WITH Omoyele Sowore arrested in Lagos and whisked away to Abuja by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the intimidation of protesters under the aegis of #RevolutionNow by a combination of the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army, the wind was taken out of the sails of the protest planned against the current government. The protest championed by Sowore fell flat; it failed to fly. The little impact it made was on the first day, Monday, August 5. The powers that be effectively nipped the protest in the bud and zapped it. Since then, both the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) and President Muhammadu Buhari’s special assistant on social media, Lauretta Onochie, have been gloating over the defeat of the revolt and taunting the brains behind it and the perceived supporters.
But those rejoicing over the failure of the protest miss the point by a mile. Despite the patent flaws in Sowore’s strategy, his angst is definitely not against President Buhari as a person, but the Nigerian system. Which genuine Nigerian will be happy that a country which had only 6 per cent poverty rate at independence in 1960 is now the world’s poverty headquarters with over 80 million people in extreme poverty and six Nigerians sliding into poverty every minute? Which patriotic Nigerian will be satisfied that while tens of millions of Nigerians are languishing in lack a handful are reveling in scandalous opulence? Which genuine Nigerian will be happy that millions of our youths are unemployed? Which genuine Nigerian will be happy at the deteriorating state of security in the country? Which genuine Nigerian will be happy at the sick state of the nation’s hospitals? Which genuine Nigerian will be happy with the deplorable state of the education system? Which genuine Nigerian will be happy that the nation’s infrastructure has virtually collapsed? Which Nigerians, except those who profit from the odious system in operation in the country, will be happy that our country is the way it is?
That was the thrust of the protest. That is what #RevolutionNow is about. That is why many Nigerians overtly or covertly supported the idea. Nigerians want a change of the system that makes it almost impossible for them to actualise their potentialities, they want an end to a system that pauperise them. They want to see the end of a system that makes it difficult for anyone who does not have any link with the political class to thrive. They want a system that cares about their wellbeing, a system that enables them to realise their personal aspirations, a system that gives them national pride as Nigerians. Unless the government addresses these issues, #RevolutionNow might have been defeated for now, but it is sure to resurrect later if not in that exact form, then in another.
The surest antidote to a revolution is good governance.
For the education of the gloating class, every revolution is evolutionary; it comes in stages. It builds up until it gets to a stage that it takes a life of its own and becomes a revolt. That Nigerians are not happy with the current state of affairs in the country is a sign that revolution is imminent. It may not come now, or next year or even in 10 years, but unless there is a change in the way the country’s affairs are conducted, unless the government addresses the concerns of the people, unless the government deliberately takes steps to improve life and living, unless poverty is scaled down, unless unemployment is addressed, unless insecurity is clipped, revolution cannot be wished away.
Although history tells us that the American Revolution was between 1765 and 1783, the seed for the revolt was sowed in 1651 when the British administration had sought to regulate trade in the American colonies by enacting a mercantilist policy which would ensure that trading activities in American colonies enriched only Great Britain. But the revolution was not instant; because the British government did nothing to address the perceived injustice, it evolved over the years until 1765, over a century later, when the bubble got burst.
What many remember as the cause of the French Revolution was the indiscretion of Queen Marie Antoinette, who, in 1789, upon being told that the peasants had no bread, said, “Let them eat cake,” forgetting that cake was more expensive than bread. That was the turning point in the evolution of the French Revolution but the revolt was actually a response to the economic inequality and political mismanagement perpetuated by the French monarchy over the years.
Mohamed Bouazizi was an inconsequential Tunisian street vendor but his self-immolation on December 17, 2010 as a result of the confiscation of his wares for failing to offer the police a bribe, and his eventual death on January 4, 2011, precipitated a revolt that ended the 23-year rule of former Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on January 14, and was a catalyst for what is now known as the Arab Spring that spread across the Arab world and brought an end to many regimes in the region. Bouazizi’s immolation was just a culmination of the people’s frustration that had built up over the years as a result of the brazen misrule of the Tunisian government.
The essence of history is to avail us opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes. Those who fail to learn from history cannot avert the repeat of history and the attendant consequences.