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How poetry, songs pulled down 30 years of dictatorship in Sudan

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…the lessons therein for Nigerian women, youths and the Army

By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor

From time unknown to man, the mass of society has been engaged in an endless war with some agents of Lucifer who attempt to, and often succeed in plundering it. Nevertheless, history is replete with examples of climes where the masses have organized themselves and overthrown the predatory governments of those plunderers. The latest example now is Sudan.

•Alaa Salah addressing sudanese women protesters

What makes the revolution in Sudan special and of interest to the arts is that like the Biblical walls of Jericho which was blown down by trumpets, Sudan’s vicious dictator, Omar al-Balshir was chanted out of power with poems in the mouths of women and youths.

The heroine of the revolution, 22-year old student of engineering and architecture, Alaa Salah, who largely initiated the protest and led the struggle, said she went to ten different gatherings last Monday and read a revolutionary poem:

“In the beginning, I found a group of about six women and I started singing, and they started singing with me, then the gathering became really big,” Salah recounted.

READ ALSO: Sudan joy turns to anger for ‘hoodwinked’ protesters

She said the poem helped boost morale and inspired demonstrators.

One line of the poem that generated the most reaction is: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people.”

There numerous lessons to learn from this monumental event. First is that no matter how long evil may last, it will one day be overthrown. So time has come for dictators, predators, plunderers and manipulators of the people and society for selfish gains to give up, repent and allow goodness and equity to prevail towards a better life for the people.

The second lesson is for The Nigerian military. All dictatorial regimes in the world had been sustained by the country’s armed forces. The dictator or group of men had always collaborated and conspired with the military to plunder the resources of the country and hold its citizens to ransom as long as possible. The evil governments of Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mobutu, Kabila, Sani Abacha, Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir, just to name a few, had all been vicious partnership with the armed forces of those countries.

Just like in the first lesson, the power of light always ultimately overcomes and triumphs over the power of darkness. The military was invented to be the defender of the constitution and the lives and properties of the people, not dictators. Whenever the armed forces pitches tent with the dictator, it becomes an abuse of what it was created to do.

The Sudanese Armed Forces may have been suppressing similar protests before, but this time, for whatever reasons, they did not suppress the female and youth protesters who used poetry and songs to chant out Omar al-Bashir. The Nigerian military, therefore needs to learn to be on the side of the people, and not on the side of a president who abuses his powers and rides roughshod on Nigerians.

We also saw that there were no ethnic divisions among Sudanese protesters. They stood as one to fight a common enemy. And because they were united, even the military was wary of them. Omar al-Bashir did not fall from space, neither was he a foreigner. He came from an ethnic group in Sudan, but that ethnic group did not match the street of Sudan in defence of their “witch hunted” brother. Nigerians must learn to unite, stand as one to fight their common enemies. Hunger, poverty and death as being presently experienced Nigerians have no ethnic boundaries.

A revolution will take place in any country the day the people of that country decide they are fed up. That is another important lesson for Nigerians. After 30 years of tolerating military dictatorship, Sudanese women and young people decided that their ‘mumu don do’ (that their stupidity and complacency have come to the brim). It can happen here also if we are truly fed up with being without electricity and of burning our hard-earned money on fuel inside power generators; of being hungry and the poverty headquarter of the world; of being the 6th most miserable people in the world; of dying in the hands of Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and bandits; of plying on the worst roads in the world; of unemployment; of having ill-funded schools and hospitals; and in fact, of living in a country where nothing works due to incompetent, corrupt and selfish leaders.

There are also huge lessons for our women and Nigerian youths. About 70 percent of the protesters in Sudan who helped bring down Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule were women. Throughout history, women have been known to be powerful. The historically popular Aba Women Riots of 1929, a strategically executed anti-colonial revolt organized by women to redress social, political and economic grievances, is a testimony to that. Instead of endlessly whining over inconsequential issues and begging to be given more roles in governance, women and young people who are hit hardest by the rot in Nigeria today can lead a protest and galvanize the country towards a lasting revolution.

Salah’s iconic picture which went viral on the internet and became part of the last straw that broke the back of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship, was also taken by a woman, Lana H. Haroun, a pianist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and photographer, completing the cycle of art and women-inspired Sudanese revolution.


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