Opinion / Editorial

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, By Femi Aribisala

It is no longer conjectural; Nigeria is at war. In July alone, some 282 of our citizens were gunned down or killed violently. When they were not killed by marauding herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, they were killed by our own government turning Nigerians guns procured to defend Nigerians on them.

The nation is no longer at ease. No one is abstracted from the on-going carnage. In July, the largest casualties were from the homestead of the president in Katsina. 80 persons were reportedly killed there, with Borno coming a close second with 75 dead. Foreign governments are warning their citizens that Nigeria is now a no-go country. Those who want to do business in Anglophone West Africa now seek refuge in Ghana, as opposed to Nigeria.

Omoyele Sowore is one of those Nigerian idealists tired of watching the country go to the dogs from the sideline. He decided to jump into the fray. He registered a political party and contested for the presidency. But he, and others like him were shut out with ballot snatching, vote-buying and massive rigging. So, he opted for another gambit. He called for a revolution and fixed a date. He asked Nigerians to come out in numbers to demand a change in the status quo.

But he was either unserious or just plain naive. You don’t invite people to a revolution. You don’t schedule a revolution on television and on social media. The powers-that-be will not siddon look. On the eve of his “revolution,” the department of state services (DSS) invaded his home and picked him up. They locked him up and threw the key away. He became yet another Nigerian citizen who will be locked up without legal reprieve.

Government Overkill

The government knows it has created a powder-keg in Nigeria through incompetence. But it feels confident that it can bottle this up through repressive measures. It accused Sowore of seeking to overthrow a legitimate government violently. But every right-thinking Nigerian knows that what Sowore was organising was a peaceful protest. Sowore has no instrument of violence and he has zero number of men under arms.

Garba Shehu, a government spokesman, said: “The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria.” This statement is unfortunate coming from the spokesman of a government that has just conducted the worst election in Nigeria’s history. If the ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing the government, the government itself shut that door by massively rigging the 2019 election.

Garba says: “The days of coups and revolutions are over.” Those are famous last words. By all accounts, the government is making doubly sure that the days of coups and revolutions might soon return. Democratic governments can be overthrown by social revolutions. They can be overthrown by widespread dissent. Coups have also been known to be conducted for the sole purpose of returning a country to true democratic governance.

Powerless Nigerians

The blunder of the present government is in believing that, having rigged the election, it has achieved a fait accompli. This is a government of impunity that believes Nigerians, by whose leave it holds office, are powerless. What indeed can Nigerians do about the policies of this government? The official answer is: “absolutely nothing!”

The virtue of democracy is that it provides a civil way to change an incompetent government. That change is based on the will of the majority of the people. But that possibility clearly no longer exists in Nigeria.

What we learnt from the last election is that our votes don’t count. As a result, we have a government that presided over a failed economy, a breakdown of law and order and a collapse of the national social fabric, claiming to have won the election with an increased majority.

Sowore’s response to this blatant lie is telling. Here was a man who believed in the system and therefore ran for the presidency. But when he saw how the vote was massively rigged, he decided that the alternatively he was left with was a social revolution. Therefore, he organised a protest march for August 5; yesterday.

The social revolution that should be giving the government sleepless nights is not in the offing. The revolution is already here. It is in our streets. It is in our farms. It is on our roads. It is in our homes. In Nigeria, things have surely fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold.

New Heroes

The answer of the government has been to arrest him. But they would be foolish to assume that by so doing they have stopped his movement. Sowore did not create the need for a social revolution. He simply responded to the need for one. If we go by the template that transformed Nnamdi Kanu into a national public figure, then the conclusion is that the government has created another public hero in Sowore.

Not many people knew Kanu until the government arrested him and, in effect, gave him a public platform and made him a hero. At the rate the DSS is going, the same public prominence now seems to be in the offing for Sowore, thanks to the government’s anti-democratic high-handedness. It is the right of Nigerians to protest the incompetence of their government. That right is not granted at the discretion of the government.

With regard to the affairs of Nigeria, the people and not the government are supreme. Sooner, rather than later, any attempt by the government to abrogate the democratic rights of the people of Nigeria will fail.

Somehow, the government believes that by clamping down on dissent, it can retain the status quo. Nigerians are deemed powerless and are held with obvious contempt by our leaders. They believe that, with a few threats, a few edicts classifying legitimate protest as terrorism or treasonable felony, everyone will keep quiet. However, we have seen enough in the last weeks and months that this is just wishful thinking.

The social revolution that should be giving the government sleepless nights is not in the offing. The revolution is already here. It is in our streets. It is in our farms. It is on our roads. It is in our homes. In Nigeria, things have surely fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold.

Poverty and Profligacy

Today, Nigeria earns barely $50 billion a year. The economy is down in the dumps. There is galloping unemployment. Those in public employment are owed back salaries, while pensioners are owed their pensions. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) suffers from chronic epilepsy, leaving the country in gross darkness. There is a relay-race of strikes. Even, doctors and health-workers are going on strikes. Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world. Many of us can hardly afford a square meal a day.

In the midst of this hardship, the president has constituted a cabinet full of men who stole public funds and have cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The nouveau-riche Nigerians are still buying summer-houses in Dubai; still building hotels in Lagos; still buying yachts in New Orleans; still celebrating birthday parties in Seychelles; still marrying wives in the Bahamas.

Our mega-pastors fly around in private jets, drive in a cortege of jeeps and preach “the gospel”, while cruising down the Atlantic with the “crème de la crème.”

Karma-time

As a result, the government sleeps with one eye open. When it hears the word “revolution,” it quickly develops a heart attack. The DSS is scrambled. The police are called to arms. A sledge hammer is applied so it can continue in its self-delusion.

But the truth is that there is no revolution coming in Nigeria for the simple reason that the revolution already came a long time ago. It came in a way that defied our political science textbooks. Maybe that accounts for our failure to recognise it. In the Nigeria of today, the revolution is crime.

The message is clear: the ignored will no longer accept being ignored. But the corrupt politicians who have grown fat by stealing public funds; the jet-setting mega-pastors who make merchandise of men; they need to be very afraid. There is a target on their foreheads. Fear will continue to surround them on every side.

There is a revolution already underway in Nigeria. The revolutionaries are armed robbers, pen robbers, “area boys,” “yahoo-yahoo boys” herdsmen, gangsters, kidnappers and 419 scammers.

National treasuries are still being emptied in this hypocritical era of the anti-corruption struggle. Banks are getting robbed. Homes are being burgled. Oil pipelines are being vandalised. Everybody is grabbing his share of the national cake. Everybody is busy ripping-off everyone else. From the policeman who holds car owners hostage; to the mechanic who uses fake spare parts; to the pharmacist who sells expired drugs, Nigeria is now a country of generalised criminality from top to bottom.

In Nigeria, the rich and well-heeled have murdered sleep. They live the barricaded life. Their walls are concrete and electrocuted. Their bodyguards are armed to the teeth. Their cars are smoke-screened. Their agbadas are bullet-proofed. Their children are home-schooled for the fear of kidnappers. Even their mothers and grandmothers are under lock-and-key in the villages.

Those were the days when peace of mind could be bought with hypocritical acts of philanthropy. Some small change is thrown at a few beggars. One or two vagrants are fed with crumbs from the table. But that just won’t do anymore. It is karma time.

This revolutionary criminality has found its most profound expression in armed robbery and kidnappings. Everyone is now wary of traveling inter-city for fear of being kidnapped. If you fall into the trap of these hoodlums, the going rate is nothing less than five million naira.

Kidnappings used to be localised in certain areas of Eastern Nigeria, but now it is a national phenomenon. The Fulani herdsmen were a Northern problem, now they are moving southward. Gangsters and criminals are operating with abandon all over the federation. Churches in the North-East have become deathtraps. Every now and again, the Boko Haram launch another senseless attack, taking the lives of innocent people in their wake.

Be Afraid

The message is clear: the ignored will no longer accept being ignored. But the corrupt politicians who have grown fat by stealing public funds; the jet-setting mega-pastors who make merchandise of men; they need to be very afraid. There is a target on their foreheads. Fear will continue to surround them on every side.

In Nigeria, the pauperised many have sent a memo to the criminally-rich few: “We will not allow you to enjoy your ill-gotten gains in peace. We will hound you and pursue you everywhere you go. When you buy your Cadillacs, we will snatch them. When you send your children to expensive schools, we will kidnap them. When you retreat to your billion-naira homes, you will have to sleep with one eye open. With every knock, you will panic and tremble fearing it could be nemesis at the door.”

A friend told me an interesting, probably apocryphal, story. He said a contingent of armed soldiers surrounded the house of a prominent member of government in Abuja. In consternation, the man quickly phoned his political godfather to find out what was happening and to seek advice as to what to do. The godfather said to him: “Let me make some enquiries and then call you back.”

The godfather then dropped the phone, got into his private jet, and quickly ran away to Togo.

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