By Femi Aribisala
IT is no longer conjectural, Nigeria is at war. In July 2019 alone, some 282 of our citizens were gunned down or violently killed. If they are not killed by marauding herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, they are killed by security agents. (revolution)
The nation is no longer at ease. No one is abstracted from the on-going carnage. In July, the largest casualties were from the homestead of the president in Katsina: 80 persons were reportedly kllled there in July, with Borno coming a close second with 75 dead.
Foreign governments are warning their citizens that Nigeria is now a no-go country. Those who want to do business in Anglophone West Africa now seek refuge in Ghana as opposed to Nigeria.
Omoyele Sowore is one of those Nigerian idealists tired of watching the country go to the dogs from the sideline. He decided to jump into the fray. He registered a political party and contested for the presidency. But he, and others like him were shut out by what has turned out to be disputed election. So he opted for another gambit. He called for a revolution and fixed a date. He asked Nigerians to come out in numbers to demand a change in the status quo.
But he was either unserious or just plain naiive. You don’t invite people to a revolution. You don’t schedule a revolution on television and on social media. The powers-that-be will not siddon look. On the eve of his “revolution,” the DSS invaded his home and picked him up. He became yet another Nigerian citizen who will be locked up without legal reprieve.
The government knows it has created a powder-keg in Nigeria through bad policies. But it feels confident that it can bottle this up by repressive measures. It accused Sowore of seeking to overthrow a legitimate government violently. But every right-thinking Nigerian knows that what Sowore was organising was a peaceful protest. Sowore has no instrument of violence and he has zero number of men underarms.
Garba Shehu, a government spokesman, said: “The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria.”This statement is unfortunate coming from the spokesman of a government that has just won a controversial election.
The answer of the government to Sowore has been to arrest him. But they would be foolish to assume that by so doing they have stopped his movement. Sowore did not create the need for a social revolution. He simply responded to the need for one. If we go by the template that transformed Nnamdi Kanu into a national public figure, then the conclusion is that the government has created another public hero in Sowore.
Not many people knew Kanu until the government arrested him and, in effect, gave him a public platform and made him a hero. At the rate the DSS is going, the same public prominence now seems to be in the offing for Sowore thanks to the government’s anti-democratic high-handedness. It is the right of Nigerians to protest the bad policies of their government. That right is not granted at the discretion of the government.
With regard to the affairs of Nigeria, the people and not the government are supreme. Sooner, rather than later, any attempt by the government to abrogate the democratic rights of the people of Nigeria is bound to fail.
Somehow, the government believes that by clamping down on dissent, it can retain the status quo. Nigerians are deemed powerless and are held with obvious contempt by our leaders. They believe that, with a few threats, a few edicts classifying legitimate protest as terrorism or treasonable felony, everyone will keep quiet. However, we have seen enough in the last weeks and months that this is just wishful thinking.
The social revolution that should be giving the government sleepless nights is not in the offing. The revolution is already here. It will not be televised. But it is in our streets. It is on our farms. It is on our roads. It is in our homes. In Nigeria, things have surely fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold.
Poverty and profligacy
Today, Nigeria earns barely $50 billion a year. The economy is down in the dumps. There is galloping unemployment. Those in public employment are owed back salaries; while pensioners are owed their pensions. The PHCN suffers from chronic epilepsy, leaving the country in gross darkness. There is a relay-race of strikes. Even doctors and health-workers go on strike. Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world. Many of us can hardly afford a square meal a day.
In the midst of this hardship, the president has constituted a cabinet full of controversial people. The nouveau-riche Nigerians are still buying summer-houses in Dubai; still building hotels in Lagos; still buying yachts in New Orleans; still celebrating birthday parties in Seychelles; still marrying wives in the Bahamas.
Our mega-pastors fly around in private jets, drive in a cortege of Jeeps and preach “the gospel” while cruising down the Atlantic with the “crème de la crème.”
As a result, the government sleeps with one eye open. When it hears the word “revolution,” it quickly develops a heart attack. The DSS is scrambled. The police are called to arms. A sledgehammer is applied so it can continue in its self-delusion.
Buth the truth is that there is no revolution coming in Nigeria for the simple reason that the revolution already came a long time ago. It came in a way that defied our political science textbooks. Maybe that accounts for our failure to recognise it. In the Nigeria of today, the revolution is a crime.
There is a revolution already underway in Nigeria. The revolutionaries are armed-robbers, pen-robbers, “area-boys,” “yahoo-yahoo boys” herdsmen, gangsters, kidnappers and 419 scammers.
National treasuries are still being emptied in this hypocritical era of anti-corruption. Banks are getting robbed. Homes are being burgled. Oil pipelines are being vandalised. Everybody is grabbing his share of the national cake. Everybody is busy ripping-off everyone else. From the policeman who holds car-owners hostages; to the mechanic who uses fake spare-parts; to the pharmacist who sells expired drugs; Nigeria is now a country of generalised criminality from top to bottom.
In Nigeria, the rich and well-heeled have murdered sleep. They live a barricaded life. Their walls are concrete and electrocuted. Their bodyguards are armed to the teeth. Their cars are smoke-screened. Their agbadas are bullet-proofed. Their children are home-schooled for fear of kidnappers. Even their mothers and grandmothers are under lock-and-key in the villages.
Those were the days when the peace of mind could be bought with hypocritical acts of philanthropy. Some small-change is thrown at a few beggars. One or two vagrants are fed with crumbs from the table. But that just won’t do any more. It is karma time.
This revolutionary criminality has found its most profound expression in armed robbery and kidnappings. Everyone is now wary of travelling inter-city for fear of being kidnapped. If you fall into the trap of these hoodlums, the going rate is nothing less than 5 million nairas.
Kidnappings used to be localised in certain areas of Eastern Nigeria, but now it is a national phenomenon. The Fulani herdsmen were a Northern problem, now they are moving Southward. Gangsters and criminals are operating with abandon all over the federation. Churches in the Northeast have become deathtraps. Every now and again, the Boko Haram launches another senseless attack, taking the lives of innocent people in their wake.
The message is clear: the ignored will no longer accept being ignored. But the corrupt politicians who have grown fat by stealing public funds; the jet-setting mega-pastors who make merchandise of men; they need to be very afraid. There is a target on their foreheads. Fear will continue to surround them on every side.
In Nigeria, the pauperised many have sent a memo to the criminally-rich few: “We will not allow you to enjoy your ill-gotten gains in peace. We will hound you and pursue you everywhere you go. When you buy your Cadillacs, we will snatch them. When you send your children to expensive schools, we will kidnap them. When you retreat to your billion-naira homes, you will have to sleep with one eye open. With every knock, you will panic and tremble fearing it could be nemesis at the door.”
A friend told me an interesting, probably apocryphal, story. He said a contingent of armed soldiers surrounded the house of a prominent member of the government in Abuja. In consternation, the man quickly phoned his political godfather to find out what was happening and to seek advice as to what to do. The godfather said to him: “Let me make some enquiries and then call you back.”
The godfather then dropped the phone, got into his private jet, and quickly ran away to Togo.