If all it takes for violent social change to take place in a society is a surfeit of anger and outrage by the citizens, arising mainly from poverty and inequality, Nigeria would have long witnessed one since 1999, owing, principally, to bad governance as well as the obscene predilections of the political class.
As the Indian Nobel Laureate and renowned economist, Amartya Sen, explained in his “economic reductionism” approach to understanding global violence, “It is not hard to see that the injustice of inequality can generate intolerance and that the suffering of poverty can provoke anger and fury.”
Sen affirms in the article, “Violence, Identity and Poverty”, published in the Journal of Peace Research (2008; 45; 5), that there have been “some statistical attempts to bring out the factual basis of this ‘economic reductionism’, but the connection has appeared to be so obviously credible that the paucity of definitive empirical evidence has not discouraged the frequent invoking of this way of understanding of violent crime in countries with much poverty and inequality.”
In a widely reported remark made at a recent book launch in Lagos, legal luminary, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, canvassed for a violent approach, not the previously failed piecemeal ones, he insisted, to remedy the rot in the Nigerian polity which, according to him, had been exacerbated by deep-rooted corruption.
In his words, “Corruption has eaten deep and everybody is involved, only a bloody revolution will remedy the situation. That was how France was saved. I want a wholesome transformation (of the Nigerian society through) …a bloody revolution. We need a revolutionary change, a bloody one and those who survive will pick up the pieces. I do not see the country being saved other than through a bloody revolution.”
Obviously angered, like many other Nigerians, by the endless corruption scandals, daylight stealing of public funds by politicians and public servants and financial impropriety that have made the National Assembly their second home since 1999, Nwabueze described it as “House of thieves!” Amazingly, the leadership of the National Assembly is yet to react to this unsavoury branding and labelling thereby giving the impression, rightly too, that it is at home with such.
Nwabueze is not alone in this feeling of palpable anger with the Nigerian political class, especially the federal lawmakers. Last week, another legal scholar, Prof. Itse Sagay, disclosed with graphic details that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world, with a federal legislator in Abuja earning far more than the United States President.
According to him, while Barack Obama earns ‘mere’ (emphasis mine) $400, 000, with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, collecting ‘ordinary’ 190,000 pounds per annum, a senator in Nigeria, one of the world’s poorest and miserable countries, unjustifiably and unjustly sings and smiles home with a princely $1.7 million per annum! And, for mainly doing nothing of note to further good governance except throwing punches and tables.
In 2009, Sagay explained, the federal legislators received a total of N102.8 billion comprising N11.8 billion as salaries and N90.96 billion (non-taxable) as allowances. Is the tax payer getting value for this colossal sum in the current democratic dispensation? Should five per cent of Nigeria’s annual budget be spent on 109 senators and 360 House of Representatives members? In other words, should 469 Nigerians gulp five per cent of our budget, leaving the remaining 150 million of us to receive about N1, 000 each?, he further queried.
If public anger, outrage and mass poverty are enough ingredients to bring about a “bloody revolution”, as some scholars posit, it appears incomprehensible how Nigerians, who are at the bruising end of this obscene wealth-grabbing disposition of the political class at all levels, have remained at peace with themselves, contented and fulfilled.
It is this high level of docility displayed by Nigerians over the years, as Nwabueze himself admitted, that has worsened the grim situation in the country leading to the arrogant display of power by those entrusted with governance.
Instructively, the revolutionary inclination of Nigerians has been blunted by an adherence to unhelpful religiousity, where the Supreme Being is expected to come down literally and practically to sort out every of our existential issues, from conducting credible election to ensuring uninterrupted power and fuel supply. An average Nigerian takes solace in the cliché, “God dey sha”, when all is needed is for them to take their destinies in their hands.
Adherents of the major religions in Nigeria are regularly enjoined in mosques and churches to be “patient”, “wait for their appointed time” and “respect authorities.” Nothing bad about this, I maintain, but blind religiousity has left many Nigerians with the incapacity to stand up for their rights. My colleague once joked that were Nigeria to be under Apartheid rule like South Africa, the citizens would have preferred, agonizingly though, being ruled till eternity than resisting the white supremacist rule as the South Africans did with success.
However angry and outraged Nigerians would be with the sad situation of things in the country 11 years into this democratic dispensation of a thieving and greedy ruling class, Nwabueze’s blood revolution is a very remote possibility. The much they can do is shout themselves hoarse in internet chatrooms, phone-in radio programmes and television talk -shows, -devoid of any meaningful action. The reasons, I dare say, are not far-fetched.
It is argued that without “strong political organisations as real platforms of alternatives, we might have spontaneous revolutionary violence with tens of thousand or more lives lost without any thing substantive coming out of it. On the contrary, it might even rather result in the reactionary backlash of a law and order junta coming to snuff out the scalar embers of popular fires.”
As one discussant pointed out the other day, organisation alone has been shown through out history to be the objectified midwife of that process of delivery (of social change). The Russian, French, and even Indian revolutions, just to mention a few, are products of strong organisations. There is no organisation which embodies and projects the change everyone clamours for in Nigeria as well as a critical mass, revolutionary ideology and strategy and leaders who can inspire and give direction in the form of a V.I .Lenin, Mahtma Ghandi, yet everyone wants a revolution. The closest one to this in Nigeria is the amorphous Save Nigeria Group of Pastor Tunde Bakare.
A social change expert stressed recently that clamouring for a revolution without a firm and strong organisation may after all be suicidal as “there is no guarantee that the outcome anywhere would be progressive transformation. It could be a degeneration into barbarism, if forces of progress are weak and dispersed. Note the growing strength of the racist/fascist EDL and BNP in the UK. In Spain recently, a million people marched in Barcelona, calling for secession!”
Nigeria is reputed for its lack of national consciousness, which is a vital element for organisation. Across the length and breadth of the country, there is, unfortunately, the abiding presence of an absence of unanimity of purpose, which should galvanise action and activity toward a planned objective. This explains why a “thief” in Abuja is crowned a “chief” in our villages, akin to what happened when a former governor was convicted and imprisoned for stealing and laundering public funds, only to be welcomed back home as an illustrious son with talking drum
s. Talk of Prof Peter Ekeh‘s Two Publics theory, and you are not far from it.
This is what the ruling elite has capitalised on to inflict more pain on the Nigerian people. The change Nigerians earnestly seek for cannot be accomplished by mere wishful thinking. Social change, the world over, is a product of a critical mass action! And, unless we take our anger beyond the comfort of our zones, the positive change clamoured for will not come to pass. The Nigerian political class is an unfeeling and unconscionable one. Obama did not become the first black president in the US by the expression of anger of the Black community against segregation alone. They mobilized, organised and worked for it.