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Back to the streets


Some where in Lagos

I am a child of protests. It goes back to before I could vote. Indeed, the barricades marked my 18th birthday.

As I watch Nigeria rushing towards totalitarianism I am caught in an awful dilemma: will the autumn of my time of being resemble the prime of my life’s journey, on the streets, fighting for freedom.

I was draped in the image of a buffalo soldier when I had a recent conversation with God; otherwise known as prayer.

I was quite bold in challenging the Creator after I returned from a total farce called Primaries in Asaba.

Like Teresa of Avila who said to God “see what you allow to happen to your friends, no wonder you have so few friends,” I said to the Awesome One that night: you led me into a life of struggle for justice and the common good so early in life, now that I have determined that in this twilight of my time a pacing down is appropriate, you are revealing images of Hitler to me and those of the moments before Hell came to Rwanda, in the actions of some seeking total domination in the current election cycle.

I felt almost sure I heard the Maker saying “you see how I let you stay close to how Mahathir Mohammed was a useful instrument in my hands to yank Malaysia out of crippling backwardness before he retired many years ago and now, in the winter of his journey, with Locusts eating away at the gains of his time of prime, he has come forcefully back to restore Malaysia, teaming up with former bitter rival, his onetime deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, to salvage Malaysia at 92.

If Mahathir is willing to be the oldest head of government in the world at 93, who are you to complain about returning to the streets in this autumn of your existence.”

I knew my arms were too short to box with God and that my wrestling skills were so bad that if Jacob and Isaac were to be my tag team partners, I would come out with much worse than hip bone dislocation.

I simply begged that many of my kind were of the generation that left town; teaching or in corporate America, assured of healthcare even as geriatric infirmities closed up on health.

So why should I not just be encouraged to join them instead of resuming a life of struggle and barricades. I know God is stubborn but must I dance the dirge of my youth in the last lap of middle age.

If you think of the emotional drain of struggle to safeguard the freedom and rights of all, in my youth, then wonder the merit of sending me back to the barricades. Take 18th birthday as example.

At 17 I had joined Bassey Ekpo Bassey and others to found the Students Democratic Society (SDS) at UNN to protest the killing of Kunle Adepeju by the police at the University of Ibadan.

We were so driven, planning and executing demonstrations that at about 8 p.m. on February 6, 1974 when a noted student, known as Chairman P. (Pinnick) mounted the podium to proclaim that “today 6 February 1974 will be remembered as the day when people physically demobilised after the civil war were finally mentally demobilised” I had failed to remember my 18th birthday.

The struggle had become my life already at 18. Was I going to be like Stephen Biko in South Africa, I wondered.

It was the sense that after a long life of struggle, with gratitude that I did not fall into the existence of permanent struggle, yet without ever betraying the ideals of social justice, the reason some friends call me Amos in recognition of that Prophet of social justice, that I hoped for a middle age of introspection, writing and sharing with the Generation Next how societies that thrive engage human progress.

So, after the struggle to bring change about with the 2015 election I wanted a quiet escape into the Non-partisan world of grooming leaders and helping society democratise the understanding of economics so that people stop acquiescing to choices that diminish their own prospects for a better life.

I was at peace, it seemed, until the peace of my last lap was ruptured by groups that came calling two years ago to urge me to get active in rescuing Delta.

One man who was always proud to say he was among the early birds in the pressure pack urging me to run for governor of Delta State himself became an aspirant and in the end sold out to forces of obnoxious domination.

But the final straw that broke my determination to leave partisan engagement came when a delegation of some old boys of Government College Ughelli came to urge me to run.

I actually began to scribble these reflections because an hour before I set pen to paper, one of that group, Fidelis Akpoyomare, called me to recall my reluctance that evening their delegation came.

I had told them I was not so sure about prospects of Nigeria’s democracy and that I thought I had done enough.

If a tenth of my contemporaries had sacrificed half as much as I had in the material value I could have amassed, or in the risk to life and limb I had exposed myself to on the streets and in sinking value I could have left to my children, or for my personal comfort, into funding or driving initiatives to broaden and deepen the Public Sphere, with Television shows like Patito’s Gang; crusading groups that put me and others on the streets, like with the Concerned Professionals and social enterprises of many colours, Nigeria would be Eldorado.

After more than one assassination attempt I had earned peace and wanted only to reinforce legacy here and there and then to die an honourable death.

But I was charmed by how the old boys group approximated my ideals.

All were from an ethnic group different from mine, with motives focused on the Common Good and willing, at least in talk, to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve the objective.

Thought to run this request, to run by some friends and the One who sees it all.

To be frontal with the truth, close friends and family were negative – “Not worth it.” Chris Asoluka was brutal – “Why would you do that?

You know the people in your Party do not like people who think and forthrightly act like you.

They may go out of their way to lure you in just to rubbish you.” I told him he was afflicted by PDP mentality.

Then I asked the views of my closest friends in the Party.

They include the leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who had urged me to run for Governor of Delta 8 years ago but I was not quite mentally disposed as national concerns dominated my orientation then.

I asked the man who would be party chairman my long-time comrade in the struggle, Adams Oshiomhole.

I was hoping these men would discourage the idea so I could say to those pressing that the signals were not encouraging, a cowardly search for alibi.

Every year, at the time of my birthday, I often have a Mass of thanksgiving in Lagos and another in Ibusa three days after.

Comrade Adams attended that in Ibusa last year. There, the Ughelli old boys pushing for me to run tried to recruit him into the project. His thumbs went up.

I thought then Chris Asoluka should come and justify his Phd in Political Science.

I then committed to the group that I would make a diligent effort to run.

I was pleased that one former Governor of the state would say to the chairman of the party that while others were struggling to corner “structure”.

I was the only one truly developing the Party by getting to the Grassroots and raising issues on Governance and well-being of the people.

So when I got to Asaba to experience a totally shambolic Primaries that was a rape of Democracy I asked the man of the House of many mansions who Theresa of Avila once challenged: what am I doing here. You know I do not need this.

But what I heard or thought I heard, was I wanted you to see where your country is going. But this is not my fight.

I have fought enough. I just feel sorry for the players jeopardising the interest of the head of the ticket of a party we helped midwife in the hope of ending corruption, and becoming a government of the people.

Asaba was High Treason. What was needed was prosecution of all those involved in such a charade and mockery of democracy, not someone to lead a struggle.

History may be calling me back to the streets, to protest to do something before Nigeria descends into anarchy.

But God you allowed small women with Rosary bids chased out Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines. Why do you not find such people again? Why me. But I know you never make a mistake.

May God help us.

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