The harmattan of our discontent
The film clip of two minutes is of a confrontation between the police/army armed with tear gas canisters and live ammunition AND local journalists armed with jotters and biro pens and cameras on cell phones, cameras on stilts. The journalists are shouting, “KILL US! YOU MUST KILL US TODAY!!” The police/army confront the journalists ready to do their bidding, kill the journalists today. But the journalists do not wait to face the police/army. Rather they are in retreat, running go away from the more lethal arms of the police/army listening in their head to the lyrics of Fela’s “Sorrow, Tears, and Blood” ‘reason to fear’ we no wan die/we no wan wound/we no wan quench/we no wan go/I get one child/mama dey for house/ papa dey for house/I wan build house/I don build house/ I no wan quench/I want Enjoy!/I no wan go.” So, the journalists run away and police/army win the day. In Nigeria we have many reasons for discontent.
For Sowore journalist and radical politician, he said: “For you to get back your dignity, do what they’re doing in Hong Kong, in Algeria, in Tunisia and in Puerto Rico.” You can add Tahrir in Cairo. What distinguishes these protests is that the authorities respond with police/army. The protesters do not run away. They do not fear to die. In fact, some of them just die. The rest continue to protest. Then the authorities cancel the law that sparked the protest in the first place. But the protesters do not stop. They continue their protest. The present authorities must resign, disappear! They resign and disappear.
Why do Nigerian protesters fail to achieve even the basic responds from the authorities, the nullification of the causes of their protest in the first place? The authorities know that the protesters will not stay the course of their protest. To stay the course you must protest and protest and kill yourself protesting! You must protest for protest’s sake, protest against protest, just protest. That’s what the Nigerian protest must do.
The Premium Times editorialised: “Without a contest of ideas fueled by dissent, Nigeria will grow more ignorant (remember to write a poem or a play or even a novel on THE RANTS OF THE IGNORANTS) timid and ultimately impoverished.”
There are basically eight reasons for the discontent of Nigerians: 1. 90 million Nigerians or more living in poverty and abject poverty; 2. Rising food prices that do not benefit the farmers; 3. Rising rent cost that benefits only sharks and their agents; 4. Rising cost of healthcare no matter where you go: go hospital, go shrine, go church or mosque na rising cost you go find! Go to the western trained doctor turned business entrepreneur, the Babalawo or Dibia, or the priest who adds healthcare to his caring you will find rising coat. 5. Deteriorating infrastructure, with roads as numero uno! 6. Plummeting education standards; 7. Controversial democratic transitions; and 8. Rising youth unemployment. This has given our Rapper material to wrap their lips around: “my complaints are eight/you can make yours nine/it’s just that mine/ are simply eight/whose weight/is heavy and leads to hate!/hate of poverty!/one ookan/hate of rising food prices/two eeji!/hate of rising rent/three eeta/rising healthcare cost/four eerin/hate of deteriorating infrastructure/five aarun/six eefa/hate of controversial democratic transitions/seven eeje/hate of rising youth unemployment/eight ẹẹjọ! A protest in Nigeria brings to mind various previous protests that have failed. Agbẹkọya (farmers refuse mistreatment) ended with further mistreatment by the military governments as well as other governments coming after. But Nigerian protest also remind of successful protest in other lands. In Tahrir Square (tahrir means freedom) Cairo, protesters protested until President Mubarak who had ruled for forty years was forced to step down or step aside, whatever, he was forced to disappear. Later, the police and the army that obeyed him and shot student and civilian protesters were charged to court and when found guilty were punished with jail terms. There must be thunder if there is lightning there must be thunder. If there is sequence there must be consequence.
In Hong Kong the law that would enforce sending accused to China to face Chinese judges was withdrawn. But the protest continued, requesting the next stage: the resignation of the present authorities. In Lebanon, the protest continued until the present authorities resigned and a new government was composed to take their place.
In South Africa, there were protest asking President Jacob Zuma to go. In parliament a vote of no confidence was won by Zuma because the members of the parliamentary ANC could not help the opposition to defeat their own president, their own party in power and their own government. But the protests persisted organised by the Safe South Africa Movement. The ANC had to sack their president to please the rest of the country. Luckily for them, the elective conference was near. Although President Zuma had another year or so to run out his term, he was told he had to go. The possibility of his former wife could win the contest and become ANC president and later president of the country must have given Jacob Zuma the hope of continuous protection from court prosecution into the future. His wife lost and he was replaced thanks to the protests of the people and of civil society.
Why can’t Nigerian protests end like this? First of all, the Nigerian situation is not yet desperate enough. Yet in 2012 Nigerian protesters forced the Jonathan government to rescind the higher price of fuel. Nigerians have enough food to eat and they are not yet daring to eat the rich uncooked. There was a time when it was thought that once the city desperate start looking for food in the dustbins, revolution will happen. That period came and went. In the country side abundant food fed the poor. As long as the poor and the protesters have food to eat, and until the poor and the desperate begin to eat the rich and their friends in government, protesting will continue to be unprofitable. Change must come to the protest before change can come to the object of the protest. You can’t keep doing the same thing expecting a different result without looking like a fool.
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