By Cally Ikpe
THE term revolution has, overtime, come to be used loosely as a synonym for change. Political revolution, however, largely means a drastic change that is often spontaneous, populist and that which leads to a regime change.
Revolution, ordinarily, should hold hope for a new beginning with near equal chances for all to adjust properly into the social system. Oppressed people, therefore, look forward to a revolution just as the ruling class abhors it. Crass motif and or inordinate ambition has led many to confuse, camouflage or conflate the term revolution, depending on the intended outcome.
A most recent instance of a pure revolution was the Arab Spring that started from Tunisia in 2010 and spread beyond North Africa into other Arab enclaves like Yemen and Syria. It must be noted, however, that as soon as the tide caught on, opportunists cashed in to apply it to achieve special goals, like it was the case in Libya. America, like you know, with its NATO allies remained fixated on removing Muammar Gadafi from power.
Observable trends have proven that mass action can be plotted and achieved in a bid by powerful interest groups to effect a regime change as it has been the case in virtually all military coups that have occurred in Nigeria. Recall that Major Kaduna Nzeogu had led a group of military officers in 1966 to truncate Nigeria’s nascent democracy, alleging massive corruption, nepotism and ineptitude, amongst other reasons. Though he branded it a revolution, it is marked in our political history as the first and bloodiest coup.
The next adventure in that fashion was the 1990 coup, led also by another major: Gideon Okah. Though it was botched too, it was nearly as bloody as the 1966 coup. The coupists in their desperate attempt to be populist, announced the excision of certain states which they considered feudalistic and inimical to Nigeria’s progress. The consequences for both of these exercises was lethal with the first one leading to a civil war.
It is worrisome that sinister groups with selfish interests are increasingly finding it convenient to galvanise the gullible public who, in any case, serve as ready mass validation for their agenda. The potency of this strategy is preserved by perpetrating impoverishment among the larger population: The initiates know it as structural violence. The impoverished is vulnerable and ready to join the band wagon at the offer of even a meal. Sadly, this trajectory is infinite. The reality, however, is that manoeuvres or games like this, hold either the spoils or severe consequences for the perpetrators. Those who dare to violently effect a change of government would either succeed and lord over the people or fail and face imprisonment or even the death sentence.
Recently, Nigerians became inundated with the noise of ‘revolution’ ‘revolution’ ‘revolution’. A certain politician playing on prevailing agonies the Nigerian people are contending with, boldly called out the people to some sort of protest he hoped will culminate into a revolution. Interestingly, his first step was a tactical blunder: Branding the intended action a revolution placed him squarely on the path of treason in the eyes of the law. His subsequent arrest and detention is only a prelude to his moment with the courts where he will get the chance to prove his innocence.
But how do we justify holding Sowore who only called for a revolution while a certain Shekau and his army of insurgents who are waging a war against the Nigerian state in the North East region with occasional privileges to negotiate truce, is thriving? It should be noted too that the Shekau adventure is a situation of stalemate or standoff, thus making it impracticable for the perpetrators to be subjected to the justice system. Sowore’s revolution got smothered before it started for which consequences must apply. The Nigerian people probably would have been more sympathetic to the Sowore ‘revolution’ if he were some regular individual like Mohammed Bouzizi of Tunisia, the young man who set himself ablaze to express frustration he faced as a deprived citizen.
That action resonated with the mass of the people more because they faced similar circumstances. By sacrificing himself publicly, he had ignited a true revolution embedded with emotions, anger and disgust for the status quo. Juxtaposed with the Sowore revolution, Nigerians know him to belong to the elite class with proven capacity to afford the luxuries of life. He was a candidate in the last general elections seeking to become president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
One may want to ask if revolutions always guarantee a departure from the abhorrent: What good, particularly, did the Arab Spring do to the Tunisian people? What were the grouses and what is the state of things today? The youth population on whose back the revolt rested were coming to terms with their living standards which had reached an undignified level. As at 2010, the Middle East and North Africa ranked as the regions with the worst rate of unemployment according to the ILO Global Employment Trends, 2011.
The disparity in unemployment rates within the Arab world is staggering with Yemen experiencing 35 percent, while Qatar grapples with only about half of that. Anything, therefore, that promised a reversal of this trend was welcomed. Observable reality in the present day Tunisia and beyond, does not justify the craving and the loss of lives that came with that revolution. Youth unemployment in the Arab world is consistently higher than youth unemployment rates of other regions. Youth unemployment in the region ranges from Yemen on the high end with 50 percent youth unemployment, to the United Arab Emirates at the low end with 12.1 percent.
It should be an affront on the sensibility of the Egyptian people that the present day Egypt has successfully negotiated a multiple tenure extension for President Abdel Fattah El-sisi, allowing him in the saddle till 2034. Do you recall Gen. Sani Abacha appointing Jim Nwobodo (same person he had demonised, and labelled inept and corrupt in his earlier coup broadcast in 1983) to serve as a cabinet member under him while he served as head of state? Have you also noticed that the First Lady title/culture has returned right under the watch of President Muhammad Buhari? I need to also confirm if the NNPC is still paying petroleum subsidy. Betrayal of hope from those who come professing new approaches is best captured in the 1944 satire, Animal Farm by George Orwell. Read it again and relate it to modern day reality and you will marvel.
The growing awareness/political consciousness that frustrates rogue revolutions surely will throw up the real revolution if we continue on this path of impunity and oppression. Leveraging, therefore, on the liberal room the term revolution enjoys today, I would rather that emphasis be on the revolution of mind-sets; this way, people will not be too quick to go back to those reprehensible ways in the event of a drastic shift. Enough of playing to the gallery. Let’s get serious, please.