By Sunny Awhefeada
Once upon a time it would have been unfair to say that Nigerians deserve the kind of government they had. There has been the contention regarding who to blame for the leadership scourge that has been the bane of Nigeria since that morning when in October 1960 we bade farewell to the British raj. The hopes incubated during the struggle for independence became stillborn at a time the people waited in anticipation of a new deal that was supposed to bring them life more abundant. The new leaders who were stark neo-colonialists turned around to mercilessly suck the shell in which the hope was embedded. Although, compared to those who came after them those leaders at the dawn of independence now appear like saints and avatars. The leadership platform was seized by vicious and capricious elements whose thoughts, aims and actions never approximated patriotism. These tenacious elements are still in charge onto this day. When the five naïve soldiers blew them up in January 1966, their minions in khaki and agbada regrouped, seized the initiative and with blood stained bayonets and smoking guns retook the reins of power and sentenced the country to political perdition. Since then it has been a downward slide for our beloved Nigeria.
Sixty-two years down the road, it is apt to examine the role of citizens in the unmaking of the Nigerian nation and how they have become the ultimate victims of their acts of omission or commission. Truth be told, the average Nigerian is eager to collude with the exploitative class in order to gain personal advantage and even climb into the cozy space inhabited by the masters. It is all about escaping poverty and lack and enrolling in the cult of power, wealth and influence. Seldom is thought given to strategies of subverting the putrid system for the good of all. It is about the self. That is why comrades became comraids, messengers became massagers of ego, activists became passive observers and the firebrands of yore are today’s ice cream and lollypop consuming ogas! The few who remained true to the struggle and faithful to the cause look back and saw their incontinent followers dialoguing with their feet. Tai Solarin, FelaAnikulapo-Kuti, GaniFawehinmi, Beko Ransom-Kuti and other men and women of conscience carried the banner of change aloft for all to see, but those for whose sake they took to the trenches didn’t believe in the vision and mission. In the last decade, ObyEzekwesili and Obadiah Mailafia embody the redemptive essence of our story. Again, the followers looked the other way.
The inability of the followers who are the ultimate sufferers of misrule to align, build a consensus on what should be the Nigerian ideal remains the nation’s Achilles heel. Our people have not been so well organized to learn how to whip government into line. Previous attempts at civil disobedience were sabotaged and short lived. Even the return to civil rule that civil society tends to crow about as an achievement was enabled by the death of SaniAbacha the dictator. Intrepid as the struggle for democracy was and daring as some of the leaders of the movement were, the struggle lacked a Pan-Nigerian fervor as it was largely seen as a sectional movement. Many of those who pretended to be leading lights of the struggle turned out to be quislings looking for bread and butter to assuage their hunger. Military rule ended in May 1999, but misrule didn’t end. It continued under another soldier in agbada in the person of OlusegunObasanjo. Despite Obasanjo’s monumental infractions and violation of new dream and ideals, civil society couldn’t lead the citizens to whip him into line. His third term bid failed, but he laid the foundation for the wrecking of Nigeria in the 21st century and here we are as victims of our inability to whip Obasanjo into line
Nigeria has become not just a sorry case, but a basket one for that matter as our country is awaiting admission into the unenviable league of failed states. As I write, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres is visiting Nigeria and his speeches were more or less condolences and reassurances that Nigeria will not be forgotten. We have become an object of global pity. We have failed. There have been strident calls for the engagement of mercenaries to confront the tragic security crises in parts of the North. That call is not enough. If we deploy mercenaries in ending the insurgency, what do we do about political brigandage and economic sabotage? We must therefore extend the call for a re-colonization of Nigeria. Since we couldn’t manage our security and a call is being made for the use of mercenaries, we should also opt for re-colonization since we couldn’t manage our political and economic processes. It is just logical.
The thought of re-colonization must be repulsive and repugnant to many. The alternative route to a new dawn will have to be the people and through the people. Those who are perceptive can hear the echoes. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has warned that unless the Federal Government resolved the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), no political party will be allowed to hold presidential primaries in Abuja. A few days earlier, a video of a delinquent lawmaker being chased out of his community made the rounds in the social media. This is the way to go. The people have for too long been diffident and docile and the result is government arrogance and untrammeled misrule. NANS and other Nigerians must see it a patriotic duty to compel the Federal Government to implement the agreement it entered into with ASUU. Right now, those who should be working to resolve the ASUU strike are falling over themselves purchasing exorbitant presidential nomination forms. Among them are governors and ministers. They deserve to be shamed. Nigerians must begin towhipthem into line.
The people remain the most important factor in contemporary governance. Once they can build a consensus and run with it that will be the beginning of the end of misrule. NANS should hold its ground. With youths accounting for about 65% of the nation’s population, they should get mobilized and steer the government in the right direction. Nigerians must range on the side of ASUU. Despite government’s puerile propaganda, the ASUU struggle is about the soul and survival of Nigeria. Let us whip government into line.
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