Nigeria and Revolution Are Now Joined At the Hips, By ‘Tope Fasua
We cannot run away from it, because this revolution is us. It has conjoined with Nigeria, first at the hips and later, maybe at the brains and heart, as a result of decades of mismanagement, oppression and mindless rape of a beautiful nation. It is the revolution spirit that will liberate us, and free us from global opprobrium…
Many things have happened in the past one week. Sowore is in the custody of the Department for State Services (DSS), but the really sad thing is the reaction of many of the ‘youth’, as well as even those who posture as ‘progressives’. Mockery. A people who should be contrite and use the opportunity to reflect deeply on the state of their country, are rather mocking the efforts of someone – no matter how misplaced – while some are showing cheap envy. Some who call themselves ‘educated’, apparently do not understand the evolution of nation states and believe they can waltz, party, or pray this nation into equity and greatness. They discount, with a wave of hand, the struggles of great people in other countries but carry the passports of those countries, and send their children there for education and whatnot.
Let me put it this way: There was a country. There was a time we had Fela Kuti; his brother, Bekololari; Gani Fawehinmi, and a few others. These people were permanently on the streets for the people. They were the voices and consciences of the people. They cared about the common man. Before them, we had Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano. In those days people cared. We had a students union that government took serious. Just look at us today. What has happened to us as a people? We don’t care anymore about our collective development. We care even less about the most vulnerable now. We all got into a rat race and embraced the destructive acquisition of money. We are laid prostrate on the matter of an ideology. No one is ready to visit the prisons to see the inmates, much less to be admitted as an inmate on the basis of a just cause. Our National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) leaders now ride around in the latest exotic cars and the students union elections that used to be moved from one campus to another, now holds in Abuja under full sponsorship and interference of the government. The students of Nigeria are fully in the pocket of the government, and their future, in the firm grip of poverty, future unemployment and a dysfunctional society. We think we are smart, but are we really?
The days of sacrifice are since over. Nigerian adults have become cowards, even under a ‘democracy’. They die many times before they finally die. They hide under their beds at the sound of teargas. Nigerians now talk in hushed tones, lest they are lifted by the Buhari gestapo, which seems to be getting stronger everyday. However, truth be told, the gestapo is not lifting and ‘disappearing’ people as much as fellow citizens are tearing each other apart with words in the name of politics. Many have appointed themselves vicious defenders of the status quo, even when Buhari does not care if they exist. They are exceedingly intolerant of dissent. We all forget that this is a democracy. It is an irony that fear is even more palpable now. The paradox is that the defenders of the status quo remind us of the supremacy of democracy, but we are becoming more fearful than we were under the military. So is this really a democracy?
Back to the issue of Sowore. We can dissect his approach all we can. The fact is that he has brought attention to the fact that under Buhari – a man in whom we once had so much hope, not only are the socioeconomic indices getting considerably worse, and Nigeria has decayed further, but the opposition people are getting more fearful. I definitely do not subscribe to his idea of ‘days of rage’, but I fully subscribe to the idea that the citizens should start and continue organising. It is the only hope we have for survival. For when I consider Nigeria, it is almost impossible to not imagine an apocalypse of sort, something so drastic that will reset our brains and make us start afresh, that is if we are lucky to have that luxury. We need to save ourselves from ourselves.
The call for a ‘revolution’ is all about saving this country from imminent implosion. It is all about getting the people to be part of the conversation to save their own country. It is about freedom from corruption, and other pathological diseases that have held a great people down for too long, while the world powers on supersonically.
What are the issues? Government functionaries announced that we now have 16 million out-of-school children. The United Nations says 95 million Nigerians are now in MULTIDIMENSIONAL poverty. We solidly occupy the first position in global poverty, and in two months’ time we will also be the official holder of the gold medal for shithole countries (when we overtake India as the country with the biggest open defecation problem). The price of crude oil, our mainstay, seems to be trending down again. It closed on August 7 at $56; $4 below our set budget benchmark of $60. We know that this country survives on the proceeds of crude oil. General unemployment remains at 26 per cent and youth unemployment, at over 40 per cent. Our economic growth rate, in real terms, is in negative of 12 per cent, if we compare 2.01 per cent with an annual population growth rate of 2.7 per cent and inflation of 11.2 per cent. The economy is increasingly unstructured and chaotic. The government have had to hand off some of the problems that overwhelmed it, like the Apapa gridlock. Our streets still look ‘jagajaga’ and we seem to have no clue what to do about this. Environmental hazards strike and we have no answer to them. People still complain about electricity. In many parts of Nigeria, it is rolling blackouts. Small companies are being trampled into non-existence daily. The security situation has made many stop visiting their hometowns. Our public schools remain uninhabitable for human beings, even as all our public officers send all their children abroad, where they also treat their little illnesses. These children of theirs occupy every position that ‘makes sense’ in every government agency, while the children of the unfortunate are asked to ‘go and start something’, or given N30,000 monthly by N-Power.
In the middle of all this, criminals have captured the state. A young friend of mine told me last week that he is organising some youth programme and had to go and see some guy called ‘Omo Alhaja’, who everyone knows as a yahoo-boy now turned federal legislator. Omo Alhaja is there with other distinguished and honourable people, with sterling criminal experience and credentials. The president even appointed a handful of these guys to spice up his ‘next-lebu’ cabinet, which is yet to be inaugurated. Even those who get promoted in the public service are such type who understand how to ‘sort’ the big men. The civil service is at its most despondent state ever – indisciplined, lethargic, failed in its reforms, with no direction or patriotism, nepotistic, favouritist, and with corruption ruling the roost. Perhaps it is a stage that we are; the stage as a nation when we get ruled by robber barons, when people steal and shoot their ways into governance, when the worst of us grab the power and use it to make laws that favour themselves.
A clergyman once asked that if laws are meant to curb the activities of criminals, what do we expect when the criminals are themselves making the laws? Will they disfavour themselves? One of the lawmakers boasted the other day in an interview, how he could never be caught dead in a Peugeot 508, after all he aproves for several director-generals to be given bullet-proof SUVs worth N78 million each. In his words, some of them had 4, or 8, or 16 of these vehicles. Who cares? Years ago, one retired assistant inspector-general (AIG) of Police looked around him in the Senate and exclaimed that a number of guys he had prosecuted for armed robbery, 419 and such like, were there with him, bearing the same ‘Distinguished’ toga. The situation only got worse. We never could have imagined that this will happen under a Buhari. But yes, many Nigerians are perfectly alright with living as slaves, perching under this criminal rubbish and hoping for crumbs, rather than motivating a conversation that requires a rethink and reordering.
They say we should queue up and wait for the next political season and try again. They ignore all the reports on the elections – from the International Republican Institute (IRI), to the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), to National Democratic Institute (NDI) and lately the Situation Room, that the elections were fatally flawed – through vote buying, intimidation, fuzziness, information hoarding, use of the power of incumbency, etc. Perhaps because most never strove to make that difference, they take the efforts, tears and pains of those who did for granted. They mock. They jeer. They are blind, even to their own misery, and long-term hopelessness. The call for a ‘revolution’ is all about saving this country from imminent implosion. It is all about getting the people to be part of the conversation to save their own country. It is about freedom from corruption, and other pathological diseases that have held a great people down for too long, while the world powers on supersonically.
I repeat: citizens engagement must continue for the survival of this country. We must heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr. This is what he said on the subject:
Don’t mock Sowore – he has only planted a seed that will germinate spontaneously and sporadically in the most unlikely places. He reminds us of Beko, Fela, Gani, men who went to gaol so that we may enjoy today. We cannot expect to party into a glorious future. It sure won’t happen.
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
We must remain awake and vigilant. Governance – especially in a country such as Nigeria – cannot be carried out by one person. No matter who is president, we must HELP him/her by putting him/her on his/her toes and helping him/her ward off the crazies; those people sold out to other countries or to themselves or to business interests whose ambition here is to keep this country in the doldrums. Yes we must. When I talk of revolution, it is not something targeted against Buhari, or for removing his government, but it is something Buhari himself has always advised – that vigilance that sets our country right, that awareness that is the hallmark of responsibility on the part of every adult Nigerian. We must all have a revolutionary heart. What is ‘revolution’ in the literal sense of it? It means to revolve, to turn around, to do things in a different way. If any people need to turn around, change their ways, rethink their actions, stop the rot and madness, wake up and smell the coffee, they are Nigerians. So the word ‘revolution’, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is far bigger than Buhari and his political ‘victory’, which is in contention in court.
We cannot run away from it, because this revolution is us. It has conjoined with Nigeria, first at the hips and later, maybe at the brains and heart, as a result of decades of mismanagement, oppression and mindless rape of a beautiful nation. It is the revolution spirit that will liberate us, and free us from global opprobrium; all that xenophobia in South Africa and elsewhere, the bans that we receive from every reasonable country, the lack of worth that we are accorded any and everywhere we turn to, the manner in which droves of our best youth throng different embassies and trek across the Sahara to be free of this nation of opportunities. The call for a citizens’ revolution is what will free us and make us develop our own country. Indeed, the alternative is worse. The alternative is that we continue this way, with those who grab power stealing the country dead and stashing their loot in different countries, arranging their own children, and waiting with bated breath, for the day it will all come crashing. For now, it totters. God forbid it comes crashing soon.
Don’t mock Sowore – he has only planted a seed that will germinate spontaneously and sporadically in the most unlikely places. He reminds us of Beko, Fela, Gani, men who went to gaol so that we may enjoy today. We cannot expect to party into a glorious future. It sure won’t happen. Those great countries we run to – for education, healthcare, holidays, even investments, their people struggled, suffered, worked, and died to make them great. Your religion must not convince you that there is a shortcut. For your own good and that of your children, roll up your sleeves and save your country. Politicians can no longer save themselves. They are addicted to their ways. They are inured to the state of the people. They no longer see, or care. It is the normal people, with their wits around them, who will eventually save this country, if by any chance she avails herself to be saved. A thousand years of bland, money-and-violence-driven politics, choreographed by robber-barons, will never solve this country’s problems. Indeed it will just put the nation on an extinction list. What will help is bold citizens’ engagement. We have a country to save… and yes we must save it.