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Protest: The Greek example

By John Owubokiri
THE Greeks of ancient times gave the world the theory and lexicon of democracy; the French, God bless them, exemplified its practice. The Greek generations of the late 18th century and early 19th century were regarded in Christian Europe as the degenerate descendants of their noble ancestors.

Straddled politically by an Ottoman Empire in decline, it took the example of successful Serbian revolt championed by a man of peasant birth, Karageorge and then in 1820 by Milosh Obrenovitch, the “Prince of the Serbians,” for the Greeks to finally summon the gumption for organised rebellion against their weak oppressors. They formed a secret society, the Hetairia Philike at Odessa in 1814. Apart from freedom for the Greeks from the Ottoman Empire, Hetairia Philike also aimed at expelling the Turks from Europe, which was a more ambitious aspiration than the critical nobility and statesmen of Europe could muster against that hated Empire.

In attempting to exterminate their oppressors, the Greeks, led by Prince Alexander Ypsilanti overreached themselves, fighting with so much ferocity that their enemies found justification to return in over spilling measure. On Easter day 1821 the Turks hanged the head of the Greek Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople in his robes.

What is the moral for Nigeria? The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is in many ways like Hetairia Philike, both birthed by unbearable political stimuli.

Yes, MEND like Hetairia Philike had justification or at least necessity to protest. In this 21st century only the ignorant or people of twisted or dubious intellect can deny that the people of the Niger Delta were pressed into protest by unbearable conditions. Denial is a fact of life; it is also a strategy. Like the activists of MEND, the Greeks found to their consternation that the principles of the Holy Alliance, which dictated that a Christian power must extend military aid to an oppressed Christian population, could not immediately apply to them.

Again like the current world powers who are more interested in the availability and stable supply of energy sources than overseeing the implementation of the tenets of federalism and capitalism, European monarchs at the time were more concerned with containing the tendency of ethnic populations to rebel against their overlords, a development which could threaten their own dynasties, than assisting a Christian population to remove themselves from the yoke of a Mohammedan Sultan.

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