Nigerian leads body of political consultants in Africa
By Tope Templer Olaiya
The Association of Political Consultants in Africa (APCA), established in the mold of the American Association of Political Consultants has been launched in Cape Town, South Africa, with the Special Adviser to the Lagos State governor on Communication and Communities, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, emerging as the chairman of the body.
The body, which provides a platform for exchange of ideas between political consultants, seeks to woo across the continent, members of the public who are actively involved in counseling candidates and political parties, running campaigns or providing specialized services such as polling, fundraising, message development and communications.
The main objectives, according to drivers of the APCA is to foster democracy and democratic processes across Africa, while also fostering the growing and diverse profession of political consulting, as well as the practical aspects of democratic elections.
According to Bamigbetan, they intend to achieve this by bringing together members at strategic annual meetings to exchange views and information about political developments and campaign techniques.
“We want to draw membership from specialists in government relations, lobbyists, political party employees and members of the academia. Our immediate task is to set up the inaugural conference of the association. The announcement of the group is generating so much enthusiasm from stakeholders. To this effect, we would be holding an inaugural session in the first week of February at Oriental Hotels, Lekki to brainstorm and chart the modus operandi the association would take,” he said.
Speaking on his motivation to drive the continent-wide initiative, Bamigbetan said he had been drawn to the activities of the American Association of Political Consultants for a very long time. “Reading the works of political consultants and following the online magazine, Politico, caused me to interrogate the absence of such a discipline in the Nigerian political process despite the obvious fact that professionals from the humanities had played such roles in the past.
“I believed the democratic system in the country had matured enough to nurture political consultants. But I was yet to meet a political consultant one on one. So I attended the annual convention of the association in New Orleans, United States last year. The convention cured my ignorance. I met political consultants, pollsters, data collection companies, media managers, fundraisers, and stuck great camaraderie with many, particularly Matt McMillan, who had been to Nigeria in the past to work on a few accounts.
“That was how the idea of APCA was given birth to. After the conference, we kept in touch. He went ahead with plans to provide a platform called the Africa Political Summit in South Africa for the takeoff of the idea and appointed me a member of the Steering Committee.
“January 9 was destined to go down in history as the day that history would be made. Political consultants, party officials and activists participating in the summit gathered at a corner in the Cape Town Westin Hotel to create such a platform, fostered by Matt himself. At the summit, Matt emphasized the need to hand over the summit to the political consultants based in Africa. The need to create a platform for such a body became imperative,” he said.
Joining hands with Bamigbetan to spearhead the APCA include Semiu Okanlawon, the workaholic media manager of the Osun State’s information machinery, Tunji Awonusi, a key political strategist of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Zibu Mthiyane, a consultant from South Africa, who will serve as the secretary of the steering committee, Kipgeno Kirui, strategist from Kenya, among other consultants from Gabon, Benin Republic and Ghana.