Just when I was thinking of expressing comradeship with the courageous men and women in Lagos State who were planning to continue the street protests that greeted the removal of petroleum subsidy in Nigeria, I was abruptly brought to a great sadness by the scale of human and material destruction that characterized Boko Haram attacks on the ancient city of Kano. Not that Boko Haram had ever brought good news to Nigeria. What happened in the city of Kano today (20th January 2012) was nothing short of the continuation of the terror that Boko Haram had unleashed on Nigeria. I am filled with grief at the alarming rate at which our dear nation is sliding into an ethno-religious civil war.
Today’s sustained attacks on Kano were typically Boko Haramish – horrendous, stupefying, brutal and sadistic. Boko Haram has grown so sophisticated that it challenges power bases, not just random attacks to cause mayhem, but police headquarters. Citizens of Kano were left, once again, at the mercy of an increasingly sophisticated and menacing organization that refused to refine its modus operandi. I commiserate with the poor citizens of Kano, those unprotected Nigerians who bore the brunt of the systemic failure of the Nigerian state. I commiserate with the families of those who lost their lives. It is precisely for ensuring that they did not die in vain that Lagosians, nay Nigerians in Lagos, would march against the soldiers of occupation unleashed on them by a confused government that failed to understand where these soldiers are most needed.
Every day, the story of Nigeria is turning out to be a paradox and an irony. It is the story of a supposedly independent state with an entrenched, structured leadership but one that has persistently fared no better than Somalia and Afghanistan. The irony is that in the macabre spectacle of carnage that Kano witnessed today, the moribund and gutless Nigerian leadership went dead quiet. Here is the same leadership that could easily and quickly draft soldiers to the streets of Lagos to forcibly stop peaceful protests against an obnoxious economic policy. However, when Kano was burning, the soldiers were surprisingly absent and Mr Jonathan went quiet – once again. Jonathan that had the guts to make series of announcements during the civil disobedience that greeted his pet project of making life more difficult for Nigerians. Yes, we all know, very soon, his Excellency would commiserate with Nigerians, urging them to accept the latest Boko Haram calamity and to learn to live with it. This is modern day governance Nigeria.
If anyone is in doubt about the level of anger and resentment pervading the land and amongst Nigerians, the series of calamities betiding the country are good indicators. Whilst the intention of Boko Haram remains suspect and its modus operandi reprehensible, the key fact is that its existence is also an expression of anger. That Boko Haram has been sustained to this day and growing in strength is a strong indication of anger and resentment against certain elements of the constituted federation. Nigerians went out to the streets in their millions to protest against Jonathan’s retrogressive pet policy. If this was not an expression of anger and frustration, then I wonder what else would count for such. That Nigerians laid down their lives in protesting against the fuel subsidy was a very strong signal of pent-up anger and frustration. It was a clear message that the rut cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.
In this regard, I salute the courageous men and women who have continued to keep the spirit of the protest alive. This is in spite of the characteristic betrayal by organised labour movements. I salute Tunji Braithwaite, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Nike Ransome-Kuti and many others who felt it was worthwhile to challenge the guns, tear gas and batons rather than keep quiet in the face of continued oppression and suppression. That Tunji Braithwaite could still be on the streets protesting at his old age is a reflection of the depth of the sickness of the Nigerian nation. I salute the indefatigable and fiery pastor. Tunde Bakare would rather err in the pursuit of equality and social justice rather than keep quiet in the opulence of cowardice.
The path chosen by our present day social fighters and militants is not a cosy one by any nation’s standard. It is a path strewn with thorns, bumps and shards. It is a path that harbours death in the shadows. Yet, these courageous Nigerians have decided to give what it takes to make Nigeria a better place to be. I am very proud to associate with these truly patriotic Nigerians and to pledge my support and loyalty to their cause. I believe that together, we still stand a chance of creating a nation we can all be proud of. Whatever name that nation is to be called is a different story altogether. However, in this cause, may I invoke the spirits of those who laid down their lives so that this country may be better. Those who started the struggle to which we are still committed even 50 years after independence. May I pay homage to the memory of Professor Ayodele Awojobi, Tai Solarin, Aminu Kano, the indefatigable Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Beko Ransome Kuti, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and so many others who lived and fought to entrench equality and justice in our nation. I am convinced that their struggle would not be in vain.
And in the very distant lands wherein resides Nigerians, may I also pay homage to fellow country men and women who have continued to express their anger and frustration. Their protests have been tagged Occupy Nigeria. These compatriots have occupied whatever is occupy-able about Nigeria in the Diaspora – from consulates to the streets and to town halls. It is indeed a season of anomie, when countrymen have suddenly found a common voice to express anger at continued suppression and subjugation by insensitive and ridiculous governments. It is only those whom the gods have cursed and forsaken that would refuse to listen. Those who failed to listen do so at their own detriment, the gong will surely go full cycle. The hen would finally come home to roost. Some day, one day, the wish of the Nigerian people shall prevail and there would be no more hiding places for the corrupt cabal holding the nation at the jugular.
Friday, the 21st day of January is a special day in our collective struggle. I salute the courage of the men and women planning to gather at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square at Ojota and those planning to take over the Admiralty Circle at the Lekki Expressway Toll Plaza. A plaza that is nothing but a monument to deception and corruption. A plaza that represents the might of an insensitive state over the wish of its citizens. A plaza that stands for nothing but hypocrisy in the art of governance. Anyway, Friday 21st January 2012 will further expose this hypocrisy that has been craftily entrenched in Lagos State but beautifully hidden from Nigerians. It would be sad if the Lagos State government failed to live up to its so-called “democratic credentials” on this day.
The events of today in Kano should not dampen the mood of tomorrow’s actions. In a way, we are all fighting the same cause but with vastly different strategies. We are all fighting for change. Some in a more purposeful and refined manner, others in a barbaric, unstructured manner with ill-defined motive. We all want a changed Nigeria. How that change could come about is another matter. The Boko Haram way or the Lagos style? Our perennial leaders need to make an attempt to answer these questions. Failure to do so may e
ventually lead to a more purposeful and structured Boko Haram insurrection all over the country. The mayhem has already started; the fire would be further stoked by the inaction of those who have the means to do so.
Like the town crier who would shout himself hoarse in the city of the deaf, I hereby repeat my call for the now urgent need to restructure the Nigerian federation. It cannot be business as usual. That era is gone. The imperative of calling for a Sovereign National Conference to discuss the Nigerian problem is ever more glaring. The time cannot be better than now. I maintain that the present contraption has never served any useful purpose and in particular, its life span appeared to be coming to a rapid end. The Yugoslavia path as envisioned by Boko Haram cannot be the desirable path but may be the only option sooner than later, if we are not careful.
As outrageous as it may seem, one cannot resist the temptation of imagining how glorious it would be if Boko Haram had been more of a sane and purposeful organization, devoid of psychotic religious flavour and more attuned to the wishes of the people. Its militancy would then have been directed at Nigeria’s oppressors. Those who have continued to re-circulate the paraphernalia of office amongst themselves. Those who imposed idiots and buffoons on us as rulers. A well defined Boko Haram would have been the nemesis comes to judgement. Alas, this is not the case and not likely to be. But the Nigerian people must not keep quiet. The tempo of the struggle must be sustained. Let us destroy the present foundation of Nigeria and lay new concrete blocks of brotherhood, love, justice and fairness in our attempt to build a better and more vibrant country. The struggle is the life and soul of Nigeria. We must not fail.