Son of man often laugh each time friends write about changing the Nigerian situation. One could be wrong. But I dare say, it may not work, for now. We can change things in our localities, but not nationally.
There was no serious enthusiasm for national emancipation towards independence in 1960. Of the three Regions in existence at the time, the Western and Eastern Regions were ready. In words and in deed, majority of folks up North were not ready.
After independence, each time our ‘national leaders’ messed up the polity, agitations to query them have almost always been along the same fashion as obtained towards independence. Except for Western Nigeria, I’ve not read anywhere else that the coup of 1966 was welcomed. And, it was not as if the rest of the country believed in democracy.
The minorities of the North along with their compatriots in Southern Nigeria had a fantastic opportunity to present a case for a proper Federation, when Biafra happened. Instead, they were contended with the tokenism of state-creation, naively believing same to be their El-Dorado. They were mistaken.
Despite years of oppression under the Northern Oligarchy, the Middle Belt and today’s suffering people of Southern Kaduna took up arms against Biafra in support of the Oligarchy under a dubious One Nigeria. Instead of negotiation for a properly arranged Federation, leaders of the Niger Delta followed the path of their co-travellers in the Middle-Belt. One Nigeria was their song too.
Western Nigeria did worse. After an initial consensus that the status-quo must change in the country, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo came out prison and the Yoruba song also changed to One Nigeria. The Oligarchic Pullers of Nigeria’s political strings surely know how to play divide and conquer. They are adept at deception, with the victims of their power play naively believing they are in charge, when in actual fact their dance steps follow the rhythm of the drum of the Oligarchy. Great Awo was played. It was late, too late, before he realised it.
I cannot remember any serious agitation by the ‘Talakawa’, when late Balarabe Musa was removed from office. The headquarters of ‘Nigerian’ protest, Yorubaland, was the one that sought to rescue Musa through late Chief G. O. K. Ajayi, who did his best, legally, for the man. The case of Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Shugaba in Borno State was not different. Deported to Chad by the same Oligarchy due to political differences, ‘his people’ failed to rally support for him. The ‘Nigerian’ protest headquarters was the one that eventually saved Shugaba.
#Endsars began as a protest movement against impunity by a special squad of the Nigeria Police Force. The protest was popular in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially the ‘Nigerian’ protest headquarters. But its main base was Lekki Toll Gate, a paradox of unimaginable proportion in itself, given the calibre of residents of the area in question and its environs.
Shortly after concessions were made by the Federal Government, the paradox continued, as other demands crept in. For son of man, the summary was like asking for a change of Government, though not openly stated. Even in Lagos, attempts to start the ongoing Judicial Panel, almost failed as some ‘activists’ questioned the competence of both the State and Federal Governments to set it up. Some even wanted an international body like the United Nations to step in, thus the many calls for the intervention of the International Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, SARS, as a unit of the NPF was not necessarily the culprit here. It was the men, who constituted the unit, that were messing up. The same men and their officers remain in the NPF till tomorrow. Our people were, as usual, chasing the symptoms, not the cause of the SARS madness – Impunity, which is also a deadly affliction of almost all our security services.
Sadly, some have succeeded in ‘proving’ that poor salaries for the men and officers of the NPF is responsible for the many ills plaguing the law enforcement agency. Good luck to them. It was the same during Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term in office as an elected president, when ‘experts’ from Western countries ‘proved’ to Mr. President that IF paid ‘properly’, Nigeria’s appointed and elected officials across board would stop tendencies towards corruption. We ended up paying big salaries and allowances to them. Yet, corruption ballooned!
But, back to the main issue: There is a certain preset level of selfish interest plaguing each component unit of Nigeria, such that we hardly care about national interest. Each section only wants what is best for it. Not bad. But how do we galvanise people in each component unit of the country to effect a change in how the country is being run? I get nauseated reading about ‘Talks about Nigeria’, when in reality such does not make any meaning to an average Northerner or others in Southern Nigeria.
Protests will still come, no doubt. But, as it happened to the #Endsars one, it will be limited to just a section or two of the country. It will NOT have national appeal in the true sense of the word. If anything, others might even move against it, as it happened with the one under discussion. It might be time that those interested in effecting a lasting change in Africa’s most populous country start thinking about how to beat the selfish instinct of ethnicity, serfdom and religion in order to properly organise a pan-Nigeria protest.
Lagos, of course, has a special status. Apart from being a land of refuge for the economically deprived, it remains the economic capital of Nigeria. So, any serious protest here will always attract Federal Government’s attention. But that does not mean such a protest is a pan-Nigerian one. If care is not taken, we might go the way of Libya or Syria with these sectional Nigerian protests should things continue the same way.
Of course, CNN and others will still come around to gleefully report same as is being done in the Tigray region of Ethiopia today. They have moved on from Libya. Western NGOs and others are currently surviving in Syria. I wonder how those who initiated protests that destroyed these countries were myopic enough to allow the horrors there to happen. We need to improve on our definition of Nigeria beyond Lagos. We need to work out how to get the unconcerned in other parts of the country to sign up to whatever grievances we have.
It is now clear that #Endsars has almost no meaning up North. But how did the organisers of the protests ignored bringing on board their compatriots up North, who have suffered more from activities of terrorists, which are worse than that of SARS? Thousands have died up North, not hundreds in a region, where the blame for what is taking place should rest squarely on the shoulders of Government at all levels. Yet, the people acted as if the #Endsars was organised to take away their meal ticket! It was the same with Biafra. It was the same attitude during the agitation for the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. There is need for a new thinking. If not, as pointed out earlier, Libya and Somalia beckons.
-Wale Adedayo, journalist and publisher of Uhuru Times, writes from Lagos