Is Africa Ready for Alternative Politics? What and Who are the Alternatives?

The revolutionary energy of the 2020 EndSARS protests renewed discourses of youth politics, popular culture, radical democracy and social change in Nigeria It raised questions and commentaries as to whether this was a transient phenomenon or an abiding movement towards alternative ways of thinking about politics and the kinds of political alternatives that might emerge to challenge the status quo. Crucially, EndSARS, reminiscent of other protests like Occupy Nigeria almost a decade earlier, albeit in a different context, positioned the upcoming 2023 general elections as the time of change – specifically as the time of next generation politics inspiring a wave political mobilisations that combined conventional organising methods with contemporary strategies and new media technologies all aimed at amplifying historically marginalised voices. While popular protests and agitations for youth and gender inclusive politics have a long history in Nigeria, the significance of post-EndSARS politics opens up an opportunity to explore the nexus between popular culture, electoral politics, democracy and development in new and interesting ways.

Redesigning Democracy is a series of conferences that aims to start an original conversation that pushes normative discourses on African politics towards alternative narratives that incorporate creative dissidence, popular culture, histories and emergent forms of everyday innovative social change. The conference adopts an expansive view of (electoral) politics in hopes of shifting the parochial binary discourses of power often articulated around masses vs elites by critically centring otherwise marginal voices and actors.

The first instalment features a first of an unceremonious convivial interaction between high politics and everyday culture. This multi-perspective and cross-generational event brings together established and aspiring young politicians, activists, scholars and creatives who have been vociferous in their imaginings and critique of politics in Nigeria.

Taking the 2023 general elections in Nigeria as the discursive starting point, the event will explore the impact of the EndSARS moment (framed as alternative politics) on elections and governance within and beyond 2023. This taps into the growing regional and global youth discontent with conventional politics, governance and political ideologies toward ideas of alternative politics, political alternatives and other processes (within and beyond party politics) that could positively influence radical social change and the wider process of governance in Nigeria. The conference which coincides with the 2nd anniversary of the EndSARS protests, also aims to move beyond the rhetoric of youth political ‘empowerment’ to explore the vernacular or alternative ways they are currently shaping the political space. Youth here is conceptualised as a social category, a structuring concept and an affective disposition beyond age in numbers. In this sense, next generation also speaks to a shift in the class, demography and category of political actors

Overall Redesigning Democracy will explore Alternative politics vs Political Alternatives in the context of:

* EndSARS an alternative politics gamechanger in the 2023 elections particularly the impact on political consciousness among young people but also the ways popular culture is shaping the political landscape through music, film, comedy, literature and innovation i.e. alternative spaces where politics is also happening with perhaps more influence and impact. In this sense, can we consider popular culture as alternative politics? Can we explore the limits of political parties as the ‘third way’?; * The ways in which current forms of organising succeeds (or fails) in ideological transformations and to what extent it will result in increased voting or merely act as a vote cutter in the upcoming elections; * For those that succeeded in gaining a party ticket, how they envision effecting the desired kind of politics and governance; * Thinking beyond 2023: what does next generation/post EndSARS politics actually mean for governance more broadly beyond romanticized notions? Is Nigeria ready for it beyond rhetoric? Are the actors themselves ready? * Is it time to expand the attention placed on electoral/party politics towards other domains of social change?