Sowore’s Aluta Activism: The Compelling Need For A Culture Of Protest, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
…there is the compelling need for civil society to have a popular front to induce and institutionalise a culture of protest to fight for social and economic rights, to extend the frontiers of democracy and be at the forefront of the resolution of the national question and the issues of the nationalities.
The arrest of Omoyele Sowore and deployment of soldiers and policemen to tear-gas protesters is an anti-climax. Buhari’s government made a mountain out of a molehill. He should have been left alone to test his organising powers, afterall his right to protest is guaranteed by the Constitution. The semantic and rhetorical use of #RevolutionNow is insufficient to effect his arrest, and this portrays the government as daft. Sowore has been unable to graduate from “aluta activism” to become a pragmatist and veritable organiser. His #RevolutionNow lacked a clear theme, strategy and a discernible audience. Vladimir Illich Lenin described this sort of post-adolescence prancing around as infantilism.
Who are the strategists in the Nigerian military? Lt. General Frank Kitson in Low Intensity Operations offers an illustration of how the British intelligence deliberately built up the most conservative of the nationalists, Jomo Kenyatta, in order to marginalise the more radical wing. That is strategic savvy. There are many ways of disrupting unwanted protests for a government not lacking in thought. No thinking government does what this government routinely does. Sowore’s mistake is that his protest, like his political campaign, is too parlous, disorganised and ill-thought out for the situation we are in.
Nigeria is in dire need of lessons in civics, and the understanding of the responsibilities of leaders and followers. The leaders and the governed in Nigeria must understand and appreciate the imperative of a culture of protest, strategy, mobilisation, as ways of deconstructing the political, social and economic bases of the country. The failure to understand and appreciate the culture of protest can be traced to the hurried transition to civil rule (semi-democracy? as The Economist churlishly described it), which came with debilitating side effects. Chief amongst these is a Constitution that does not reflect the federalist ethos upon which Independence was negotiated, while special purpose electoral vehicles, sarcastically referred to as political parties, were hurriedly put together. The key role of the civil society and its place in a democracy was a glaring omission. With regard to unfolding events, this now has to be addressed. Democracy needs a culture of protest within a constitutional framework, as we can glean from France – an established democracy raucously contending with the hyperactive Yellow Vests movement. Nigeria, with the weak interpretation of an ill-defined civil society, needs it more.
A culture of protest is vital in the years ahead. The present state appears to be exhausting the limits of its possibilities. Only a culture of protests weaved around civil society, inducing new forms of national organisations, can prevent a void into which anarchy and, or fascism, can step.
With rising poverty levels and glaring social and economic inequalities, protest is imperative. This is even more so since a presumed bastion of the civil society – the trade unions – have, in the local patois, effectively decamped to political society. The trade unions can no longer play the much needed role of a vanguard, having become, in effect, “Aristocracies of Labour”, as Marx derided the trades unions of his day. With this vacuum, there is the compelling need for civil society to have a popular front to induce and institutionalise a culture of protest to fight for social and economic rights, to extend the frontiers of democracy and be at the forefront of the resolution of the national question and the issues of the nationalities. The use of the term ‘popular front’, associated with civil societies in Europe in the 1930s, is deliberate. Any culture of protest in Nigeria must accommodate and be sensitive to the pull of ethnicity and contrived religious differences. As with the June 12 protests, the present ill-thought through #RevolutionNow is already feeling the effect of this diversionary pull, a veritable weapon in the armoury of the forces of retrogression and defenders of the status quo.
New forms of organisation, agitation and propaganda must be developed, and luckily there is the social media as a propelling tool. I make bold to say that in order to checkmate centrifugal and obscucrantrist forces, the culture of protest must be trajected on taking up single issues that highlight the failure of the State to be of benefit to the majority, as opposed to pandering to the interests of a pampered elite. Such issues should include the prompt payment of pensions and the need to make them inflation-adjusted, universal health insurance coverage, free and compulsory education up to the age of 16 to counteract child labour and act as a break on population explosion, etc.
By building a culture of protest around single issues, civil society will begin to see its own hidden strengths, while new pan-Nigeria forms of alliances and organisations will be organically induced. A culture of protest is vital in the years ahead. The present state appears to be exhausting the limits of its possibilities. Only a culture of protests weaved around civil society, inducing new forms of national organisations, can prevent a void into which anarchy and, or fascism, can step. Developing a culture of protests is now fundamental to the defence of democracy and to act as a brake to the threat of disorderly national disintegration.
Is the break down of law and order happening by accident or is it a precursor to obtaining emergency powers? Unless I have read my history upside down, this country is facing the prospect of anarchism and fascism confronting each other in a life and death struggle. We better be careful.
The rise of anger within the polity forces a recall of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notes. Therein the Italian philosopher states that, “The old order is fading away and a new one is struggling to be born. In the interregnum all manner of morbid forces are revealing themselves”. Nigeria is in an impasse, the strategies needed to slay the morbid symptoms have become the issues of our time. Despite the hopes and aspirations invested in Buhari, Karl Marx’s reference to Hagel fits Buhari like a glove: “All historical personalities reveal themselves twice, the first time as tragedy the second time as farce.” Was Buhari of 1984 to 1985 a tragic figure? Has the Buhari incursion since 2015 descended into farce?
In conclusion, Franklin Roosevelt said; “nothing happens by accident in politics, anything that happens in politics was programmed to happen”. Given what is going on throughout Nigeria, one can conclude that inducing anarchy is always the first step towards the imposition of an authoritarian regime. Is the break down of law and order happening by accident or is it a precursor to obtaining emergency powers? Unless I have read my history upside down, this country is facing the prospect of anarchism and fascism confronting each other in a life and death struggle. We better be careful.