The Gathering Storm: Will We Survive It?, By Oluwadele Bolutife
One thing we cannot run away from is that there is a gathering storm, primarily fueled by bad governance and lack of accountability. It is also appalling that students, despite the enormity of powers at their disposal, both physical, imaginative, and intellectual, have become more concerned with the pursuit of ‘filthy lucre,’ thereby losing focus of their essence.
Ever since the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks, the world has witnessed a new form of violent agitations as means of expressing anger for imagined and real oppression by others. While the 9/11 was global in outlook, some similar unrests at the national, and even local levels have been occurring. The poignancy of this new forms of agitation utterly defies rationality and logic most often. It is, therefore, of grave concern when things are done to trigger such amongst the people.
In the past, it was common in academic discourse to state that Nigeria was not able to manage its independence, simply because there was no blood shed before this was attained. Our independence was fought for mainly through dialogue and some moments of “boycotting the boycottables,” with little or no occurrence of violence. Although, post-independence, we have had our fair share of violence agitations. Of note was the “operation wetie” in the South West, which earned us the notorious appellation of being the “Wild Wild West,” as houses and property were set ablaze recklessly during that period. In 1983, the then Ondo State witnessed an unprecedented but spontaneous carnage, as response to what was regarded as “political robbery” by the federally-controlled National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of the governorship of the South West State, that had been under the control of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Many innocent lives were lost, businesses crippled, and those considered as survivors were ultimately sent to their untimely deaths. Even in my local community, a number of political “deserters” were dealt to some flogging, to teach them “lessons” on how not to join the “multitude to do evil.”
In the recent past, we have witnessed the metamorphosis of initial political thuggery into full-scale terrorism in the name of Boko Haram. A lot of dissenting voices about the organisation notwithstanding, it has become our single most massive albatross to deal with as a nation. A senior colleague was telling me some years ago that there are three distinct Boko Harams. According to him, we have the political Boko Haram, the economic Boko Haram, and the religious Boko Haram. For him, it is the religious Boko Haram that most people know, and they are the most dangerous. What makes the matter further complicated the fact that the present government has claimed, at different times, that the group had been defeated, technically defeated, and decimated respectively. One has been struggling with the puzzle of which of the groups was defeated, technically defeated or decimated. Like our usual ‘abracadabra,’ the more you look, the less you see.
And talking about our struggle for independence, the notable and significant roles of West African Students Union are well documented and available for any curious students of history to learn about. However, in recent times, students unionism has departed from the significant path charted by those cerebral and patriotic students of yore. In the not too ‘distant’ past, the Segun Okeowo-led “Alli must go” protest culls up memories of the West African Students Union’s past noble acts.
The noble acts of the past have given way to a new crop of Unionists whose displays bear much of the consumption of luxury and hedonistic tendencies. On the other ugly side of the divide is also a disconnect between the governors and the governed, resulting in the creation of a dichotomy manifesting in the lack of responsibility and moral restraint, respectively. In a situation as this, there is bound to be more irrational behaviours than there could otherwise have been.
The recent incident at the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) seemingly falls within the trajectory of abdicative governance on the one hand and ‘induced’ irrationality on the other. Quite unfortunate, it led to the loss of innocent souls in the hands of our trigger-happy policemen; a situation that made one wonders whether all those awards purportedly received during international peacekeeping duties were earned or bought. Or is this another case of “one bad apple” (apologies to Wale Adenuga’s Super Story of the same title) in the Police hierarchy? Then, it is one lousy apple too many!
As a parent myself, I share the pains and agonies of those parents whose wards were felled by bullets in their prime. These were needless deaths again!
The electricity issue in a federal institution ideally falls within the ambit of our octopus-like, but superbly inefficient federal government. Electricity remains an exclusive legislation matter, which itself is retrogressive. The School at Oye Ekiti is a federal institution. The wife of the governor is not an elected official, although there is no doubt that she has the “ears” of the government.
While I agree that drawing her attention to the subhuman living conditions of the school may not be out of place, destroying property was far away too irrational to be contemplated, let alone carried out in the manner it was. How do you keep destroying property in an environment that cannot fix a less-than-150 kilometre road in over a decade? Now the replacement cost for those properties destroyed will triple the original amount. A simple dialogue with Erelu Bisi would have sufficed and saved the innocent parents from burying their children.
Aside from politics and patriarchy, Erelu possesses enormous intellectual capacity (apologies to Dele Odule, Erelu ni capacity joor!) and psychological sincerity to engage in meaningful discussion. Even if the issues were reasonably not within her purview and sphere of ‘authority,’ she would perhaps be able to intervene meaningfully, in drawing the attention of the relevant authorities to the plight of the students. Again, this is a timely call for the federal government to pull off this uncanny ‘politics of national grid’ and let states and group of states develop their energy strategy as the ultimate solutions to the intractable electricity challenges.
By putting the occurrence in proper perspectives, we may learn a lot of lessons thereof. One thing we cannot run away from is that there is a gathering storm, primarily fueled by bad governance and lack of accountability. It is also appalling that students, despite the enormity of powers at their disposal, both physical, imaginative, and intellectual, have become more concerned with the pursuit of ‘filthy lucre,’ thereby losing focus of their essence.
For the Nigerian Police, those who teach crowd curtailment and management in the Police Academy (if they do teach it), should learn from the many weeks’ old demonstration in Hong Kong, about civility even during agitation. People have the right to protest. You don’t have to kill to prove you are ‘doing your work.’ Setting up an administrative inquiry will also not achieve anything. It will end in the dustbin of unactionable reports, as usual.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the parents and families of the bereaved. May they find comfort and healing for their unbearable wounds.
On the last note, if the gathering storm is unattended to, the devastation it may produce when it is full-blown is better imagined. Anyway, #JustThinkingAloud.
Oluwadele L. Bolutife, a chartered accountant and a public policy and administration scholar, writes from Canada.