Nigeria, dear native land!

farther down the road of protest

We no go gree o!

by bimbo amole

A very interesting landscape is gradually emerging in the Nigerian terrain. There is this culture of writing, debate and contribution of ideas which is slowly growing. Several otherwise quiet and unperturbed voices are beginning to render their very valued contributions. The young ones who hitherto felt such issues as politics is only for the old and retired are seeing things in new light. Many now rather see the need to collectively as a people work for the good. No wonder our elders wisely say there is always cause for thanksgiving, in all things there is some positive trait. Here, the point in focus is the removal of the fuel subsidy and the robust discussion it has engendered. Nay, the fervent desire for positive change in governance which it has aroused across the nation. Indeed the struggle is already being won. For good causes start with the mind, just like a football match is won outside the pitch in the real sense. And I think our people’s mind is coming together and working right now. The only fervent hope is that it lasts.
Within this whole excitement for change and ‘occupation of all possible places’ as many have called for however, it is important that some carefulness be maintained lest the whole savour of change being sought turns sour. I do think there is the need for focus, order and thoroughness even if the bubbling zest for change might want to suggest otherwise. I know that icy pacifism or some inactive belief in God will not do us much good. It never does any good anyway and much less in the reality that we now face in the country. Karl Marx had said so much about that, and he is right in a good number of ways in spite of his several flaws. Sure we must be pro-active. But the truth remains that this is a democracy. The much fiefdom or violence being carried on might not create much appreciable change. If anything at all, it would bring so many people untold sorrows and pain. Enough to cite is the mosque that was burnt in Benin during the week and the reported loss of life. If that were all, that would be fine, since nothing good comes without a sacrifice. But that probably will not be all. For almost certainly at the end of it all, if we do not get focused in this whole zest for change, the shame of all time will emerge: the military. Many facts point to it that that simple word ‘military’ is not unconnected with the backwardness we are laboring under today. While several nations were advancing and developing, military rule indeed repressed the Nigeria and was contented in keeping her repressed than seeking any lofty development of the economy. ‘That is for politicians’ it must have said to itself. Though we know even the politicians did not quite on the long run justify that wrong belief of the military!
Many who have reflected on the way things are going claim it may not be independent of the desire and designs of some cabal which has allegedly sworn to make the nation ungovernable for the present administration. If we follow their promptings without focus and planning, then we lose the sense of the whole call for change. And at the end of the day we would wish we went a more tactical way. It is quite easy, fueled by our anger and frustration with what Jonathan is doing, to rise up in protests and engage in what some refer to as occupation. Whether it would last without the risks I have mentioned above is another thing. The other option that may not be easy for us to quickly accept, but which I think is the less traveled but surer road, is to begin to work from the point of view of law and order. The real evil of the country is indiscipline and corruption, not even Jonathan, not even the subsidy imbroglio. Thus if we are to make a headway that would last, we should begin to direct the same passion, zest and maybe even anger at the institutions that make and enforce our laws. It is from there that the government is run. And to the extent to which bad laws are passed or good laws do not work due to indiscipline and corruption, to that extent shall we continue to protest and ‘occupy Nigeria’ futilely. It will not end. We may succeed in getting fuel subsidy replaced, (which for now I would concur is ill-timed since adequate preparation for its removal is not in place, and so this is not actually the germane point here), but the cabals would continue to eat up the country in several other ways. What might effectively end our woes in this richly blessed country however is for us to go back to our source and with this same passion and protests, make the engine room of our democracy work: laws and discipline. It is only a law which is alive and active that would go after politicians that have stolen the nations’ billions (which by the way would fix the almighty electricity problem of Nigeria in a matter of years), recover those billions and prosecute those political robbers who today not only walk about heads high but are chairmen at several occasions! Some even have the audacity to say they want to contest for national positions! It is only a working law that would make sure the institutions in the government are up and doing and every one is on his toes, accountable to the last kobo. It is only a working and potent law which would set up our several statutes & constitution, fortify our institutions and eventually seep down to affect positively the life of the ordinary Nigerian. But as we noted earlier, this is a much more difficult path to follow, even though it will at the end of the day give us a robust and healthy change. We got quite a choice to make here.
At the end of it all, what is being canvassed for here is for us not to rest on our oars with the present protests and think we are making a headway. Apart from the risk of the military and the sorrows of violence, we shall not quite reap the best of fruits that are there to harvest in the country’s vine. Much more that needs to be done is a radical look at the workings of our laws and governance, making it become a non-tolerant stance against corruption, indiscipline and mediocrity. One would want to look forward, for instance, to the day our Constitution and basic laws would be better adapted to the need of Nigeria at this critical time and make it mandatory for each one, and particularly in public office, to not only declare his assets but be able to prove how he amassed such asset. One would look forward to a constitution that has such a bite so much so that if such aforementioned person is not able to clearly prove the source of his assets, with proper details of taxes and payables, jail should be his home. This is just an instance. Without passion for such as a pragmatic constitution like this, our protest shall be toothless.
Hence, rather than let this passion for change and these protests end in the streets, the greater passion should be taken to the National Assembly, to the House of Representatives, to the processes for choosing our leaders, to our elections, to the budgets of the several tiers of government(not just the Presidency or national budget), to the management of the national resources. In one word, the protest must metamorphosize into a thirst for a non-negotiable transparency in governance particularly. If such passion and desire for true change that we have witnessed in the protests of the few days is geared towards these aforementioned, Nigeria will be on her feet in a matter of years. And that change will filter down quickly from the ruling class than one can imagine.
In conclusion I would add: let the passion blow on and lead the mind of Nigerians to stand up and fight, first and foremost, the battle of the mind in our fatherland. Victory starts with the mind. It is there that great battles are initially won or lost. After all it is because we are poor in mind and have let some clueless leaders herd us into following them sheepishly that we are where we are today, following their ways of corruption, scrambling for crumbs while they cart away the whole grand cakes. No more of crumbs, let us reason and reason well. If there is any revolution to be begun at all, it is the revolution of laws and discipline, the revolution of governance and accountability. The whole subsidy issue, for me, is merely a call to open our eyes and see beyond. Enough of crumbs in a land flowing with milk and honey. It is about time Nigeria stood up on her feet and take her position in the committee of nations. It is about time her leaders proved they are worthy to be called by that name, leaders. Enough of unplanned, hasty, fire brigade-acts like the provision of a 1, 600 buses for a 160 million people.


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