Where is the Evidence that Nigerians have had Enough?

by John Iteshi

I have consistently criticised Nigeria’s so-called civil society groups for ineffectiveness and have similarly faulted the “Enough is Enough” campaign which is being praised in most Nigerian internet forums as a dawn of a new era. Hence, this morning when I found the website of the Enough is Enough, I immediately left the following comment to further express my views:

I support and praise anyone devoting his or her time to demonstrate against the failure of Nigeria. I generally like the concept of Enough is Enough, but my deep concern is that a demonstration organised by a coalition of more than 10 organisations could not produce more than a small bunch of men and women hanging around and posing for the cameras.
I am very sorry, that I have not seen any evidence that “Enough is indeed Enough” among supposedly enlightened Nigerians.
What I see is an attempt to apply a kind of Abacha/YEAA era style insincere rallying and demonstrations towards a good cause!
Of course, we all desperately need to see Nigerians wake up from our slumber and ask the right questions about our affairs, but we must be brutally honest about addressing the diseases of our unfortunate country. Seeing and celebrating progress where there is none is delusional and because a crowd of less than 2,000 cannot represent any indication that Nigerians are tired of their hopeless system.
My advice for this group is to apply a little bit of sincerity and dedication to their chosen project which is a noble one. Before seeking media and internet attention, go to the Universities, secondary schools, markets and churches to mobilise Nigerians through good arguments.
The first and most important impact you can make is waking up Nigerians. Once, you wake up Nigerians to understand the need to have a successful Nigeria, things will naturally work out as we want it for the most serious disease of Nigeria is the ignorance of the masses especially the educated ones.

After posting my comment, I was tempted to take a closer look at the website where I saw the video of the much talked about Enough is Enough demonstration in Abuja.

I must say that I was moved by the video of the Abuja demonstration, but my concerns were not allayed by it. Yes, I saw really “daring” (by Nigerian standard) young men and women; I saw a well organised and well controlled demonstration, but I did not see anything worthy to be called a historic march by any standard.

Of course, I would be rightly criticised by those who see a march of just about a thousand or even less Nigerians (mainly middle-aged men and women addressing themselves as youths) as a serious mass action by “Nigerian youths”, as being an armchair critic. Of course, I know that some hungry and ignorant Nigerians abroad who brand themselves “Diaspora” (a title that is now claimed by virtually any Nigerian that ventures to visit any European country even for a few months) have unreasonably segregated Nigerians abroad to the point that Nigerians at home, both genuine and dubious ones ( like most of our leaders) are often quick to greet any criticism from a Nigerian abroad with something like “why don’t you come home and do it?”. Of course, I also ought to be restrained in my criticisms bearing in mind my people’s saying about a hypothetical crippled man who said “I know what to say but I will not say it because I if I do, I would be challenged to get up and walk”, but I believe we are in an emergency and should put our collective survival ahead of personal survival.

Carefully, studying the videos and the media campaigns of the Enough is Enough group, I saw more issues of concern than issues of hope. I repeat my concern that a campaign organised by a coalition of well over 10 organisations could not organise a meaningful march in Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria. This may not have been noticed as a serious sign of failure of Nigeria to most watchers, but from my field experience and deep understanding of the Nigerian society, I think it is a sign that the campaign may be insincere or simply led by ignorant and desperate to be famous individuals who were not dedicated enough to mobilise for participants.

But then, what is wrong with an insincere campaign if it achieves something good – for example fundamental changes in the way things are done in Nigeria? Of course, we would all welcome any change for the better in Nigeria. I will personally support the Enough is Enough campaign in any way I can, if I see it as capable of making any real impact.

However, the fact is that the Enough is Enough campaign has not made any worthy impact to deserve the praises it has so far won from Nigerian media. A supposedly national march that is not comparable in size with an average village demonstration in the smallest countries of Europe and Asia cannot possibly be regarded as a success in a country of about 150 million people. The success of a demonstration is measured according to the level of attendance and not the level of media campaign.

I maintain my advice to the organisers of this worthy cause to focus on the grassroots first before media campaigns in the big cities. A genuine campaign should not start with fighting for media spotlight as this group seems to be scrambling for, but should first descend on our schools and colleges as well as churches, mosques and markets to convert ordinary Nigerians to their noble cause. I am sure that any serious attempt at mobilising people in Abuja would have resulted in a massive turn out as there are always millions of unemployed graduates loitering around Abuja.

The main disease of Nigeria is ignorance and it is not necessarily the ignorance of the uneducated that is the issue, but ignorance of the educated. Hence, focusing on Nigerian secondary schools and Universities at least, to campaign for the necessary awareness would be a good starting point.

I wish to add that the groups focus and strategy would need to be refined once the requisite mobilisation has been done. Demonstrations are not only organised by marching to the National Assembly. At least about 50,000 unemployed Nigerian graduates, descending on Abuja Eagle Square and refusing to go until one or more demands are met, would draw the attention of the whole world to Nigeria. A coalition of well over 10 organisations genuinely pursuing change should be able to attract more than a million unemployed Nigerians around Abuja or Lagos to a peaceful rally!

For the avoidance of any doubt, I did organise a one-man campaign against Exam malpractices in Abuja schools in 1999/2000, during my National Youth Service and I definitely got more crowd in the various schools I visited than this so-called National campaign. I also organised an essay competition and debate for schools on the same subject and got more attendance from across the FCT than this rally. I got no media attention, but the attention of a large number of real people who understood the issues I campaigned against.

I sincerely plead that my criticisms be taken not as an attempt to discredit the organisers of this noble cause. I have only voiced my concern that some individuals might be using the Enough is Enough to fight for self recognition, but I do not say that it is a crime to do so. What I say is simply that the organisers are free to float this campaign even for selfish aims, but that they could still be real heroes if they genuinely work hard enough to enable their achievements overshadow their underlying selfish interests.

We should have had enough of proli

feration of fake and self-seeking NGOs begging for local and international recognitions; enough of insincerity, complacency and ignorance among educated Nigerians and enough of get rich quick syndrome whether as public servants or as “have nots” desperately seeking to get own chance to steal.

Incompetent and wicked people will continue to reign in Nigeria despite being in the minority, as long as the good people (the overwhelming majority of Nigerians) remain unable to organise themselves properly!

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