By Pini Jason
ONE of the phrases I have come to hate nowadays is “lesson for Nigeria”. I have really had it up my hairline; I want to puke! Everybody is now an (unsolicited) expert on “lesson for Nigeria”. If a President is assassinated somewhere, they jump out, “lesson for Nigeria”!
The Arabs revolt, it is a “lesson for Nigeria”! Manuel Noriega, ex-president of Panama is routinely disgraced on America’s instance because he stepped out of line, “lesson for Nigeria”! I don’t really blame the vendors of “lesson for Nigeria” for they are no teachers, but people who think it is unfashionable to see or say anything positive about Nigeria!
In these hard times of increase in various tariffs, it is politically incorrect to say anything not vituperative about Nigeria. It may be unkind to call them prophets of doom, but subconsciously, they see no reason to betray any passion for this country.
After all, we are all mad, I mean really angry, the way we are governed. I am too! But to wish that every Armageddon elsewhere is happening in Nigeria?
Why is there no positive “lesson” we can import from other countries? How about clean environment, “lesson for Nigeria”? Law and order, “lesson for Nigeria”? Respect for public space, “lesson for Nigeria”? Civility, “lesson for Nigeria”? Honesty, “lesson for Nigeria”?
I guess that the absence of some of these positive traits add to our frustrations. But if all we can do is to dream of and wish for the worst for our nation because of these frustrations, the real “lesson” for us is that the fault is in all of us!
And now the new “lesson for Nigeria” is revolution! Ah, ah! Look at those who are engaged in this “glorification” of anarchy (excuse me, Tony Blair)! President Goodluck Jonathan, whose responsibility as President it is to put Nigerians on the jobs (the jobs are there, we need not create them), fight corruption and grow the economy, is warning of revolution if we don’t create jobs for the youths!
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who presided over the affairs of this country for eight years, during which national assets were made private property of young upstarts, (I guess that is the meaning of privatisation) is also warning us about revolution!
Any political party that loses election lashes out and calls for a revolution! My question is, do these copycat revolutionists know what they are talking about? Do they really know Nigeria?
I know that, as we say, several things that we pounded our chest and said they cannot happen in Nigeria, have almost all happened. But, revolution a la Arab spring? Forget it! And I will tell you why. Every insurrection is not a revolution! If it is, then Boko Haram will qualify as a revolution!
The reason the “lesson” of revolution will not happen here is simple: Nigerians are not united about justice or against injustice; we have no common definition of corruption which is the nation’s greatest enemy; we do not regard ourselves as one people with equal rights and common citizenship. So there is no common aspiration or ideology uniting us that we want to die for! Let me illustrate.
When in the early sixties, the Tivis were being massacred, how many Nigerians knew about it, let alone join them in their revolt against injustice? When in 1965 the Yoruba revolted against oppression personified by election rigging, how many non-Yoruba took to the streets with them?
When unarmed and defenceless Igbo were massacred in 1966, how many non-Igbo, including even those who suffered collateral massacre, rose with the Igbo against the injustice? Prof. Wole Soyinka, yes, but who else? How many Nigerians knew of the Bakalori wipeout, let alone rising against it?
When the Ogoni were fighting and dying because of environmental degradation, how many non-Ogonis fought with them? Were Ogoni neighbours, including the Ijaws, not used by the then Military Government against the Ogoni? When Abiola’s presidential election victory was annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in June 1993, what was the geo-political pattern of agitation for the revalidation of his mandate?
When the Ijaws woke up and revolted against years of economic deprivation, how many people from outside the Niger Delta joined MEND? In one of those ironies of Nigerian politics of group opportunism, Chief Edwin Clark, the Ijaw leader himself it was who disowned other South-South citizens, because they were not “Coastal” Niger Delta, saying he had nothing in common with an Akwa Ibom or Cross River person!
And now, since Boko Haram, how many people outside the theatre of death in the North have taken up bombs in sympathy with Boko Haram? The hapless Igbo chap who was arrested with them was in it, as any stand up comedian would remind you, to sell bomb-making spare parts!
Whereas every voice from South-South, including the media, rationalised and glorified the Niger Delta militancy, now everybody is calling on “Northern leaders” to raise their voice and condemn Boko Haram! Can hypocrisy sustain a revolution?!
We are all angry, I know. I am too. But let us say we all, angry Nigerians from North, East and West, pour into the streets today to teach Nigeria a “lesson” in revolution, what do you think will happen? Be honest; will the Niger Delta militants’ commanders march with you against Jonathan or line up in Aso Rock in solidarity with him?
How will a revolution square in the North, if a Northerner is the president, even if he is worse than Abacha? I recall that the NLC president refused to call out labour to join the Save Nigeria Group, during their demonstration for ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua to hand over to Jonathan!
Will the Yoruba join a revolution against an “omo wa” president? I recall in the days of Obasanjo, that the OPC marched the streets of Lagos, threatening anybody who would dare touch “omo wa”. And that was when Nigerians were so disenchanted with Obasanjo that an impeachment threat hung over his head! Can you identify any ideological stand that can make the South East pitch a firm stand for rev
olution? If they get the presidency they are desperate for, will they fluff it for a revolution?
An angry person can easily say some unreasoned things. Let us think through this revolution thing again. Will the military just sit and watch your revolution or will they invoke their right as, in the immortal words of Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, “not only protectors of our territorial integrity, but also promoters of our national interests”?
We do not like military rule, right? But at what time have politicians, academics and civil society activists not rallied round, rationalised and legitimised military rule? Even the most unlikely “progressives” and “activists” were not only privy to Abacha’s coup, they were the most vocal apologists of that regime!
And we have not counted the likely cost, in raw cash, of a revolution! Just in the 2012 Budget, the Federal Government budgeted N921.91 billion for security, just to deal with the insurgence of Boko Haram, and another N250 billion to keep the Niger Delta from boiling over again, and I hear some grumblings in certain quarters! Imagine what the budget of stemming a r
evolution will be! And if you think that an incumbent regime will not fight the revolution, at least until it is defeated, then you need a “lesson” from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria!
Let me tell you what I think is going to happen. Until we realise, as Rev. Martin Luther King said, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, we shall continue to see and treat Nigeria’s problems like a slide movie, frame by frame, and never seeing or dealing with a total picture!
There will continue to be pockets of revolts here and there by angry, oppressed people. But such localised insurrections will never link up to make a pan Nigerian revolution that can change the entire country. Any such attempt will be vitiated by religion, ethnicity and class.
To that extent also, I do not see Nigeria breaking up as many people glibly talk or wish. Nigeria will simply continue to wobble, hobble and fumble along; it will not break up and it will not make it either, because even as bad as things are, there is a class that finds Nigeria a heaven! That class will continue to ensure the survival of the goose that lays them the golden egg, even if it is with wet and dirty feathers!
A revolution is not the same as a civil society, NLC or ASUU demonstration! But if you are planning a revolution, am gone to bed; please wake me up when you are through! For starters, let all those who are angry enough to wish for a revolution come to the Eagle Square with their Nigerian passports and toss them into a burn fire!