and Society,

Lancaster University

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