Yet another lesson that we have a long way to go in Nigeria. This time from the Ukraine. The lesson is that true power lies with the people, with a conditional clause though: that such a people is ready to commit all it takes to her struggle to have a dignifying life.
We cannot compare Ukraine to Nigeria, neither in population (Nigeria is about 170 million, approximately four times more than the Ukraine population), nor in economic prowess (Nigeria’s present total GDP is approximately $533 billion, Ukraine approximately $337 billion). Yet, it is to be reiterated again, the people of Ukraine have taught us a lesson of steadfastness. Indeed, only the people can allow a government to carry on with its mess. If the people truly stand up to say no, not even the whole army of the world can stop them. For violence has its curb and limits. No government, no matter how mad and insensitive, can destroy a whole nation. It is a contradictory move to its own existence and success.
Our Occupy Nigeria of two years ago is reputed to be a first of the people’s attempt at fighting oppression and misrule. But as history has now shown, it was bent to fail. It was bent to fail because we only come out en masse to oppose rules that manifestly touch the Nigerian tables or pockets. Any other problem less than that is nothing to us, we do the “suffering and smiling” style as the good abamieda would say, God rest him. Rejecting such a hike is good, but that is not the ultimate oppression to be rejected and against which protests should be made. The very fact that there are some very wicked people benefiting from the subsidy protest (since they want it to continue, themselves being the direct beneficiaries of the subsidy millions) makes the entire protest weak and unfocused. The ordinary poor man was just a tool in the whole protest saga, and unknowing too. Pity.
Protests should be made first and foremost against ill principles, perverted justice and wrong government policies. It is these that should be fought against in the first instance. For these are the principles/rules whose consequences would determine how the government is run and what the Nation gains or loses at end of the day. It is amazing how we came out to protest a rise in gas price but we had no single national disapproval when there were revelations like:
(1)The pardon of a criminal like Alamieyeseigha(who appropriated the wealth of a people while the people of Balyesa languished in poverty: buying a single house in London for about 2 million pounds!);
(2)Pension scam (for which hundreds of people have died or in distress, unduly denied of their entitlements);
(3) News of 20billion Naira (or is it 48billion Naira, we do not know which is what anymore, too much money in the country, to use it well is the problem – credited to our honourable Gowon) is said to have escaped from the NNPC coffers and have disappeared into the air. The term billion deceives us. My friend that is lots of money.
(4)Nigerians are dying almost daily, beyond counting, in the core North due to Boko Haram menace. Yes, it is not the government “direct” fault, but how could some whooping 260 billion Naira have been spent on the pacification of Niger Delta militants and only a paltry 64 billion claimed to have been spent on curbing Boko Haram? These billions are not even meaningful anymore, we do not know their import. Billionu! Security votes are mere ways of getting quick chop-chop funds.
The list could go on for ever. The point is that we cannot afford to rise in protests only for such issues like fuel price hike alone whereas we barely mutter some words when the very causes of poverty and backwardness arise. Take as a final instance our youths who were out of the universities for about six months, was there any national protest or something of sort to indicate this is an all-big problem in a country whose youths form a two-third (almost a hundred million) of the entire population? No, we rubbed it on and went on, it’s just one out of about 10 National problems in the past 10 months. One simply cancels the other: subsidy protest, Boko Haram upsurge, Oduah scandal, 6 months of University strikes, Missing billions from NNPC, Boko Haram upsurge…. One simply keeps canceling the other in our mind, and our short memories are robbed of a needed steadfastness to stand firm and face an issue to the end until resolved.
We must get our acts together and know when to pressure the government aright. But much more than knowing when to rise to such occasions, a steadfastness lesson from Ukraine must never be forgotten. Incompetent administrations oftentimes play on the very short memory of the Nigerian population. “Let them cry for a while, it would all die down” they would say, I can imagine. About time we changed that attitude, so that they can also change their perception and rectify their actions.
I’ll say the electoral year 2015 is a litmus test to begin with. May the people be able to choose those to lead the country out of the woods. And may leaders in several sectors of the nation, particularly educational and religious sector, be ready to muster the people to ask, insist on and fight for their rights.