By Arukaino Umukoro
Like Tunisia, like Egypt … and maybe, like Nigeria?
Since the world woke up to the news of the anti-government revolts in these African countries, a likely scenario in Africa’s most populous country has been a major discourse across internet forums and social media platforms among many Nigerians. The scenes have being played put as mind images, should Nigerian politicians dare mess with the April general elections and votes don’t count. The probable scenario? Like their African brothers, Nigerians may take to the streets and vote them out of office with their voices and feet.
Maybe. After all, the recent events have shown us that the long days, when citizens tolerated failed leaders and directionless leadership, may be over. The revolution has begun. The popular people’s revolt in Tunisia has inspired large protests in Yemen and Egypt, and it may spread to some other countries across Africa and the globe. Okay, Nigerians, brace yourselves. But first, a warning note…
If it were to happen in Nigeria, it may not be like what the world has witnessed in these more-Arab-than-African countries, with different sets of beliefs and orientation. Many Nigerians, who have endured longer years of abysmal leadership and bottled up grievances, may not effectively handle a sudden change from absolute political power to people’s power. Just imagine what a frustrated, angry, bitter, violated citizen would do the very moment the tables turn in his favour; a massive people’s revolt may become unevenly heated and degenerate into a violent, bloody protest. Frustrated citizens may be relegated by known and unknown criminals, political thugs, and power-crazy politicians who would want to take advantage of it – after they may have spirited their loved ones out of the country to safer climes – probably Europe or the US.
Nigerians must be wise. Knowing some politicians harbour ulterior motives, most would gladly seize any opportunity to consolidate power, by any means necessary. We have seen the way they have fought in the National Assembly over a morsel of political bread, how they have crushed opponents in their blood thirst for power, how they have turned political differences into modern day gun fights and communal wars. That Nigerians should not tolerate any more of failed leadership is not the issue, but it must be done right, without causing further harm to our fragile nationhood.
While the world seems to be immersed with most of the news filtering from these countries with their citizens effectively forcing their leaders out of office, Nigerians should remember that although they may share similar grievances, it would require different tactics.
This may be not be the case. But, while the Tunisia peoples’ revolt look more like a spontaneous, but organized expression of nationwide repulse at failed leadership, the Egypt protest seemed more like it was an orchestrated by a small, aggrieved group who felt they could take advantage of the Tunisian example to score a political score. And the way the Hosni Mubarak-led government has clamped down on information across the internet goes a long way to mirror political desperation. Activists had called for a “day of revolt” in a web message. But then, protests are uncommon in Egypt, which President Mubarak has ruled since 1981, tolerating little dissent.
Also, while Tunisia and Egypt are largely Muslim countries with one lingua franca- Arabic, Nigeria is not. Finely divided between Muslims and Christians across 350 ethnic groups; one could imagine what a 100 million-man protest across Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Asaba would look like. Ethnic sentiments and religious differences would be bandied about by selfish leaders who are hell bent on staying in power by any means necessary, not minding the lives lost in the process. A good example is the incestuous carnage still happening in Jos, where thousands of lives have been lost while the greedy politicians are feeding fat on human blood in the name of governance. Then, some powerful human forces may want to manipulate the military to do their bidding and turn them on the citizenry instead of protect them. Remember the Odi massacre. What about the rage of militancy that was allowed to fester in the Niger Delta creeks, which eventually transformed into brazen criminality of kidnapping across Nigeria? What about the other religious riots that have happened in the past in Kaduna, Kano, and pockets of religious/ethnic violence in other parts of Nigeria? How do you convince the Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, or Niger Delta man that an anti-government protest wasn’t simply a protest against their kinsmen in political offices?
Education, mass literacy, and economic indices would also be major factors. How would you convince a hungry and an angry man to stage a ‘peaceful’ protest when he understands that, were it not for those who have abused power and stolen his national birth rights, he should have been enjoying the many benefits accruing from his country’s rich natural resources? What about the report that most Nigerians survive with less than one dollar a day? Also, despite the fact that the country’s internet population is on the rise, there are still millions that cannot afford access to television, not to mention the internet. Despite the vibrancy of the Nigerian media, the Freedom of Information bill is still an issue of debate, while a small section is still largely being controlled by government agents who would gladly bend the truth to suit their ulterior motives. Online media and social media forums may eventually be the ‘saviour’ for unbiased information dissemination. Then, how many Nigerians truly understand their fundamental human rights and the basis for accountability in leadership, when most of the electorates are still being deceived by interim promises, political gimmicks and personality clashes masquerading as genuine political differences? “The difference between them and us is a huge gap we are struggling to fill up. There is a strong awareness of your rights and this is entrenched in them mentally from birth…It is now we are learning BODMAS, just a week to WAEC exams,” noted a friend while comparing Nigeria and Tunisia.
It could be that Nigeria may have much to lose in the wake of any major anti-government revolt, unlike the Tunisians. After many decades of internal confusion, created by poor leadership structures, the country may not be able to afford another one that could precipitate large scale violence. There are better way to push our demands or ask non-performing leaders to step down. After all, we live in the digital age; where young and old, educated, and technologically savvy Nigerians are using the internet to drive political and socio-economic change.
Change, or if you like, some form of revolution, is what Nigeria needs. But it must be a revolution of national ideals and values. It must be systematic change, based on truth, dignity of human life, labour, and unity of purpose. It must be a driven based on the enlightenment of the citizenry – through the internet, social media and traditional media (radio, television and print), mass education, intellectual and public discourse on several platforms and many other way through which we can channel our thoughts and grievances to influence the right kind of leadership this country desperately needs. If not, some nefarious citizens would see any form of protest as an opportunity to cause further carnage on an already heated polity. Only an organized, intellectual, united and peaceful revolution would do for Nigeria. Every revolution, peaceful or violent, has a price tag; whether it be Czechoslovakia’s Velvet revolution, Georgia’s Rose revolution, or now Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution, But, the singular most important factor is that people determine how they chose to become agents of revolution. Especially in this defining moment of our history as a democratic nation, we cannot afford any other thing rather than choosing the right path to change. It’s left for us, the people, to now determine how that change will become.
Let’s choose the right path, by joining hands together to make this country great again.
God bless Nigeria.