…Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. —Denis Diderot
One year ago, Nigerians flirted with revolution. In an unexampled move, the citizens protested to resist an economic policy foisted on them by vampires in power. A state that had long neglected its mandate found itself caught on the brink of people-power. We know how the January 2012 protests went down. The peoples’ revolt was cut short but while it lasted, it lasted. The fact that it came in the wake of the Arab Spring created unease in executive quarters.
While Nigerian people-power might not have had the Arab Spring impact, it spurred the people. Questions were asked, answers questioned. A new direction was sought. And more importantly, it showed people possibilities existed. Its immediate and lingering effect, for good or bad, shaped Nigeria.
Since then, a lazy rehash of revolution has seized the minds of certain Nigerian elite. It has long been the fashion of the elite, divorced from local or international realities, to long for what neatly falls between rhetoric and silly posturing. A recumbent longing for a revolution in Nigeria seems the fad. Politicians, social commentators, youths and the marginalised seem to find the prospect of a revolution inevitable and, maybe as the final solution to our intractable problems. Hardly does a day pass that an overwhelmed Nigerian doesn’t sigh, “We need a revolution in this country.”
The question is, Is a revolution desirable for Nigeria?
A former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, has flogged the horse of revolution to coma until you wonder what else he would have to say if a revolution indeed does occur in Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is not left out of the bandwagon of alarmists who rant endlessly about a revolution. In a recent interview, Methodist Prelate, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, joined the discourse on revolution. He not only gave the usual prediction of a looming revolution, he proceeded to describe Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants as revolutionaries!
There are several assertions in his interview that I disagree with but to describe Boko Haram as a “revolution” is, for me, unsettling. It is not only a deodorisation of stench, it is outright misleading. If Makinde’s thinking mirrors that of other Nigerians nostalgic for a revolution, is there not a big problem?
I mean, if people don’t even know what a revolution looks like, then how far will they travel, galloping on the horse of misrepresentation? Seriously speaking, can the idea of “revolution” be capacious enough to subsume every anarchist, insurgent, militant, nihilist, rebel and maybe even bandit?
I have been wondering on the desirability of a Nigerian revolution as the calls become more frequent and intense. Are those calling for a revolution aware of its far-reaching impact or they simply assume it’s another buzzword they can bandy about? Are they mere pessimists who have found a cliché to romance so they will not have to address critical issues? Are they perhaps overwhelmed by the troubles with Nigeria and resorted to calling for a revolution as a sort of pacifier? Is there an ideology driving these calls or it’s just a nostrum that gives them time to do nothing?
How many of them have engaged in strategic thinking in readiness for the fall of the present administration? In fact, has it occurred to them that a revolution would mean at least toppling the present system of government and replacing it with something else, radically different? Have they thought of how to avoid a power vacuum post-revolution so that while we chase out one demon, seven others do not replace it? Or is this a case of “Let the Empire fall first”? What if we start it and the military hijacks it? Are Nigerians prepared to start all over again under a military government? Can they resist the military? Weapons, anyone?
Of course, we can compare the famous examples of revolution: French, Russian, Nazi and American. The first three had revolutionaries turned autocrats, more evil than their predecessors; the last one was comparatively successful because the founding fathers worked assiduously to build a great nation from scraps they wrested from the Empire. Does Nigeria have such selfless forward-thinking fathers/mothers waiting in the wings, ready to rebuild?
Have those who think a revolution will solve anything taken cultural specificity into account? Do they imagine Nigerians have as much staying power as the Egyptians or Syrians to sustain a revolution? Or we would soon be eager to get back to the rituals of our daily grind while hoping some other people keep up the fight?
Have we reviewed our history enough to question whether revolution is for us? Africa is full of old men who were youth revolutionaries but became a bigger plague on their countries than HIV/AIDS. The 1966 coup in Nigeria is a revolution in and of itself; till today, Nigeria is still giddy from its after-effects.
Wishful thinking is not a bad thing but can revolution advocates state how their end desires differ from what is already stated in the Constitution and why we need a revolution to achieve them? What really fascinates them about a revolution? The spectacles of violence and bloodshed, or a genuine desire for change? If the latter, is a revolution really necessary? Won’t protest culture or even rebellion suffice? Won’t a more participatory citizenship be far more helpful? I have put out all these questions, not necessarily to seek answers but for us to interrogate our thoughts.
Very soon, we would be called upon to begin the process of electing a fresh set of leaders. Rather than expressing outrage the President plans to re-contest, it is up to us to act with circumspection. It is our duty not to be carried away when our leaders start crawling to religious grounds or kneeling before gods. They will cut a perfect picture of pathetic prayer projects when they assume a humble stance and announce they need divine wisdom. When that time comes, can Nigerians transcend all this vaudeville and reject directionless and clueless leadership? Can we transcend tribalism, ethnicity, regionalism, sexism and all those factors that have successfully held us down in the past and choose more worthwhile people to lead us? That might be a revolution to look forward to.