Setting sun of the Nigerian revolutionary
“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying. What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? Let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? Let him go and return unto his house, lest he die the battle, and another man take her.” – Deuteronomy 20: 5- 7KJV
There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut definition of who a revolutionary is in Nigeria. This confusion is transported by the histrionics of some people who go by the name but yet do not raise issues that I read in books or heard great revolutionaries made on television. Revolutions have occurred in countries with severe economic stagnation, civil unrest, aborted transitions to democratic rule, competitions amongst agents of state such as the army and police and as well as in very prosperous countries. While I concede that change in the social structure of many countries, from what I saw chronicled was needed, history should guide a revolutionary. Fidel Castro didn’t become a revolutionary per chance. History was on his side. Though the son of a wealthy Spanish immigrant sugar farmer and a young lawyer who should be enjoying, “daddy’s money” Castro went about defending farmers, workers and political prisoners. Does this strike a chord? He ought to have been smoking cigars and hobnobbing with children of the rich.
Not long after he stood for elections in June 1952, he joined issues with Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban strong man who had dominated Cuban political arena for two decades. Fulgencio Batista was on the verge of losing the elections when he commandeered the armed forces and subsequently assumed the reigns of government. Castro couldn’t tolerate the fetid nonsense, was prostrated by grief and had to challenge Fulgencio Batista in courts for violating the constitution of the island. There was no name-calling. Does this strike a chord? He was then 26 years old. Classic case of Pallas in wisdom.
Of course he lost the case in court and then started the Cuban revolution which you all know about. First with a force of 200 men, mainly university students, he attacked a military barracks at Fort Moncada in Santiago. The assault was a disaster. Fidel Castro and his brother Raul were arrested. Most of his accomplices were executed leading to many other mass executions in Cuba. Does this strike a chord? Castro was in the front line. He wasn’t in a safe house issuing orders for others to go and die.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but released from gaol in 1955. One year later with his band of 86 guerrilla men, he landed in Cuba from Mexico to overthrow the government. And like the first, his men were killed and captured. Fidel Castro and 11 others fled to hiding in the highest peaks of The Sierra Maestra. Does this strike a chord? When push comes to shove, revolutionaries turn tail and vote with their feet. Let no one fool you about the majesty of their hearts. Soldiers cry in war. My late soldier father told me a lot about the cries of the soldiery in war. What you were taught most times aren’t what you experience in battle.
While in the Sierra Maestra, Castro’s men did not loot the people of their goods neither did they rape women, as was the habit of many guerrilla bands elsewhere. They not only paid for their supplies but also taught the peasants. Does this strike a chord? A classic case of Professor Babatunde Fafunwa’s (RIP),”each-one teach-one” educational policy in the 1990s. They never go raping their mother’s mates working in the farms. People don’t flee from villages because of them. A lecturer told me his village is a no-go area for him today. He hasn’t been there in three years because of generals without peeps who have overrun his village. Generals who never attended the Nigeria Defence Academy.
“History will absolve me” was Castro’s quote when he stood trial in court. This is not the place to debate the merit of his government. But will history absolve our own revolutionaries? Especially since struggles in Nigeria are fought with borders against tribes and not the plunderers of state resources: the elites in every region who, by the way work, without borders. Revolutionaries in Nigeria, instead of working to alter the social structure of society, mainly campaign for brotherhood in religion or brotherhood of tribesmen or brotherhood in the allocation of “our” resources. Issues to campaign about are legion. Degree holders can’t find jobs, the convoluted rules for SMEs have forced many out of business thereby decreasing the filling of funding gaps by government, the teaching profession at primary school level seems to be for the general public not for the competent only.
Social services aren’t developed. Take water for instance, only few states like Cross River, Kaduna, provide water in the urban areas as a social duty. They are even metered with monthly bills. Twelve million children of school age in the north roam the streets. Aren’t these objects of social pity that need the attention of Nigerian revolutionaries everywhere?
The falling living standard in Nigeria knows no boundaries. The political consciousness of the masses in Nigeria isn’t high. People build on the adversity of others to ride to fame.
The reasons for starting revolutions are clearly stated from the get-go not afterwards. The Cuba under Castro witnessed a review of wage structures. Doctors earned only six per cent higher income than the rural farmer. Peasants became landlords, and the influx into Havana for jobs ceased as the government pumped money into the surrounding hinterland made life tolerable for Cubans. Isn’t revolution for change anywhere in the world geared to ruling elites who benefit from inequality and are resistant to change? Why is talk of ours either against a tribe or supposedly against adherents of a religion? How many revolutionaries in Nigeria can die in the bush for their beliefs?
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.
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