In the rejection letter which he sent to Obasanjo, in which he rejected the offer of CFR,renowned novelist Chinua Achebe writes; “The situation in Nigeria is too dangerous for silence.” The danger lies in apprehending “silence” as used by Achebe, in its literal way. Such apprehension presents “silence” as the opposite of “noise” which on its own could be a concatenation of sounds that are meaningless. Achebe’s “silence” implies conformity and inaction in the face of oppression, injustice, and misrule. What Wole Soyinka would have put this way: “the man died in all who keep silent in the face of violent tyranny.” Achebe therefore prompts us all to react, to struggle to escape from the strangulatory chains in which our RULERS have imprisoned us. In his characteristic way, Achebe sets an example by rejecting his inclusion by the Obasanjo clique into the 2004 Horrible list.
There is no doubt that a lot of people have been openly criticizing the Obasanjo administration. The question however remains, how effective have these criticisms been in occasioning change? “What I write is applied art”, Achebe asserted in Morning Yet On Creation Day, and indeed most of us as sons and daughters of Achebe have geared our writing towards criticizing one social ill or the other. In most cases, violent criticism has been the vehicle. This way, we apply our art, towards solving societal problems.
Yet, despite the barrels of ink spent in criticizing Obasanjo’s government, and indeed all governments in this country, seldom anything apart from awareness that there is evil in the land, has been achieved. This is of course the first step-creation of awareness. I however believe that the time has come for us to boldly step into the realms of practicality. Pens and inks appear to be inadequate to our situation. What with an insensitive government that will remain unperturbed despite the desperate cries of its citizenry. I am sometimes forced to believe that what our leaders do is to say “well,they can talk as much as they like, how does it bother us? Let them try and touch us if they dare.”
Indeed,the story of our country is the story of land where leaders compete to see who wrecks the most violence on the people. Our leaders perhaps sit down and drink to our destruction and we have continued to do nothing, but talk and write. And this, we must admit does not on any way bother them. Gone are the days when what writers write disturb the peace of our leaders. Today, they boast of the bad things written about them!
Six months into the Obasanjo administration, the renowned legal luminary and activist Gani Fawehnmi had proclaimed that Obasanjo’s administration will be the worst that the country had ever witnessed. Reason: Obasanjo is stubborn and will never listen to the voice of reason. Gani, has since been proved right. Indeed, Obasanjo’s insensitivity and stubbornness manifest in everything. Like a kid, he turns everything into a competition, and he must always win. Immersed in myopia, our leader engages any labour group (ASUU, NLC, etc.) in competitions of “let’s see who will get tired first” when the labour groups embark on strike to protest one thing or the other. Afterall, what does he have to lose? The strikes do not affect him in any way, the real sufferers are the masses. This is why I am of the opinion that strikes have failed to be effective means of protestation. What more, Obasanjo’s position in the fuel hike-NLC threat of strike issue, speaks eloquently of his insensitivity and stubbornness. Will anybody disagree with me that if in his heart of hearts, Baba Shege decides that the price of petroleum products cannot be reverted, it will remain so even if the country becomes paralysed in the strike action that follows? That is the type of leadership we have in this country. We are richly blessed with leaders who disregard the opinion of the electorates and insist on things being done their way.
Truthfully, our so called leaders do nothing but perpetrate violence on us. Not the fastly exterminating physical violence which is even better, but the slow and painful erosion of our spirit, soul and body. This why I am of the opinion that pens and inks have become inadequate.
The Russian Socialist Vladimir Lenin had long recognized that the forces of oppression came to power by force and violence, sustains their bloody reign through violence, and consequently, only violence can displace them. Lenin further called for an alliance of the workers, peasants, and the military in order to destroy the oppressors. This is my position.
In this vein then, I am of the opinion that while we write to whip our people into action, we should also serve as rallying points for our liberation. We cannot afford to allow our future, and that of our dear motherland to be brutally crushed by a few greedy men. No! We must get up and fight for our freedom. As Claude Mckay would say, “If we must die, let us not die like hogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot. “We should not allow the man in us to die. Either way, we have nothing to lose. We have already been reduced to a condition of near death. I have looked thoughtfully at many of the young men walking the streets, and I have asked; “is this life that we live? Haven’t we already been crushed by those bloodsuckers? We need to open our eyes and grasp the reality of the situation which is that violence is being perpetrated on us and only a violent confrontation will bring this to an end. We must remember always that: The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of violent tyranny.