To the thinking man, the world is a comedy; to the feeling man, it’s a tragedy. I think all the time – Ken Saro Wiwa
The young woman walks down the highway. She carries the Nigerian flag. She wants to live in a country where her aspirations can be met and not suffocated by the detritus of Nigeria’s tragic history. The sound of gunfire is familiar, it has returned to the city, with the bullets flying towards the protestors.
That’s how we simply die.
Simple people kill simple people.
At the edge of hope lies the gunfire from what Frantz Fanon called “the old granite block upon which the nation rests.” At the moment of protest, when the gunfire starts, clarity arrives. One should not be naïve about the character of the elite, whose smiles camouflage the instructions given through clenched teeth to the henchmen, their ‘simple men’ ready to kill the ‘simple people.’ At its best, the ‘granite block’ shrugs, shuffles its cabinet, offers modest reforms; at its worst, its soldiers – their faces covered to prevent the tears from showing – fire at their family members.
Far away, in Abuja and their highbrow residences, the elite sniff, they brush the dandruff from their shoulders. “We are not like them.”
Freedom is an innermost power. That is why society limits it. In the light of day, our thoughts would make monsters and madmen of us. Even those with the most limited imagination conceal something horrifying. Our innumerable flaws are proof of our monstrously primitive origin. Rough drafts that we are. And we will remain so as long as we lack the courage to hack a path through the tangled undergrowth of life and walk with eyes fixed on the truth.
So, this is it. I do not believe that any citizen should commit treason, be part of a coup, to try to topple government, except through legitimate and constitutionally prescribed means. However, I also state that, when government has failed or is failing, it employs all means to straggle citizens, and in one such case is my friend, Omoyele Sowore.
If as a people we see no wrong in the continued detention of citizen Sowore, if as a people we are concerned that he was part of those that brought the Muhammadu Buhari APC experiment on board, if we continue to debate about what brand of journalism Sowore’s Saharareporters practiced, we are then doomed.
On the contrary, it is sad that we are bedevilled with the continuing growing malice of sex-for-marks. ASUU and FG fighting on how to pay salaries. No one protested! Saddled with growing corruption, in fact, near blinding stealing by government officials. No one is protesting! Banditry is in many parts of the country, as green as the green on the national flag, and it is treasonable to protest about it.
The scourge of youth unemployment and unemployables is one that is seeing increase in leaps and bounds, with government paying lip service to social programmes. Yet, the youths remain scarily docile, nobody is protesting!
Tell me about transportation…and I recall it was in 2006 that we signed a $8.3 billion contract for a railway line from Lagos to Kano, where is the railway and how many railways have been built in China alone within the same period? No one has been held accountable, we continue to celebrate mediocrity, and no one protests.
It hurts that this is the Nigeria that we are forced to embrace. Our leaders are simpletons that refuse to anticipate the spur for rebellion. In Lebanon, it was a tax on the use of WhatsApp; in Chile, it was the rise in subway fares; in Ecuador and Haiti, it was the cut in fuel subsidies. Each of these conjunctures brought people to the streets and then, as these people flooded the streets, more and more joined them. They did not come for WhatsApp or for subway tokens. They came because they were frustrated, angry that history seems to disregard them as it consistently favours the ruling class.
The nation’s GDP growth was estimated at 0.8% in 2017, up from -1.5% in 2016. The outlook beyond is positive, with growth projected at 2.1% in 2018 and 2.5% in 2019. This outlook is anchored in higher oil prices and production, as well as stronger agricultural performance. But with export of oil being the main earning for the country. If oil exports slow, so will the economy. Nigeria struggles with a high inequality rate. The richest 10% in the country earn an income that is more than 26 times that of the poorest 10%. If you add in the wealth of the richest 10%, the gap is even more dramatic. Nigeria’s tax system is notoriously regressive, with corruption legalised through the tax code.
Despite the ruling class’s anti-corruption mantra, all it does is encrusted with corruption, its political leaders collecting rents from government contracts, its public services saturated with graft. The signs are not good; it is not about arresting and detaining, or cowering the few voices that are speaking.
The ruling class in Nigeria is fast losing the goodwill that brought them and, unable to earn the consent of the population, is romancing with force to batter the people into submission.
It is important to ask why people have taken to the streets, to ask about their political orientation. In many cases – Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon – the core issue is that the people of these countries have been defrauded by their own bourgeoisie and by external forces. The protests have targeted their governments, but that is only because these are protests that want to uphold democracy, they are impoverished. We say that Nigerians are too divided, these protests can’t go deep; they would fizzle out. See, they have abandoned Sowore in the cold. This is true, but equally not true.
We are continually faced with demanding that our leaders get it right. We are faced with asking the right questions nay get the right answers. Alas, we are all afraid, neither speaking truth to power nor protesting because they simply will kill us. Simple people killing simple people because they ask for what is their right.
We brush every discourse on the national table, afraid to shake the table, not wanting to create disruption. So, Sowore can suffer, he should pay for his sins. We can continue to pretend about the Nnamdi Kanus and what’s the name of that clown too in the Arewa Youth Forum? But these are persons that speak volumes of the systemic disorder that Nigeria is. Who will bell the cat? Will government embark on a large-scale repair? That woman selling bean ball, struggling man who just wants to live in peace, is there light, what really is ours? Only time will tell.