After The Successful June 29 Protest, What Next?

by Bode Eluyera

“The great changes in society occur when one or two people of conscience act .”

Thomas L. Friedman. (Author of The World is Flat)

“The new source of Power is not money in the hands of a few but information in the hands of many.”

John Naisbitt.

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there’s no happiness without action.”

Benjamin Disraeli.

Когда пришли за евреем, Я не заступился, потому что Я не еврей.

Когда пришли за священиком, я тоже не вышел, потому что я атейст.

Когда грабили соседей, Я и никуда не позвонил, грабили не меня.

И когда пришли за мной, заступиться за меня было некому.

(Русская Притча)


When they came for the Jew, I didn’t come out to defend him because I am not a Jew.

When they came for the Priest, I also didn’t come out, because I am an atheist.

When my neighbour was being robbed, I didn’t phone anywhere, afterall, I wasn’t the one being robbed.

When they eventually came for me, there was nobody to defend me.

(Russian Parable)

At last, a precedent has been created by NVS and its villagers! Kudos to everybody who was involved in this project, one way or the other. For the first time ever, we have not only taken the initiative but have helped the government to perform its responsibilities. This goes a long way to prove what a united community could achieve. For the first time ever, we have backed our “big big grammar” with “well coordinated action!” As I have already written in one of my articles; “Election rigging and other atrocities: Obasanjo is not guilty,” if we ever want to change things for the better in Nigeria, we have to do more than speaking big big grammar. The successful protest is a glaring proof of my assertion. I am 100% sure that if we had limited the inhuman murder of Osamuyi Aikpitanhi to internet discussions – as we have done in the past, most likely, the government would not have taken any action. Our decisive and well executed action forced the government to take action. They could not pretend any more that they are not aware of what’s going on. It would have been ridiculous and unbelievable. I see the investigation order from the government as a “face saving” action. They simply did not have any option. It will be contradictory for a president that claims to be sensitive to the problems of Nigerians to ignore such a protest.

The success of the protest was totally unexpected. A formal protest has been lodged by the Federal Government with the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations against the harassment being suffered by Nigerians in foreign lands. Nigeria is also considering reprisal actions against the countries involved. In addition, the government plans to send a delegation to Spain next week to monitor ongoing investigation into the death of Osamuyi Akpintanhi, in the hands of that country’s security operatives. furthermore, following the death of Akpitanhi, the Federal Government has sent words to all its missions abroad directing them to be more concerned about the welfare of Nigerians in Diaspora and that henceforth, any Nigerian envoy who treats complaints from Nigerians in his country of assignment with levity would face disciplinary action. “If a Nigerian says he or she is in trouble and the Ambassador or the High Commissioner refuses to attend to the person, he or she will be queried immediately” the permanent secretary in the Ministry of foreign Affairs, Alhaji Hakeem Baba Ahmed was quoted as saying. Alhaji Ahmed also disclosed that because of the priority the Federal Government was giving to the death of Akpitanhi, he would lead a delegation to Spain next week to monitor the investigation which the authorities of that country were conducting into the case. He assured Nigerians that the government would stop at nothing to get to the roots of the matter and ensure that justice was done. The permanent secretary said that the Foreign Affairs Ministry went to the extent of waiving certain diplomatic processes and made the Spanish Ambassador, Angel Losada, to address a press conference on the matter. He said due to the public outcry over the incident, the Spanish authorities had expedited action on the investigation and assured that in a matter of days, the Federal Government would come up with a statement on the first leg of the investigation.

Nigeria‘s outgoing envoy in Spain went to the extent of lodging a protest on behalf of the Federal Government to the king of Spain who assured him that every effort would be made to get to the root of the matter. Undoubtedly, that was the “highest level” of diplomatic protest! Alhaji Ahmed assured all Nigerians that there will be no cover up and the foreign Ministry will ensure that justice is done. Osamuyi’s case has also been heard by the National Assembly. The permanent secretary went as far as saying that if the foreign affairs ministry is not satisfied with the outcome of the autopsy, an independent medical probe would be conducted.

Fellow Nigerians, you will all definitely agree with me that even in our wildest dreams, we could not have envisaged or dreamt of such a positive response from the Federal Government. The result of the protest far exceeds even the highest expectation! With this protest, we have sent a strong message to the whole world that we will not accept inhuman treatments meted to us in the past any more.

Without any exaggeration, those Nigerians who took the time, pain, risk and even went as far as spending their personal financial resources to deliver the protest letters to various Spanish embassies deserve the highest praise. Their role in this successful action could not be over-emphasized. It was a display of courage. It will be no exaggeration to say that they are the “real heroes.” They took the decision to “bell the cat” irrespective of the fact that none of them knew what the outcome might be. Though, suffice to say that the low turn out in Britain and U.S. despite the large number of Nigerians that live in these countries is very disappointing.

Perhaps, Osamuyi’s tragedy could be the beginning of a new era for the country and its citizens. Has Yar’adua started putting into practise his “servant-leader” philosophy? I sincerely hope so. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Have Nigerians found at last the leader that will not only “listen” to their grievances but back it up with “action?” Oh God, how I wish this is not just a wishful thinking. We all want to believe that Yar’dua has sincerely taken this decision out of genuine belief and strong solidarity in our cause and the inhuman treatment of a fellow Nigerian. We hope that the decision was not made in order to get cheap mass popularity? Time will tell.

It is also worth mentioning that along the line, there were some “doubting Thomases” like Eche Chidume who not only refused to sign the petition letter but mocked our action and questioned its effectiveness. Mr. Chidume in his article titled ” Osamuyi Aikpitanhi: June 29, 2007: Why I would not protest” criticized seriously the sincere motives of the villagers. He did not stop there, he went as far as accusing the villagers of hypocrisy.

Although, I will not want to join issues with Mr. Chidume in this article neither do I intend to hold briefs for him, nevertheless, it is very important to make some clarifications concerning his article.

Foremost, whatever our grievances against the author of this article, in my humble opinion, Mr. Eche Chidume still needs to be commended for his article. Why? He has helped us to look at the other side of the coin in our fight for justice. Personally, the only short-coming I found in his article was his condemning the well thought and unanimous decision – taken by NVS villagers after a long debate – to protest the death of a fellow Nigerian, at Spanish embassies all over the world. Nevertheless, I believe that we should not throw the baby away with the bath water. We shouldn’t condemn the whole article because he refused to put his signature on the petition and for referring to those Nigerians, who had taken the time, pain and spent their money to organise the protest as hypocrites. Nobody is perfect, and that includes Mr. Eche Chidume. We learn everyday. We should not allow our anger and emotions blind us to see other merits in his article.

Having said this, it is also worth pointing out that what people like Eche Chidume fail to understand, and needs to be reminded of, is that the issue is not about Osamuyi Aikpitanhi per se. Nigerians have been maltreated seriously in the past, and still continue to be maltreated mainly because of the nonchalant attitudes of of our government, most especially, our embassies. Take for example the humiliation Nigerians seeking visas to western countries, most especially, to Britain and the U.S. are subjected to at their respective consulate offices in Nigeria. The humiliation has now been upgraded into “visa scam” where Nigerians are “robbed: of their hard earned money at the British embassy under the pretext of carrying out “due visa process” or screening visa applicants. What about the demeaning, rigorous and selective search Nigerians are forced to go through in foreign airports? Yes, it is true that we are far from being angels. As the Russian proverb says: “В семье не без уродов” Translation. “Every family has its black sheep.” But, why should the whole country be made to suffer because of the very few bad eggs among us? And lest I forget, all these countries that maltreat Nigerians don’t have angels as citizens too. The harm the British, Indians, Lebanese, Israelis, Americans, Chinese, Pakistanis and French inparticular inflict on our economy through their economic activities in Nigeria is just not possible to estimate.

Osamuyi’s inhuman murder, in a way, was the “last stroke” that broke the camel’s back! People like sort of got fed up, and were asking one another how long will this rubbish continue, and if we don’t do anything now, then, when are we going to act? So, Osamuyi’s inhuman murder provided the “rallying point” that I guess the people have for long looked for.

Does Mr. Chidume expect us to take the usual “siddon look” attitude, fold our hands and accept our maltreatments by every “Dick and Harry” that call themselves sovereign countries? I guess No. If our government has failed woefully in its responsibilities to protect us, should we then resign to our faith and keep mute? Definitely No. As the saying goes; “Better late than never. ” And according to the Chinese proverb; “A journey of one thousand miles starts with a step.” Undoubtedly, the unprecedented and successful June 29 protest is the “first step” in the journey of one thousand miles ahead of us to be completed. The protest is a sort of “point of departure.”

Having said this, nevertheless, I still believe that Mr Chidume’s article played a very important role in helping us to see the problem in a broader perspective. All we need to do is to take what is useful from the article and leave the rest.

Fellow Nigerians, we need to congratulate ourselves for this historical event. However, we need to be reminded that it is too early to rest on our oars. The successful protests that took place on June 29, 2007 was a “turning point” or should I rather say a “stepping stone” in our struggle. What we need to do now is to be steadfast and consistent. The death of a fellow Nigerian has united us. From here, we must now descend on our Nigerian despots and murderers, whose misrule led to the mass emigration of millions of Nigerians in the first place. This successful protest has not only made us stronger and but has as well made us to be more confident that we can achieve a lot together. United we stand, divided we fall! Undoubtedly, the importance of unity in combating external/internal aggressions or maltreatments against Nigerians can not be overemphasized. The whole world is aware of the fact that Nigeria is a divided and corrupt country. We are treated with contempt all over the world because these countries know that there is nobody to defend us. This fight now needs to be carried over to Nigeria!

Fellow Nigerians, believe me there is still a very long way to go before victory is achieved. It’s too early to be rejoicing. There are still many more signatures to be collected in the future. There are still many more petition letters to be delivered. There are still many more protests to be organised and carried out, most especially in Nigeria against the corrupt and inhuman system. There are still many more battles to be fought before we get to the “promised land.” In short, we need to brace ourselves for very long, bloody and fierce battles against our foreign and domestic oppressors. We must now turn our search lights against our “domestic oppressors,” the real roots of the problems. Anti-people government policies and operations should also be regularly protested and resisted with the same vigour. This is where there is real challenge for us and the opportunity to test our real strength. If they had not mismanaged our economy and stolen our money, there would not have been mass immigration of Nigerians in the first place. This is one of the major tasks before Yar’adua: to make Nigeria a much better place economically at least to curb the mass emigration of our country men, and remove that “I’ll rather die abroad than going back to Nigeria, my fatherland” attitude already deep planted in the psyche of millions.

Yar’adua has pledged to make electoral reforms one of his priorities. Why don’t we offer him our assistance and at the same time take him up on this issue? At least, to test his sincerity. For almost 50 years, Nigerians living in diaspora do not have the opportunity to exercise one of their fundamental civil rights – the right to take part in elections. By rough estimate, about 20 million Nigerians live outside the country!

We have always complained that our main problem is “quality leadership.” Imagine the impact 20 million educated, enlightened and political conscious Nigerians in diaspora could have not only in choosing honest, competent, dedicated and patriotic leaders but also in establishing a strong political structure on which real democracy can germinate and start the test of time.

As the popular saying goes; “one should put his money where his mouth is.” The impact of Nigerians in diaspora on the economy can not be over-emphasized. Nigerians in diaspora remitted an estimated $7billion home last year. The figure is bound to increase in coming years. Despite this huge contribution to Nigeria‘s economy, it is very sad to admit that we are being denied one of our basic civil rights: “The right to vote and be voted for”. Definitely, this is not a mistake or an act of ignorance on the part of the establishment or previous governments. The establishment see Nigerians in diaspora as a threat to its smooth path to power. They find it much easier to manipulate the Nigerian electorate back at home by denying him free and timely access to reliable information. According to latest statistics, less than 2% of Nigerians in Nigeria have access to internet connection. High rate of unemployment and very low salaries have denied millions the opportunity to be hooked to the net. To millions, buying newspapers is a real luxury. Politicians at home are aware of the calamity of the average electorate back at home. His pity economic situation is exploited to the maximum. Very often, candidates vying for political posts have dangled the “economic carrots” before the electorates in order to seduce them into casting their votes for them. Very often, millions of Nigerians were forced to vote for candidates against their their will simply because they hah been promised some food products or very little monetary compensation. Because of poverty, millions fell for cheap economic promises of politicians, and consequently were compelled to sell their votes for peanuts, though mortgaging their destinies too in the process.

In the light of this, I will like to suggest we start collecting new signatures to protest the British “visa scam” presently going on in Nigeria and the inhuman, selective and rigorous search Nigerians are subjected to both at British and American airports. And last but not the least, I want to suggest that we start collecting new signatures now calling on the federal government to make it possible for all Nigerians, irrespective of their location, to register and take active part in all future elections, most especially the 2011 presidential election. This is one of the “litmus tests” for Yar’adua as regards to his sincerity in conducting an electoral reform. Moreover, Yar’adua should understand that any electoral reforms that deny Nigerians in diaspora the right to vote and be voted for is not only far from complete but is a political fraud on his part. Let’s fold our trousers and sleeves again and get to work right away!

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