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Revolutionary pressures in Nigeria

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When Omoyele Sowore made his declaration for a revolution in Nigeria; what immediately came to my mind was Professor Claude Ake’s book “Revolutionary Pressures In Africa” as well as those other books written by Karl Marx; Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin; Che Guevera and Fidel Castro, where objective conditions that usually precede a revolution are well enunciated. Given my concerns not to be caught napping or by surprise when a revolution eventually breaks out in Nigeria, I began serious rumination on revolutionary upheavals in history around the world. Some of the questions that agitated my mind; during my time of reflection; among others, include: whether a revolution was indeed already on our door steps that no other person is seeing except Sowore? Could it be that Sowore’s mind has become so fixated on the Nigerian project, that he now sees what the rest of us are unable to see? Why is it that the Nigerian left who have been labouring all this long for a revolution in Nigeria are unable to see what Sowore is seeing? Could there be a revolution in Nigeria which Edwin Madunagu; who sleeps and wakes up with revolution, could not see its coming? As a result of the confusion that became my lot I started rummaging for the classical books on “revolution” in my library and those I cannot find; reached out to progressive thinkers and philosophers to make them available to me if they do have them, with view to refresh my memory and better appreciate what is before us all.

To be sure, I have never met Omoyele Sowore. The closest I have seen of him is through his television appearances. Because of this, I can emphatically state that I don’t know his ideological orientation and commitment and as much, I am not in any position to gauge his ideological values. In other words, one cannot say with certainty whether he is revolutionary or conservative. However, from the television programmes the impressions one gets and the image that Sowore cuts is that of a young man who is cocky; self-opinionated and arrogant. During the presidential television debates; for example, he hardly would allow his running mate to answer questions appropriately put to him instead, he insisted on taking all the questions as an all knowing and seeing presidential candidate or more appropriately; Messiah. Sowore spoke with so much gusto and arrogance in all debates such that you would think he alone had all the solutions to all of Nigeria’s problems. Be this as it may, let’s get back to the issue at hand.

What is a revolution? The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (the 7th Edition) proffers three definitions that are relevant here. The first is that it is “an attempt, by a large number of people, to change the government of a country, especially by violent action”. The second as “a great change in conditions, ways of working, beliefs, that affects large number of people while the third, is “a complete circular movement around a point especially of one planet around another. The first two definitions appear to be more apposite here. From these definitions it would be seen that there could be different revolutions in various aspects of human preoccupation such as political revolution; economic revolution; Cultural Revolution, religious revolution, etc. Even though Sowore has not been quite emphatic; it could be glean from his utterances that what he desires is a political revolution in Nigeria.

The classic literatures on the subject matter; earlier referred to in the opening paragraphs, have highlighted the objective conditions that must be present before there could be a political revolution in any society and what are these objective conditions? The first is that the oppressed people who want to overthrow the oppressors must have become totally resentful; disenchanted and determined to throw the oppressors off their back. The second is that they must be properly organized and tactically led by a highly conscientised and idealogically clear headed thinkers and leaders. The third is that the oppressors’ hold on political power and leverage on the instruments of repression or coercion (such as the security forces) must have become very weak such that they no longer can mobilize and sufficiently rally these instruments for self-defence; maintenance of status quo ante and the preservation of class interests. Alternatively, the ruling class must have become so thoroughly discredited that the security forces would consider it no longer worth their while to defend or retain them in power. What these means or that is to say, the balance or pendulum of terror must be on the side of the underdogs. Fourth, given that it is the working class and their intelligentsia, that usually and mostly first attain the consciousness that they are being oppressed and would emphasize the need to free or liberate themselves, this group must have the capacity to organize and forge an alliance or weld together all other oppressed stratas of the society (peasants; proletarian; students; artisans, etc) into a common front or vanguard, to be able to execute a successful revolution. Fifth, given the interdependent nature of the world today; as it was yesterday, the oppressed class must have friends outside their shores, who are not only sympathetic to their cause but also ready to provide necessaries (like provisions and weaponry) and when it becomes necessary or unavoidable, step into the battle field with them to successfully prosecute a war of liberation or revolution. The Americans at a time were responsible for training and supplying deadly weapons to the Talibans that lead to the defeat of the Russian Army in Afghanistan. The stepping of the Cuban International Forces into the battle field in Angola was one of the deciding factors in the defeat of South African when the apartheid Army invaded Angola. Sixth, there must be a pervasive economic misery in the society causing wholesale discontentment; disillusion and despondence to the extent that the oppressed peoples would have lost all hopes that their misery could ever be mitigated and alleviated under the oppressive ruling class.

But is it compulsory for all these conditions to be present before there could be a successful political revolution in a country? The answer is no. But the more of these conditions are present the easier; faster; and cheaper it would be to execute a revolution. And is there anyone of these conditions that is most critical and crucial without which there could be no successful revolution? I think so.

It is the level of organization of the oppressed class that seeks to overthrow the oppressor class. There is also the human factor. Without a Lenin in Russia; Mao in China and a Fidel Castro in Cuba, the outcome of the revolutions in these countries may probably have been different. The degree of suffering; sacrifice and perseverance that the oppressed class is ready to endure during the period of the revolution is equally important to the consummation and outcome of a revolution. Now the question is: could it be said that all these objective conditions had become present in Nigeria to avail Sowore a revolution? The answer is no. Were some of the conditions present? The answer is certainly yes. Based on the conditions that were present is it safe to conclude that Nigeria was ripe for a political revolution? The answer is no. What are the most important or crucial conditions that were lacking that could have caused a revolutionary uprising to fail in Nigeria? These are basically organization and leadership skills. Given this scenario, is there a possibility for the Sowore revolution to succeed? The answer is no. Put more poignantly, does the Sowore call pose any threat or constitute any danger to the Nigerian ruling class or state? The answer is no. If the answer is no, how should the State or the Directorate of State Services (DSS) have handled Sowore’s irritations and pestilence? At the risk of sounding condescending and sarcastic, the DSS should probably have treated Sowore like a recalcitrant school pupil. They could have invited him to their office; compel him to take off his pants and symbolically apply on him twelve strokes of the cane and thereafter ask him to go home and sin no more. With this; the point would have been sufficiently made by the secret police. In a nutshell, the DSS could have saved themselves and their principal the embarrassing pyrotechnics that they have regaled the Nigerian people with over a storm in a tea cup. Needless to remind the DSS that a man like Sowore; who loves the comfort of a five star hotel and company of pretty women, don’t consummate a political revolution.

If there was sufficient force to compel the present crop of rulers to quit or abdicate power what would have happened or what would be the probable consequences of such an action? There could be three. The army seeing a vacuum could make a bid for power such as had happened in Sudan notwithstanding that coup de tat is no longer fashionable and the world become intolerant of military usurpers. The takeover of government by the military could have led to a massive crackdown on radical and progressive elements as well as outright executions of radical elements all over Nigeria. The third option and worst scenario that could have taken place for that matter is that the Islamic fundamentalists (such as Boko Haram and Shites Sects) will seize the opportunity to overrun Nigeria or a considerable part of it because they are the better organized; well funded and foreign supported group presently striving for power in Nigeria today.

Kolawole is a Lagos based legal practitioner and public affairs analyst.


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