August 5th 2019 may go down in Nigeria’s history as the date of a revolution that never was. 48 hours to the commencement of the date announced by organisers of the revolution now movement for a nationwide protests against governance inertia in the face of unprecedented compounding socio-economic as well as security challenges, its leader Omoyele Sowore was arrested by the secret police. On what was supposed to be the D-day, an armada of combined security agencies laid siege on designated points of converging ‘’revolution now’’ protesters in Gestapo style cordoning off, dispersing most and arresting some. With its leader kept out of circulation and the full might of the state deployed to crush the movement, Sowore’s revolution was still at birth as it ended before it even began.
A former university students leader and frontline good governance advocate, Omoyele Sowore has been a powerful voice of a change from leadership retrogression to progression for much of his adult life. His online news medium, Sahara Reporters has been an invaluable channel of exposing governance malfeasance in high places. Like most Nigerians that worked tirelessly to bring about a democratic change in Nigeria after sixteen unbroken years of the PDP misrule in 2015, Sowore will become thoroughly dissatisfied with the Muhammadu Buhari led APC administration to such an extent that he put himself forward to the Nigerian people to be elected President in the 2019 presidential elections. Apparently disenchanted by a thoroughly flawed electoral process, which made a peaceful democratic change impossible in 2019 as was the case in 2015, Sowore and his comrades are opting for an alternative means of change.
However, a date for a revolution is not fixed and announced publicly as one would do a wedding party. A revolution is a disruptively forceful often violent overthrow of an existing socio-political system by a popular uprising of disenchanted segments of the society and not a merry making wedding party event. Announcing a date for commencement of revolutionary protests is like informing a government about your intention to overthrow it. A revolution is not said to happen but said to have happened as it is usually a spontaneous happenstance, which takes place not in concert but in resonance with a broad section of the society including critical insider elements in ruling establishment and ultimately culminating in a shift of loyalty from the government by security agencies to the revolting people as was the case with the French revolution of 1789 to 1799. And when a revolution is planned, it is properly timed by highly intellectual ideologues to coincide with a period of widespread popular dissent of majority of the people with their government making it easy to guide their revolt towards a premeditated out come as was the case with the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 in Russia.
Despite the seeming failure of the revolution now movement attributive to the tactlessness of the organisers, the Nigerian government and the leadership class should not claim victory prematurely. Like suicidal thoughts the revolution now movement has succeeded in awakening the latent revolutionary thinking in inherent in every political animal in the Nigerian people. This seemingly aborted attempt at a popular revolution has actually succeeded in etching the idea in the psyche of the Nigerian people upon whose feelings of discontent with a failed political system the idea was birthed in the first place.
The intolerable level of financial debauchery of the commonwealth of the Nigerian state by a few privileged members of the political leadership class and the near total governance inertia, which has created of Nigeria the third most terrorized country in the world with the highest number of miserably poor people provides a perfect setting for a French or Russian style revolution in Nigeria. If Nigeria’s political leadership class much like Marie-Antoinette, the Queen-Consort of King Louis XVI of France, continues to live in lavish surplus in the midst of widespread miserable impoverishment of the people, then her faith at the guillotine may also befall them. This is made real by an inattentive, insensitive, incompetent, detached and aloof leadership style of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which nevertheless devised an ingenuously dubious means of holding on to power despite its abysmal failure in its first term thereby preventing a peaceful democratic change of leadership through a brazenly compromised electoral process that was the 2019 elections. Making a peaceful democratic change impossible in face of widespread disenchantment of the people with an acute governance failure is a proper recipe for a revolution.
Familiarity with world history reveals revolutions in whatever form not to be a silver bullet that kills a bad political leadership system to birth a good one. A successful revolution, which overthrows an existing socio-political order, is usually followed by a period of anarchical instability arising from a breakdown of law and order in the absence of a constituted authority and anybody can be a victim of the times. In the subsequent effort to restore law and other by constituting legitimate authority of state often result into factions in the ranks of the revolutionaries as there will usually be no unanimity of consensus about the shape, form and essence of the state of affairs of the people. This affair can be bloodier than the overthrow of the previous system. Following the abolition of the French Monarchy in the aftermath of the revolution, the ranks of the revolutionaries was splintered into factions of the Jacobins and Girondins who fought bitterly over the political structure of the New France.
Most often than not, like isotopes of the same element a revolution only succeeds in replacing an unwanted political leadership system with a similar one leaving the socio-economic lot of the people unchanged for better and in some cases worse off. The revolution that toppled the French monarchy eventually gave rise to republican dictatorship just as the Bolshevik revolution replaced the Russian monarchy with a communist dictatorship. The people are usually the ultimate victims of a revolution as their rights; welfare and security are curtailed to prevent a counter revolution. Nearer home in Africa, examples abound in recent history from Sudan to Egypt and from Ethiopia to Libya about how revolutions only succeeded in replacing a set of unwanted leaders with their variants thus leaving the worse off as liberators eventually becomes oppressors.
Nigeria will do well to avoid the tortuous road of a revolution as it may never recover from it. Inherent in its existing constitutional democratic order are inexhaustible mechanisms of resolving its numerous governance challenges. It is in the collective interest of both the political leadership and the people to continue to productively engage in furthering the ideals of the morality of the rule of law. In absolute fidelity to the morality of the rule of law, the political leadership class of Nigeria must not be seen by the people to be relishing the privileges of power only but be seen to be impactful in taking up their responsibility of providing adequate citizen welfare as well securing their lives and properties. Fundamental to preventing a revolution is to return power back to people through a credible electoral process that allows them to choose and change their leaders freely. A credible electoral process is the key ingredient of a democracy as it allows the people to reward and punish good and bad governance accordingly. If this power is denied the people through a flawed electoral process that seeks to perpetuate an underperforming political leadership class, a time will that the people will seek alternatives with or without the prompting of Comrade Sowore.
To further prevent the rough road to a revolution will be for the political leadership to be guided in their business of governance, the morality of the rule of law in the self-enlightened realization that is in their best interest to do so. By de-personalising but generalising government, the political leadership class must realise that they are will be beneficiaries of any good governance legacy the help institute and will also be victims of any governance malfeasance they foster once they serve out their time in office.