Coronavirus diary – Part 29
Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, discovers its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.—Frantz Fanon
Everybody will have to be compromised in the fight for the common good. No one has clean hands; there are no innocents and no onlookers. We all have dirty hands; we are all soiling them in the swamps of our country and the terrifying emptiness of our brains. Every onlooker is either a traitor or a coward- Frantz Fanon.
This installment solidarises with the Nigerian youth and people protesting against societal ills under the #EndSARS hashtag. Nigeria is an authoritarian state that is essentially neo-colonial and backward. At every historical conjuncture, it has always betrayed the general will to the point that it is not responsible to its people. The minders of the state come from a heritage of an “inheritance elite” given superintendence over what Odia Ofeimun has called the Lugardian Architecture. They are anti-people and anti-development. For them, politics is sheer acquisition of power. Development has never been on the agenda but the pursuit of self-aggrandizement through the primitive accumulation of the commonwealth. As Claude Ake aptly put it, “The problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place. By all indications, political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development.” It is this class enemy that the Nigerian youth are up against defying, the dreaded COVID-19 to make its voice heard. Some say it is not so dreaded due to the fact that what the Chinese sent to Africa is COVID-lite or a second-rate version of COVID-19 while the one in circulation in the USA and Europe is quintessential American specs.
For two weeks the youth have been waging street battles calling for systemic change. Fanon would have put it this way: “To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up.” By their heroic act, the youth have followed a long tradition of struggles of the Nigerian people in which students/youth featured as the vanguard. Recall a long line of resistance of anti-people public policies: 1962 Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact; the Alli-Must-Go of 1978 and the Ango-Must-Go of 1986; the great Anti-SAP struggle of 1989, the Economic Protest of 1992, and the Anti-military/June 12 resistance of the 1990s.
Despite a swathe of talented people, Nigeria has been turned into a hell-hole. Nigerians are held down by warped, depraved feudal elite free-loading on the country’s God-given wealth. The sum of their output is the relegation of the country to a medieval development age: no roads and an estimated 6000 people are killed half-yearly on our roads; no electricity, yet the so-called privatised electricity firms distribute monthly bills, mostly estimated. Efforts by citizens to acquire prepaid meters are frustrated by racketeering and sundry bureaucratic bottlenecks; the security forces kill and maim at will, the people whom they morbidly referred to as “bloody civilians” are dispensable objects, not citizens with blood running in their veins. Ironically, the ordinary men and women who are sent to do the dirty jobs are themselves dehumanised. Today, graduate unemployment has reached an unprecedented level. The country, as the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu has rightly put it, is turned into a gigantic zoo, where there is no production but a preoccupation with the looting of the country’s unearned income accruable from natural resources. Nothing concrete happens here, but suffering in all its ramifications. As I have observed elsewhere, things are so bad that even dead bodies beg to be picked from the streets. With death so much in vogue, the people have become inured to inhumanity.
It is to be noted here that the hard-working attribute of the Nigerian is legendary everywhere in the world, but the British contraption has become an albatross, and a country that ought to be among the First World is held down permanently by a ruling clique that is like the metaphoric centipede that dwells in the midst of palm fruits, does nothing but prevents others from sorting the palm fruits. It is in this context that I have recently advocated for an enclave paradigm to free the country from its development impasse (See ‘Overriding Nigeria’s Development Impasse, The Enclave Paradigm’ available online). The peoples of Nigeria have had it up to the hilt. The present protest is gradually determined pushback. The present minders of the state can only ignore it at their own peril. Suppression will beget a corresponding lethal response as the current leadership of the Nigerian armed forces seems to desire; ultimately, world peace will be affected in no small way. The much-feared domino effect of a Nigerian implosion will occur.
The world should not simply standby and watch. It may be too late. When a part of humanity is enraged, it is the moral responsibility of the rest of the world to intervene. We saw Somalia happen before our very eyes; we saw Rwanda occur before our very eyes; and also, we saw Kosovo take place before our very eyes. Nigerians want a new covenant to live their lives. They want to be free from its ruling clique worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. The world must know that the Nigerian people are ranged against an irredeemable sadistic clique of plunderers; they must support the Nigerian people in their quest to be free by whatever constitutional arrangement they prefer. To be sure, not under the country’s 1999 Constitution that lied against itself with an overloaded exclusive list that has turned the people into beggars in their own country amidst untapped resources. The people want to do away a national assembly of noisemakers who lack the legislative guts to right the wrongs, and whose income per annum comes in seven digits in dollar terms; the people want to be done away, a colonial armed forces that see the people as the enemy and act as an army of occupation. Nigerians want in its place a people’s defence force made up of all nationalities with equal representation. Nigerians want a nullification of IMF/World Bank prescriptions that undermine democratic public policy-making.
There is this often touted statement to the effect that Nigeria has a way of getting off the precipice when so poised. It is said to be the Nigerian enigma. This sense of the country’s contradictions is sheer illusion. Nigeria may not be lucky at all times. The capacity of the present generation is boundless, and all of us may be taken aback when they are ready. While the resistance continues, be mindful of COVID-19. Solidarity forever!
Akhaine is a Professor of Political Science at Lagos State University.