Nigeria is a country in dire need of a revolution or something close to it. I doubt if the widespread gap between the rich and poor that spurned the revolution in France could surpass the enormous gap between the richest and poorest of Nigerians today. I certainly doubt if the exploitation of the poor by the political class in the Old Russian Empire which stoked the fire of the Bolshevik revolution is not child’s play to the political gangsterism going on in Nigeria. Indeed, careful examination of American history will reveal that Americans of 1760 were living in political El Dorado under the British compared to the rule of one man and the jungle that Nigerians live under today courtesy of a lawless executive arm, sterile legislature and abused judicial arm. If perverting the people’s will through the ballot were enough to spark revolution in Ukraine and Georgia, why then has nothing happened in Nigeria in ’63,’83,’93 & ’03 and predictably continue?
Quite a number of commentators examining this issue have concluded perhaps that the lack of deep moral convictions by the Nigerian people is responsible for this trend. Others have concluded that we are selfish and hardly reliable to fight for a cause; others have dug into our history to say the lack of an armed agitation for independence might be responsible for our inability to summon our inner fighting power to achieve greater national goals. Less than charitable thinkers have gone out of the way to label most if not all Nigerians: cowards. How else could they be challenged in a county that have tolerated this amount a rape? A country where IBB and his stealing acolytes stole wantonly for eight years yet some thirteen years later the same man is being hailed by some fellow country man as the next best thing to happen after toast bread. Na so?
Of course in more ways than one, it is easy to point to various heroic Nigerians who did not mind dying for a cause. Chief MKO Abiola comes to mind, so does his wife and democratic heroine – Kudirat Abiola. Indeed, the likes of Gani Fawenhinmi or Wole Soyinka are as far to a coward as you can regard the morality of an Angel to the morality of a typical Nigerian politician. I mean the roll call of brave Nigerians are endless and it would be useless digging into the names of those that have died, survived or are currently braving the audacious affront of the kleptocratic elite on the survivability of our nation. Hence I disagree: Nigerians are not cowards- far from it. They died in the Biafra war on both sides, they died in operation wetie, they fought hard to reinstate June 12 and were slaughtered by the dark goggled evil one and many have paid the supreme prize in the hands of assassins and hired killers. Nigerians are not afraid of a principled fight I posit, they just don’t want to die for the wrong reasons.
It is my opinion that the seeming inability to sustain revolution in Nigeria is twin: one is the nature of our leadership and second, is the nature of the followership. As antithetical as it might sounds, the nature of the current leadership especially in terms of how it ascends and wields power as well as how power is distributed within its ranks has an enormous impact on the success or failure of a revolution. It is virtually impossible to have a revolution in a country where ascension to leadership is purely obtained by the rule of money, rather than a mixture of one of more abstract criteria like loyalty, kinship or meritocracy. In pre-revolution America, there was two ways to be part of British aristocracy: by birth or by merit. Hence, it was either you were in or out. The same could be said of the French or Russian. In the case of post-soviet Ukraine and Georgia Republics, loyalty to the cause of the mafia political masters (ex-communists) was necessary to get face time in the days of pre-revolution politics.
What inherently this system of leadership creates, no matter how seemingly corrupt, is a two tier citizenry of those who are in and those who are out. It creates the haves and have-nots whose simmering anger stems from a feeling of being left out and whose anger cannot be doused by any immediate action of the ruling faction. On the other hand, in the cash and carry environment of Nigeria any common tout and armed robber can become a leader. A motor park tout need not be loyal to Obasanjo or his PDP- he just needs to steal enough money to pay touts to kill and maim enough to merit the term “garrison commander” from the kill and go machine in Abuja and earn the respect of Ali and his boss in Aso Rock. It is for this singular reason that effectively corrupt and openly inept governors were returned in 2003 in a moonlside for the ruling party because all they needed was to reinvest money stolen in the process of impoverishing the people, and the people being so impoverished are so grateful to eat off the crumbs of their masters table that any reason to embark on mass revolution is surrendered to short term comforts.
Furthermore, this belligerent cycle of “stealing your money to bribe you” with pittance is being elevated to the level of a science by the militricians cum military boys turn politicians and that is exactly their strategy for 2007. Having duped Nigerians of billions in their locust years, it would be foolhardy to underestimate their intent to buy influence next year or the willingness of the hungry public to buy their crap .The efficacy of this method of course is that at the end of every four year election cycle, the lines between the haves and have-nots is effectively blurred by the availability of easy money which effectively shuts down the clatter of revolution dead in its tracks- see you in another four years. Hence, the seemingly open handed, generous Nigerian kleptocrats have effectively and should continue to effectively buy time and support, enough to destroy the embers of revolution going forward.
The second and no less important reason why a revolution is never going to succeed in Nigeria is ordinary Nigerians themselves. By nature, Nigerians are boisterous; we are emotional and highly short sighted in reason and thought. Nigerians would rather vote for a big mirage than a small reality. That is why in the Nigeria of today, you can only be taken seriously as a presidential contender if your hired crowds can take over Garki district: it does not matter if they are hired, they just need to show up! That is the nature of Nigerians. The press is impressed by braggadocios; intellectual debate is put at the back burner for mundane but colorful issues and personalities; ideas are traded on the altar of egos and common Nigerians are left hanging with their pants dry four years down the road. Add this to the fact that the opposition is in disarray: filled to the brim with men of big egos who will rather fill your TV screens than do productive behind the scene works. They are more interested in long meetings than actual ground work of organizing the people and all things being equal the day they get into office you can kiss their opposition ideologies good bye. I was not surprised when the so called PRONACO conference ended in disarray- that is the lot of the Nigerian opposition movement.
Of course it is now all too common knowledge that Nigerians are extremely forgiving and forgetful: common criminals even having the nerve to publicly announce their presidential aspiration. We eulogize criminals and decorate them with chieftaincy titles and “honorary” degrees- the most annoying part is when they die: their families and friends barrage our sensibilities with full page colorful adverts in national newspapers trying to doctor their filthy memory of decadence and corruption. Words from the mouths of corrupt associates also lend a hand to this end. Ours is a country of all possibilities and don’t be surprised if the son of Sani Abacha is elected as the next Senator from Lagos to the chagrin of sane observers. Is it is not the same country that elected an alleged murderer to the Senate from prison? God Bless Nigeria
and all her people.