A Revolution Is Not a Wedding Party, By Majeed Dahiru
…the date for a revolution is not fixed and announced publicly, as one would do a wedding party. A revolution is a disruptively forceful, often violent, overthrow of an existing socio-political system by a popular uprising of disenchanted segments of the society, and not a merry-making event.
August 5, 2019 may go down in Nigeria’s history as the date of a revolution that never was. 48 hours to the commencement of the date announced by organisers of the #RevolutionNow movement, for a nationwide protest against the inertia of governance in the face of the unprecedented compounding of socio-economic and security challenges in the country, its leader, Omoyele Sowore, was arrested by the secret police. On what was supposed to be the D-day, an armada of security agencies laid siege to designated points of convergence of the protesters in Gestapo style, cordoning off the areas, dispersing much of the gathering crowd, while arresting a number of them. With its leader kept out of circulation and the full might of the state deployed to crush the movement, Sowore’s revolution was still at birth, as it ended before it even began.
A former university students leader and frontline advocate of good governance, Omoyele Sowore has been a powerful voice for a change from the retrogression of leadership to its progression, for much of his adult life. His online news medium, SaharaReporters has been an invaluable channel for exposing the malfeasance of governance in high places. Like most Nigerians who worked tirelessly to bring about democratic change in Nigeria, after sixteen unbroken years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) misrule in 2015, Sowore was to subsequently become thoroughly dissatisfied with the successor Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC)-administration, to such an extent that he put himself forward to the Nigerian people for election in the 2019 presidential polls. Apparently disenchanted by an utterly flawed electoral process, which made a peaceful democratic change impossible in 2019, as was the case in 2015, Sowore and his comrades are opting for an alternative means of change.
However, the date for a revolution is not fixed and announced publicly, as one would do a wedding party. A revolution is a disruptively forceful, often violent, overthrow of an existing socio-political system by a popular uprising of disenchanted segments of the society, and not a merry-making event. Announcing a date for the commencement of revolutionary protests is like informing a government about your intention to overthrow it. A revolution is not said to happen on a date, but is usually said to have happened, as it is traditionally a spontaneous happenstance, which takes place, not in concert but in resonance with a broad section of the society. This usually includes critical insider elements in the ruling establishment and ultimately culminates in a shift of loyalty from the government by security agencies to the revolting people, as was the case with the French revolution of 1789 to 1799. And when a revolution is planned, it is properly timed by highly intellectual ideologues to coincide with a period of widespread popular dissent of majority of the people against their government, making it easy to guide the revolt towards a premeditated outcome, as was the case with the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 in Russia.
Familiarity with world history reveals revolutions, in whatever form, not to be the silver bullet that kills bad political leadership systems to birth good ones. A successful revolution, which overthrows an existing socio-political order, is usually followed by a period of anarchical instability, arising from a breakdown of law and order in the absence of a constituted authority, and anyone can be a victim of the time.
Despite the seeming failure of the #RevolutionNow movement, attributable to the tactlessness of the organisers, the Nigerian government and the leadership class should not claim victory prematurely. Like suicidal thought slips in, the #RevolutionNow movement has succeeded in awakening the latent revolutionary thinking inherent in every political conscious and discontented Nigerian. The truth is, this seemingly aborted attempt at a popular revolution has actually succeeded in etching the idea in the psyche of the Nigerian people, whose widespread resentment of a failed political system nudged the birthing of the idea in the first place.
The intolerable level of financial debauchery pertaining to the commonwealth of the Nigerian state by a few privileged members of the political leadership class and the near total inertia of governance, which has created of Nigeria the third most terrorised country in the world, with the highest number of miserably poor people, provides a perfect setting for a French or Russian style revolution in Nigeria. If Nigeria’s political leadership class, much like the example of Marie-Antoinette, the Queen-Consort of King Louis XVI of France, continues to live in lavish surplus in the midst of widespread miserable impoverishment of the people, then her fate at the guillotine may also befall them. This is made more palpable by the inattentive, insensitive, incompetent, detached and aloof leadership style of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which nevertheless devised an ingenuously dubious means of holding onto power, despite its abysmal failure in its first term, thereby preventing a credible democratic change of leadership through a brazenly compromised electoral process that was the 2019 elections. Making legitimate democratic change impossible in the face of widespread disenchantment with an acute failure of governance is the proper recipe for a revolution.
Familiarity with world history reveals revolutions, in whatever form, not to be the silver bullet that kills bad political leadership systems to birth good ones. A successful revolution, which overthrows an existing socio-political order, is usually followed by a period of anarchical instability, arising from a breakdown of law and order in the absence of a constituted authority, and anyone can be a victim of the time. In the subsequent effort to restore law and order by constituting a legitimate authority of state, this often results in the breakout of factions in the ranks of the revolutionaries, as there will usually be no immediate unanimity on the shape, form and essence of how authority should be reconstituted in directing the affairs of the state and the people. This can subsequently get bloodier than the overthrow of the previous system. Following the abolition of the monarchy in the aftermath of the French revolution, the ranks of the revolutionaries was splintered into factions of the Jacobins and Girondins, who fought bitterly over what should be the political structure of the new France.
Nigeria will do well to avoid the tortuous road of a revolution, as she may never recover from it. Inherent in the existing constitutional democratic order are inexhaustible mechanisms for resolving the country’s numerous governance challenges. It is in the collective interest of both the political leadership and the people to continue to productively engage in furthering the ideals of the rule of law.
Most often than not, like isotopes of the same element, a revolution only succeeds in replacing an unwanted political leadership system with a similar one, leaving the socio-economic lot of the people unchanged for better and in some cases this actually becomes worse off. The revolution that toppled the French monarchy eventually gave rise to a republican dictatorship, just as the Bolshevik revolution replaced the Russian monarchy with a communist dictatorship. The people are usually the ultimate victims of a revolution, as their rights, welfare and security are curtailed to prevent a counter-revolution. Nearer home in Africa, examples abound in recent history, from Sudan to Egypt and from Ethiopia to Libya, about how revolutions only succeeded in replacing one set of unwanted leaders with their variants, thus leaving the people worse off, as liberators eventually become oppressors.
Nigeria will do well to avoid the tortuous road of a revolution, as she may never recover from it. Inherent in the existing constitutional democratic order are inexhaustible mechanisms for resolving the country’s numerous governance challenges. It is in the collective interest of both the political leadership and the people to continue to productively engage in furthering the ideals of the rule of law. In absolute fidelity to the morality of the rule of law, the political leadership class of Nigeria must not be seen by the people to be relishing the privileges of power only but must importantly be seen to be impactful in taking up their responsibility of providing adequately for the welfare of citizens, while also securing their lives and property. Fundamental to preventing a revolution is to return power back to people through a credible electoral process that allows them to choose and change their leaders freely. A legitimate electoral process is the key ingredient of democracy, as it allows the people to reward and punish good and bad governance accordingly. If this power is denied them through a flawed electoral process that seeks to perpetuate an underperforming political leadership class, a time will come when the people will seek alternatives with or without the prompting of Comrade Sowore.
To further prevent the rough road to a revolution will require the political leadership to be guided in their business of governance and accede to the morality of the rule of law, in the self-enlightened realisation that it is in their best interest to do so. By de-personalising but generalising government, the political leadership class must realise that they are will be beneficiaries of any legacy of good governance the help to institute and will also be victims of any governance malfeasance they foster, once they serve out their time in office.