‘Nigeria has a population of 50 million. We are prepared to sacrifice 5 million for the revolution.’ –Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, January 15 1966 coup plotter as quoted in Alexander Madiebo’s ‘The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War.’
They say it cannot happen here. President Goodluck Jonathan’s men told us after a Federal Executive Council deliberation that the Egypt-style revolution that began in Tunisia and has become a shooting war in Libya cannot happen in Nigeria because our country has a ‘constitutional order.’ Whatever that means.
In case these fat cats who live in a world different from the one we inhabit do not know, may they be told that no two revolutions are exactly the same. Those who claim to be in charge of our affairs will do well to take these unpalatable facts to heart:
Down in the Niger Delta, ably supported by ‘believers’ outside the region, are people who have concluded that their lives are better off without the Nigerian state. Though criminals have desecrated the cause and the amnesty has created an apparent lull, if push comes to shove they will wreck havoc to achieve their goals. Thousands of impoverished Niger Deltans back them and no AK-47 can wipe out their hatred of the Nigerian state.
Up in the North are Islamic fundamentalists; the radicals fired by a vision not unlike that of Usman Dan Fodio, the nineteenth century Fulani Muslim teacher who established the Sokoto Caliphate. These men long for a brand of Islam that will lead to a state where Muslim-style justice and fair-play will flow. Although they frighten quite a few non-Muslims their deep-seated disgust with the status quo that holds the people down in shattering poverty and the elite who personify this system cannot be ignored. Boko Haram and other similar groups might have criminalized the whole ideal but they are not the face of the seething force that resents the rot in Nigeria. Come to think of it, the Boko Harams are bred by the Northern elite, an essential component of the Nigerian ruling class, who fuel the poverty and illiteracy that breeds the vermin of frustrated youth.
The South-West ought to worry discerning observers. A nasty struggle for the political soul of the Yoruba is brewing. What will happen if the ruling People’s Democratic Party fails to ‘capture’ the West? Imagine a scenario where the Independent National Electoral Commission announces the Action Congress of Nigeria as the loser of the elections in Lagos State. While politics is not mathematics, Nigeria is a unique tinderbox.
It may be argued that all this is mere politics. But only a non-student of Nigeria’s political history will underestimate the people of the South-West. There may just be an overwhelming number ready to meet bullets with their heads if matters become ugly in April. Among them may be small and apparently insignificant pockets who believe that what Nigeria needs is a bloodbath of perceived and real members of the elite.
My beloved Eastern heartland may be steeped in the never-ending quest for naira but if a revolution comes the area may produce foot soldiers from Owerri to Awka. They include those men and women still bent on resurrecting Biafra. Then there is the mass of jobless youths, especially those who have no opportunity in the East’s chequered if not vibrant commerce.
All these groups mentioned may team up to activate the revolution. They have different agendas but they may find a common interest in chopping off the heads of the Nigerian political and economic octopus. But this country’s revolutionary movement’s backbone are the millions of unemployed; impoverished families; the unjustly incarcerated; the politically persecuted; the voiceless who realize they have the option of fighting on their feet or dying on their backs.
Nigeria needs a revolution in order to survive. But will Nigerians go for one? It is said we are too docile; religion has castrated us; tribal bigotry rules us; politicians easily manipulate us, and we love the good life too much to leave it. Thus we can always ‘manage.’
But deep in my heart I know there are apparently insignificant Nigerians who are mobilizing and preparing; who are motivating themselves and their compatriots through their thoughts, speeches and writings. They will overcome the national inertia which makes the Federal Executive Council and its allies scorn the prospect of a revolutionized Nigeria.
Let the April elections reflect the people’s wishes or the dam may burst.