When at a crossroad, one should take a moment to re-assess his/her progress and strategize for the journey ahead. This is the way of the wise. Unfortunately, wisdom is scarce commodity in our part of the world.
The foregoing is to preface what is to follow: that yet again Nigeria is on the eve of another future-defining election. June 12, 1993 was the last in recent memory, at least, as far as my generation is concerned.
Pat Utomi’s piece on meaningful citizenship by Nigerians, “Why Nigeria Underperforms”, speaks to my belief that Nigeria is what it is today and can’t be what it should be because Nigerians are some of the most fearful humans alive. In my days in the University, students protest, either justified or not, could scarcely muster a sizeable crowd. There were always the usual faces of student activists, handful of crowd followers and hangers-on who weren’t actually students.
In a school of about thirty-five thousand students, protest planners would have to disrupt classes, shut down hostels, libraries etc in order to gather a sizable crowd of students. Though the agitations were all too often about inordinate increase in tuition fees, ruling government’s anti-democratic tendencies or simply non-provision of basic amenities in the hostels, majority of students, as stakeholders, were never part of the movements.
I suppose that apathy continues till date. Not that I support the disruptive activities of students in the guise of protests. The inclination to leave others to fight for my right while I perch somewhere in safety is the bane of purposeful citizenship which ought to call leaders to account.
Citizenship can be captured thus: I have got a stake in this community and I shall do my part to ensure that our leaders account for proceeds of our common resources.
How come at a time when most Nigerians are feeling the pinch, only about a thousand folks gathered for the Save Nigeria Group’s marches of this year? Though we complain of bad leadership, how many will take to the streets to peacefully agitate?
When we make a peaceful change impossible, we make possible a violent change. Nigerians couldn’t have forgotten too soon the fallout of the 1993 election. Except we forewarn the leaders that rigging of 2011 election will trigger a call to arms, a rat race becomes inevitable.
If life in Nigeria is not tough enough, consult those in Ivory Coast, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone etc. When push comes to shove, everyone, including those who would always scamper to safety rather than fight, will bear the brunt of the deep-sitted anti-leaders animosity in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, when it rains it spares no one in its course. When the time to reclaim our common heritage from hijackers comes, the corrupt parent, the indolent worker, the praise-singing artiste or the falsehood preaching clergy will be seen as part of the leadership that has attenuated Nigeria’s growth. A direction-less moving train strikes anything on its route. There will be no time to seek out only corrupt politicians; every Nigeria who is adjudged by the marauding army of proletariats of belonging to a higher class than its members shall be a recipient of the ‘largesse’ that is to come. There may be no time to prove source of wealth.
The impending rains, which will give no warning, won’t spare anyone once the rooftop is blown off this communal compound. We’re at a crossroad again as a nation. There need to re-assess our trajectory is paramount. For the leaders, we know already where they stand: sadly the present president is seeking a fresh mandate in the absence of any evidence to show how well he has governed. Though he walked barefooted as a child, as president he can’t show how that experience has imparted his life by ensuring no Nigerian child walks barefooted again.
How can that be achieved when dustbins were imported at the cost of over a billion naira? How do you justify the staging of a fiftieth independence anniversary with seventeen billion naira in a country in which many families go hungry daily?
But I write not now about the president, for he’s only as important as Nigerians make him.
As no mass revolution has been known to be peaceful, the movement to enforce the rights of the collective is won’t be a tea party. Most of today’s developed nations experienced a bloody putsch by proletariats in the past.
Nigeria’s will be like the coming rains.
Idowu Ohioze resides in Edmonton, Canada.