By Morak Babajide-Alabi
This is the third week in a row that I shall be writing on Nigeria in this column. This is no big deal as my patriotism has overwhelmed me and not allowed the thoughts of abandoning my dear country. At least, not at a seemingly struggling time in her life, when the leaders are bereft of ideas on what to do.
I am not going to join the band of pretenders that have found it hard to accept the fact that the country is on course to nowhere. I am tired, also, trying to convince people that ship ‘Motherland’ is stuck in the middle of the ocean and the present captains, just like the set they sent packing, lack basic ideas of nautical position, direction, distance, and depth, talk less of applying them to practical navigation. It will take more than a crash course in navigation to get out.
The happenings in recent pasts have not been encouraging, nor are they signs of a better future for this generation or the ones coming behind. Disappointment is an overused word and to say the people are disillusioned is stating the obvious. Yet, we are still being assured that the hope in change is not misplaced.
This is understandable. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese peace activist once said – “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” Nigerians are soldiering on, losing hope in the promised change.
Events happening reveal there has been no change in any area of the polity, but government handlers are still convinced the country is on the path to redemption. It is getting extremely hard, though, to keep the people on track. The masses have realised, a little bit late, that six and half a dozen are the same when it comes to political leadership in Nigeria.
The smoke of the ‘Arab Spring’ was hung in the air a few years ago. We prayed Nigerians caught “a whizz” of the haze and effect a radical change in the country. We wished, so much, the events in the Arab countries trickled down to the western part of Africa and have an effect on the polity. We yearned for the masses to stand up and demand a change.
Now, as aside, we wonder what became of the revolution and notorious mass protests. It is sad that nothing positive came out, as some of these countries have sunk deeper into tribal wars and outright disintegration. Libya, for example, is ruled by sectional leaders, whose only claim to power is access to arms and ammunition, while Egypt, the country of Anwar Sadat, has gone back to military rule. What a shame?
As an afterthought, we heaved a sigh of relief that there was no ‘Arab Spring’ in Nigeria. Although the opposition leaders pushed for it, the masses were just unwilling to sacrifice their lives on the streets of Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt. The thought of the possibility sent the sitting Nigerian government to panic mode. The leaders went on their knees and prayed to God to overlook their sins and let the cup of ‘Arab Spring’ pass over their heads.
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo said “it doesn’t matter which way you look at it today. People are now talking about Arab Spring. Some people will say, ‘Is Egypt not developing?’ On economic scale, after South Africa, it is Egypt in Africa. Has Libya not got resources?” the leaders thought for a moment, the end had come for them.
Galvanised by Obasanjo’s indirect call to arms, a few opposition leaders raised their voices prompting Nigerians to effect the desired change. Some of them saw this as a shortcut to power, but Nigerians were unperturbed.
In the alternative, we organised our “mini Arab Spring” in Ojota Park in January 2012 and pockets of resistance in few cities around the country. It was a call to civil disobedience laced with a musical jamboree. The opposition successfully gathered people together in an impressive and unprecedented political/musical carnival over a few days. To the credit of the opposition, it resulted in a few concessions from the government, but nothing major was achieved after the Labour union leaders capitulated.
The good thing was the awareness created in the minds of citizens that something has to give way. The politicians got a wind of this and started their collaborations in terms of alignments, defections and jumping of ships. As Nigeria moved towards the dreaded 2015 General Elections, politicians started alliance talks with allies, enemies and strange bedfellows, all in their bid to get to power.
The opposition gauged the mood of the people. There was general despondency in the country. The masses were silently crying while the leaders carried on as if nothing was wrong in the polity. Basic infrastructures were collapsing but the government of the day cared less. The leaders were more concerned in dipping their hands in the commonwealth jar than helping the suffering masses.
Looking back now, it was understandable change was the focus of the political campaign. The world, in general, was going through a change process and the smart politicians knew they had to jump on this bandwagon and promise something. The ordinary Nigerians had no choice because a particular political party and political characters have ruled their destinies for many years without any corresponding change in their welfare or lifestyle.
Then came the change mantra. The masses needed something different. This is natural. Unfortunately, there was no strong civil society to drive this change. The opposition politicians seized the opportunity and claimed the prize. In their ragtag campaigns, they mouthed change, chanted change, sang change, danced change, promised change and mimicked changed.
The only thing that did not change was they were the same set of people that had held sway in the political terrain for long. The same people who ran the Nigerian economy aground but now preaching change. There was nothing to suggest there has been any rebirth in these newly born individuals with shining progressive credentials.
Some of us saw beyond the political catchphrase of change. We warned that we need more than screams of change for the country to move forward. At the height of these frenetic change campaigns in January 2015, I wrote a piece titled, “Nigeria Will Change, When There Is Individual Rebirth” where I foretold that no change was coming to Nigeria if there was no change in the way we conduct individual businesses. It was easy to know there was not going to be any change because the type of change we were clamouring for at that time was superficial.
I wrote – “Change does not come in a vacuum, it has to be effected. And no society can be changed without changing the individual. The Nigerian has to change himself before the society can change. And this is the mistake these agents of change are making. Change cannot be achieved overnight. It has to be a steady process.“
With these lots, the beautiful ones are not yet born. They are nothing but a bunch of pretenders who have no clear vision of what would take Nigeria out of the woods.
Now we are wiser than we were in 2015. Yet, people are still trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Either to prevent us from seeing what is happening or they simply think we are all “mumus”.
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of November 5, 2017.