“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel (Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986)
This week and the last was a week of opposition everywhere but Nigeria. Arguably, in Bolivia, the first native Indian President Mr. Morales- a former coca-farmer and peasant was swept to power: making a powerful statement to the ruling white elites of that poor but gas rich count of South America. In Portugal and Canada, conservative opposition candidates that have been left in the cold for many years were back in power after the electorates voted for massive changes in government because of a widespread feeling of entitlement from the ruling parties in both countries. Even in Palestine, the Hamas is made stunning gains over the ruling Fatah party that is notoriously corrupt and inefficient. Near home in Liberia the ‘Iron-Lady’ Sirlef-Johnson took office as the first elected female president against all odds of her country, Liberia. But in my country Nigeria, the opposition was blowing cold and hot.
Like everything Nigerian, opposition is dead. The tragedy of my country is not the actions of bad men; it is the silence or disorganization of good ones that makes our country one of the most backward in the world and definitely ranking among the most decadent society in the history of mankind. Last week, our constitution was kicked into the gutters: in many nations of the world, this will lead to massive street protest by the opposition parties or the non-governmental organizations but what we got in Nigeria was infighting and egotism. In the face of it all, Nigerians living under so called democracy are denied the rights to protest while fellow citizens in nearby Togo or Niger will do so flawlessly without any harassment – what a country!
The week started as usual with the ‘best friend’ of the president or may be it is the ‘sugar daddy’ of Baba Iyabo’s late wife, Professor Wole Soyinka calling a trite press conference to insult or as the President often puts it – make loud noise – at the doors of Aso Rock. As usual the President had a worthy reply from Fani Kayode (who is no bastard by the way- that used to be the work of his father in the first republic – lose canons). At the press conference the lion of Abeokuta called for baba’s resignation and urged all of us to be prepared for the mother of all battles the very next week. What happened? The so-called relocation of headquarters never materialized after all, what we got was diatribes being thrown by one Erubami the leader of Campaign for Democracy against the “Lion” himself over some ‘name use’ over a generally poorly coordinated protest that could not even shake the most wide awakened Nigerian at Iwo Road or Agodi, haba! Even Sir Adams the newly crowned next governor of Edo State denied every knowledge of the rally- he was chilling in Abuja with his buddies; OBJ and Femi Falana!
The reason why I point all these out is to show a pattern that have taken root in this dispensation. On one hand, you will have the regular hot-fire no smoke statements from CNPP (an amalgamation of strange bed fellows with no direction), and the pro-democracy activists will muster a faint will to organize and protest only to be thwarted by one of their godfathers: Soyinka, Fawenhinmi, Oshiomole, Beko Ransome-Kuti, or even Falana. Who says activists don’t have godfathers? The funny thing about all these is that the same thing have repeated itself over and over again that baba Iyabo must be having a very good laugh at the expense of these old soldiers of democracy gone cowards!
Why is the Alliance of Democracy in Oyo state hob-knobbing with wannabe Governor Alao-Akala? Is a so-called illegal governor going by the proclamation of a statement (apparently empty) from the national AD/Afenifere able to swear in a duly elected Local government chairman? Why didn’t the Akintayo not say truth to power and refuse to be sworn in by this Akala of a man? Anyway, is it not Nigeria? I am sure Chairman Akintayo must be a very happy man now that he has finally taken his seat at the local government headquarters but I wonder what he thinks his role is in the chess-board of Akala’s godfather- Chief Adedibu.
Much has been said about the lack of opposition ideology or parties as the case may be in Nigeria. In fact, as she is structured presently Nigeria has two parties: the rich and the poor. With Atiku and Tinubu hobnobbing and Yerima and Obasanjo doing paddy paddy, one wonders where the so called opposition groups frittered away to. If you think that the press can be a veritable opposition, then you need to understand the statement of Adedibu immediately after Ladoja was removed. He said the marabouts rejoicing at his latest victory should thank the newsmen. Why the newsmen?
Anyway for your information, the new press secretary to Akala is a Tribune man- Diran Odeyemi. Diran Odeyemi used to be a nice column writer, criticizing and speaking truth to power, now my man is cool and silent enjoying the trappings of power or the congratulatory messages of brand new government appointments. A cursory look at Tribune since the crisis begun will show where their loyalties lean. While The Punch was busy questioning the qualifications of the new deputy governor, Tribune and some other papers (names withheld) was busy pushing himself and his new boss on us. The Tribune has been printing out fresh new congratulation Ads like no tomorrow and their feature editors remarkably silent; even in their award winning editorials there have been no mention of the illegality that have just been perpetrated at the behest of their founders’ grave. Pa Awo must be turning in his grave!
As for the pro-democracy activists everyone that is a regular reader of my articles will know I have fundamental distrusts for them. From Onagoruwa to the recent Information Commissioner for the disgraced ex-governor of Bayelsa, Mr. Oronto Douglas – most activists are simply noise makers hoping that one day they will be called to take a sit across the table to share in the loot. My knowledge of activist is not by any means long distance, I grew up with them all around me (don’t ask me how). But what I noticed then and now is that most of them don’t even have control over their homes or lives yet they criticize a man trying to govern a country.
Chronic womanizers, charlatans and even debtors dominate the civil right and pro-democracy movement of Nigeria. While there are few credible ones among them, most of them have been driven blind with hate of the rich (whether money is legitimate or otherwise) with
little dose of patriotism. Their own lives are poorly organized, which has translated to the disorganization on the public level that have marked all the failed protests they have organized since 1999. Worse of these group are those of them that fled abroad- they are not even better, most subsisting on rubbishing the name of their country and collecting handouts from faceless international organizations in return for more bad news. As we all know, “he who pays the piper, dictates the tune”. The tune that our activists sing these days I wonder where they originate from.
It is very unfortunate that a once vibrant movement that used to be a nightmare of the Nigerian elites have gone the way of everything good in Nigeria. The press has been bought, the pro-democracy activist is sorely disorganized and the opposition parties are virtually non-existent. That is why it is not surprising that when the details of who succeeds to the presidency after the end of the current term is being framed, it is always framed in the context of a deeply corrupt, detested and publicly damaged ruling party. Yet they are the only alternative to themselves, so what do you expect Nigerians to do? What is sorely needed at this moment is a ‘return to the drawing board grassroots movement’ that will focus on the enormous task at hand of dislodging the impostors that have positioned themselves as the rulers of our country. This task can be accomplished by looking up to other opposition renaissance far away from home: the sudden revitalization of The New Labor under Tony Blair had a lot to do with unity of purpose and a program that shows confidence and tenacity in the face of tremendous resistance in the political sphere: the electorate always respect that!
Let it not be on record, that while Nigerian burned and while bad men plundered her treasuries- the good men fiddled and were not there to save a system that had gone awfully stinking! Certainly, as I mourn for an opportunity lost once again, I remember the salient words of W.B. Yeats in “The Second Coming” most famously quoted by Chinua Achebe: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood dimm’d tide is loosed, and everywhere. The ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. To the later day cowards, “why do you let your erstwhile enemies become co-conspirators against the Nigerian project?” Again we are at a crossroad, can Nigeria be saved from itself?
“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
Martin Luther King, Jr, from his Autobiography, Chapter 2
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