Nigeria and indeed Africa do not lack good stories. Events happen in this part of the world with the speed of light. Before one episode is finished, another has opened in quick succession. I can go on and on to illustrate this point. I now know why Nollywood films are in hot demand all over the world. That is why writers, say journalists, in the country do not scratch their heads for stories. They only look for salacious ones, the ones that would readily grab the attention of readers. They search for stories with epic proportion and effect.
Welcome to the story of the ‘revolution now’ protest march that engulfed my dear country, the giant of Africa, since Monday morning reportedly led by detained political activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore. Recall that Sowore was a presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential poll. He got just a few thousands of votes for his modest effort. The Sowore story is the latest tale in town. It won’t die quickly like other ‘kill and go’ stories. The tale of Sowore and his ‘revolution now’ protest will endure for weeks and months. Sowore has the capacity to make the headlines. As a student leader at the University of Lagos in the 90s, he made news. As a human rights activist, he made more news. As a journalist and publisher, he reports and invents news. Government arrested and detained Sowore for embarking on a revolution now march.
Government interprets Sowore’s revolutionary protest as an insurrection which to those in Aso Villa is treasonable because of the phrase ‘revolution now.’ Does Green Revolution amount to violent take-over of government? Does industrial revolution mean the same thing? Let linguists and literary activists join me to untangle the meaning of revolution now which Sowore called for or allegedly called for.
But before they come on board, let me warn that words do not actually mean what they are intended to mean. Lawyers are aware of this fact very well. Let me say right away that words are naturally ambivalent. They don’t always mean what their user intended them to mean. The word ‘stop’ may mean ‘don’t move’ or ‘watch out’ or ‘look up’ depending on the context of situation and the participants.
Let me sound a note of warning that words can be misinterpreted and misrepresented. Many words are ambiguous in nature. The word ‘come’ can also mean so many things depending on the participants and the situation. Come can mean the opposite of go. It can also mean reverse (in case of a driver and a conductor). It can mean to put something into another thing and so on and so on. To avoid being accused of being lewd, let me restrain myself from further elucidation of the word ‘come.’ I am doing so because some children may read this article. Moreover, I don’t want to be misunderstood. You know what I mean. The meanings of words are not fixed or cast in iron. They are fluid and possible of many interpretations. There is no one way of interpreting a word.
That words can mean different things is the danger that users of words must confront. It is a reality they must live with. The ambivalent nature of words is common to all human languages. Some analysts are blaming Sowore for using the words “revolution now” in his protest. They are particular about the word revolution. They loath the idea of a revolution when there is an elected government in power. Perhaps, they remembered the Adaka Boro’s revolution, the Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’s revolution and others in history.
I do not think that Sowore was not aware of the meaning of the word ‘revolution’ before inserting it in his protest march. He saw the protest as a revolution. He saw it as something that would be different from others before it. He saw it as something that would draw public and global attention and hug the headlines. I think that those behind the ‘revolution now’ march carefully and deliberately chose the words ‘revolution now’ for maximum impact.
They really want to invoke fears in those in Abuja, the seat of power not necessarily to unseat them but to make them sit up. They want those in Aso Rock to do the needful and ensure governance is about the security and welfare of the people as enshrined in the extant Nigerian constitution. The protesters want to be heard globally. By arresting the arrowhead of the ‘revolution now’ march, the government has alluringly walked into their trap.
The continuous detention of Omoyele Sowore on account of the ‘revolution now’ protest would make him and his cause more popular, appealing and acceptable by many. With the revolution now protest, Sowore has captured the imagination of frustrated and unemployed Nigerian youths. Keeping him in detention will make him a hero and a messiah. I think that Sowore may have achieved his aim. The best this government can do to its image is to release him and his co-revolutionists now in detention.
Government should not open itself to so many battles at the same time. Government must choose its battles and carry on with those it can win with less effort. The revolution now protest is one battle government should have ignored. Whether the government likes it or not, the revolution now revolutionists have made their point; and they have made it more eloquently with their choice of words and strategies. The word, revolution, did the magic for them.
Their grouses must not be wished away by those in power. The revolution now group represents the wishes and aspirations of many Nigerian people. The government is not only those elected to serve the people or the security agents. The government is the people of Nigeria. This is why they say that power belongs to the people on whose behalf those elected gained their power. Therefore, power does not belong to the few who are elected to serve the people.
Those elected to serve and the security agents are employed by the Nigerian people to serve them. If they are not doing their job well, their employer, the people of Nigeria, can call them to order. The Nigerian people need not wait till another cycle of election to check the excesses of those in power. Keeping Sowore in detention will not help the cause of this government. A listening government should not have arrested Sowore for expressing his political views no matter how he expressed them or the words he used to carry the weight of his views. Good enough, the group explained in detail what their aim is all about. Nothing in it suggests violence or forceful take-over of the government in power. A party that came to power on the mantra of change should not be afraid of the word revolution. There is absolutely little difference between change and revolution. Revolution can mean so many things other than bloody or violent take-over of a government. After all, those in power now gleefully applauded the Arab Spring.
The right of every Nigerian to hold a peaceful protest must be respected. In such protests, the security agents must be on the side of the people and not the government in power as it is done in other countries. The government should not tolerate one group of protesters and loath another group because of their position or tone of protest. I say this because democracy accommodates dissention views. The best way this government can stem the tide of protests is to govern Nigeria well, listen to the people and respect the rule of law.