We Need New Spirits

by ahjotnaija

Some few days ago after the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Janukowytsch, I posted on my Twitter handle that Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan need learn from the example of his former Ukraine counterpart. It is no more news what led to Mr. Janukowytsch‘s ousting from power: It is the people. The Ukrainian people had had enough of “bullshit” (pardon my English). They decisively moved against a tyrant and they got rid of him in the end. It is worth mentioning that one of the leading figures who led that protest was Vitali Klitschko, a former World Boxing Heavyweight Champion, popular known and called Mr. Iron Fist. Weeks preceding the ousting of Mr. Viktor Janukowitsch from power,Vitali Klitschko said in no unclear terms that The Ukraine might be about to witness her greatest demonstration of all times, to which even the Independent Demonstration of the 1990s shall in comparison to it be child’s play. The only way to avoid it is for President Viktor Janukowytsch to step-down from power. It must be said that Mr. Klitscho made this statement in the spirit of the moment; he was talking for the people and expressly making the world know what determination and courage the people have summoned and at what cost they are ready to win their freedom from a despot. I need not stay too long on the narration of the outcome of weeks of recent protest in The Ukraine in this piece. We all know how it ended: The voice of the people prevailed. Former President Viktor Janukowitsch first flew to his perceived stronghold in the East of Ukraine. When the heat even in his so-called stronghold became to hot for him, he went underground. Shortly thereafter, he disappeared altogether. When he was later seen, it was in Russia where he is being granted political refuge. The people of Ukraine have been freed! I bet it, the last is yet to be heard from the people of Ukraine. Mr. Janukowysch shall be brought before the International Court of Justice (ICC) if caught. There is a search warrant placed on his head.

Allow me to talk a little more about the Ukraine. I need remind readers that this is a country whose last national demonstration before this latest which ended only after the president was ousted, also led to the voice of the people being heard and strictly adhered to. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Orange Revolution need google it to read more about it. In a nutshell, just like in the latest demonstration, the people tarried in Squares and on many other protest grounds and fronts in the country. They showed no sign of giving ground until their demands were heard and followed. They had been short-changed in an election and they promptly said so. They did not only say so, but insisted that their vote must count if the country must know peace. The government at the time gave in, neither willingly nor easily, but after weeks of protest and demonstration. That was the Orange Revolution. It must not be left unsaid that the recent protest and demonstration which has popularly been identified with the Maidan Square in the country is yet another success in which the people gave no ground until they were heard. The will of the people prevailed. Nigeria need borrow a leaf from Ukraine.

Let us move away from Ukraine to other issues. I hope my readers are not bored by now because I still will not talk about Nigeria but about the Arab Spring. I will spare telling in details the story about that singular event, namely about that young Arab, a young man and a petty trader, who set himself on fire because he was tired of being ignored, tyrannised and not being heard for too long. His self-immolation, a culturally and traditionally significant act of fatal resignation in the Arab world ignited a region-wide and cross-border months, and in fact, years of protests and demonstrations in many countries of the Middle East. The action of a singular man set out to be the undoing of many sit-tight dictatorial leaders of the region. We all know so far how many governments have been ousted and quickly replaced in the course of the Arab Spring so far. Even those among these sit-tight rulers, who are yet to be unseated are certainly not resting on their oars. It is no more business as usual in these countries. The voice of a singular man awakened millions of people from their slumber. He pointed out to them through his fatal act their own fate; the people realised that in truth how interconnected their own fate is with that of the young man. They realised that they will forever be politically delivered and damned into the hands of their despotic rulers if they choose to be silent. They chose to be heard.

Having said much about the trigger of the Arab Spring, I want to talk very shortly about the Occupy Movement which swept over 900 cities around the world. I need mention too that Nigeria, and particularly Lagos, was not left out of this wave of change demanding that the voice of the common people be heard. It must be mentioned too that the Occupy Movement was partly inspired by the Arab Spring. The people wanted to be heard. They are angered about the undemocratic hierarchical vertical concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a minority. They wanted a more democratic and flatly distribution which shall take the interest of many more people, ultimately beyond the perceived minority in whose hand the fate of the majority seem to presently reside. Once again, the voice of the people was consequently heard in many of those cities where the protest took place.

The question to ask now is this: Of what significance are these events to the Nigerian situation? How is this connected to the need for new spirits in Nigeria and for Nigerians? I will consider this next.

To say that Nigeria need borrow a leaf from the Ukrainian Experience is saying the very obvious. I need to be clear however. Borrowing a leaf from the Ukrainians is not to say that Nigerians need go occupy various squares and grounds in the country right now. Of course, I am not against this. In fact, personally I strongly believe it is high time Nigerians do so. However, I will caution very strongly against purposeless imitation, for which many waves of protest, marches and rallies seem to be known for right now. It will be purposeless when for instance protests and demonstrations and rallies are held, which ended without no significant result beyond word alone. In this case, such protests, demonstrations and rallies are pointless, purposeless and inconsequent. The leaf that need be borrowed from the Ukrainian Experience is the leaf of consequence. The people were resilient even in the face of death. They did not shift ground and they fought with a common goal, which is among many other things that President Viktor Janukowytsch must go. They achieved the goals. If this Ukrainian Experience, this proverbial leaf is thus to be borrowed in Nigeria and by Nigerians, they should please borrow and apply it well and to the letter. It must be positively consequential. Same applies to the Arab Spring. If we are to borrow from the chain of events triggered thus far in the Middle East, we need do so with clear goals in mind, which shall be that the voice of the people must be heard and followed to the letter. We must not give in to lethargy or rest on our oars until we are certain that we have been clearly heard, and that our demands are been implemented.

Oftentimes, one get a feeling, and rightly so too, that some political rallies, protests and demonstrations are only being held just for the sake of it. They do not have the core of what is needed to bring about the needed national change. People care too much about how much they gain financially and individually, rather than what comes out of such actions which will benefit the people. I notice that the placement of personal interests beyond group and common interests are the undoing of the Nigerian people. So appalling are some protests and so-called marches that they can hardly be differentiated from carnivals and owambe-parties. Here is an example of how unserious and carnival-like this can get: A T-Shirt designed for a particular so-called march, which desires to bring about the voice of the young generation of Nigerians being heard, sells for over five thousand Naira. I wonder how exactly this will bring about change when even millions and millions of the Nigeria youth such a group seem to represent are already being priced-out of participation starting with a T-Shirt. They even designed souvenirs and other stuffs like that. Relate this context to what happened in Ukraine! Nobody needed souvenirs or special T-Shirts to get out on the streets, squares and various grounds to fight it out with tyrant rulers and fight for common-sense laws, provision of good roads, constant light and security of lives and properties. In Ukraine for example, the leaders of the opposition coming together from various parties and interest groups put aside first their individual and personal interests while fighting it out on Maidan Square. They negotiated the future of the country without disgraceful and monumental compromises or cutting out any shameful deals for themselves. The people were led in this time of trouble with a common goal at heart, which is: The voice of the people must be heard and carried out all through.

Having said so much, I want to zero in on the June 12, 1993 event to drive home the necessity of new spirits for Nigeria and Nigerians.

In talking about the necessity of new spirits in and for Nigerians, particularly for leaders and championing vanguards of the Nigerian cause in these present times, the point will be best driven home if I talk at this point about Chief MKO Abiola. There is hardly any Nigerian reader who does not know the sacrifice Chief Abiola made for the country. He paid the ultimate price. I need not remind readers that we all agree that the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election in the country was adjudged the fairest and best election ever conducted in the history of our nation. There is overwhelming agreement from almost every quarter that Chief Abiola won convincingly and popularly. It begs asking therefore why then was Chief Abiola denied the rightly won mandate? So far, there are so many conspiration theories than could be true. In fact, I am not interested in them other than the fact that Chief Abiola was denied his rightfully won mandate, he was eventually imprisoned for declaring himself winner of the election. On the death of the despotic Abacha and the end of a tyrant regime and when the people thought Chief Abiola might eventually be crowned president, this man of the people died under mysterious circumstances. Chief Abiola was killed. Could there be any greater pointer of how desperately wicked and insincerely treacherous the current Nigerian political cum public spirit could be? Come to think of it: Chief Abiola was widely acclaimed, supported and jubilated by not only young and old alike among the common folks. Beyond the common people, the so-called and perceived Kingmakers, namely the leaders of our politics and economy, also celebrated him. In fact, this latter group of individuals gave the common man and woman on the street the feeling that Chief Abiola was the Messiah we need. The common people believed them. They voted overwhelmingly for the candidate of the people. Undoubtedly, Chief Abiola was the candidate of both the elite and the masses. Yet, one way or the other, we found ways to convincingly tell ourselves that Chief Abiola had to die for us to move the country forward! In fact, we feel we need to look away from him now in order not to stumble too much or long on our past. We simply want to forget the past. We tell a lie on the necessity of a death of a man, who need not die to begin with. How else is national and self-deception to be defined if not this way? I need not remind readers that many of our current leaders, traditional rulers, politicians and many other big guns cashed in real big on the misfortune of Chief Abiola and of Nigeria at large. They ate and dined on the tables of despotic Abacha, smiled to the banks and yet pretended to be fighting the cause of the people!

In the light of what eventually became the June 12 myth, the following scenarios clearly hold and/or conclusions are plausible:

 (1) The elite ruling class deceived the common people.

(2) The common people (un-)knowingly allowed themselves to be manipulated and deceived into believing a farce!

(3) The common people did not care about whatever became the fate of the candidate they so much loved, so much so that the mandate given to him mattered too little to be consequently fought for!

(4) The elite ruling class were too sure to bet on the I-care-but-to-a-certain-extent attitude of the common people, which they did bet on and won!

(5) Both the elite ruling class and the common people have lived so long in a lie and illusion that they saw nothing wrong in knowingly deceiving themselves. Therefore, they convincingly played out a lie in the name of an election, which they both knew will eventually be annulled and the winner killed in the end!

 All these submissions among many others seem very much plausible. In fact, it can be well said that they all played significant roles in bringing about the final outcome and fate of the June 12, 1993 election. I will never forget what a good friend said on the loss of mandate suffered by the Chief Abiola and the eventual death of the same person. He said: If Chief Abiola could die and then the next day was just like another normal day in Nigeria. I doubt it if anything is really worth being taken too seriously in the Nigeria political terrain, so much so that one would be too willing to put his neck and life on the line for any cause in the country.

Come to think of it: Beyond the fact that we all know Chief Abiola was poisoned and that none of those actively involved at the top in the events was brought to book, we also know that it was the common people who maimed and killed each other in the name of riots and protest. I wonder if the common folks saw the killers and poisoners of Chief Abiola in the face of a struggling market woman, on innocent children, on the head of a fellow bus driver and conductor or on the body of a newspaper vendor, thus justifiably snuffing life out of them! It is no news that the common people turned their anger on each other, killing, destroying and looting already scarce public properties and amenities in the name of revenging the death. And in the name of quelling protests and riots which attended the outbreak of the news confirming the death of the philanthropist and great business cum political man, the riots and already misguided actions were aided and prolonged by the apparatus of power, who unleashed even more harm and terror on the innocent. It is worthy of note that at the end it is the common people who suffered the buck it all.

Here is the significance of recounting this historical incidence, which must not be lost. It is no exaggeration that Nigeria and Nigerians operate in no different way today. One dare say that even after June 12 and the attending chain reactions, the rules of operation are still much unchanged. Our politics is still disfunctional, controlled by looted public funds and individualistic in nature. Our politicians only get worse. They perfect ways of rigging and manipulating the people and the country at large. The common folks gladly collect money, bags of rice among many other favours in exchange for their votes. Our systems at all level favour public and self-deception, and manipulation too. We always hope the needed change will brought about just anyhow, particularly by being connivent to these dastardly acts tantamount to willingly sabotaging and mortgaging one’s future. We are hardly prepared for anything nationally, yet we plunged headlong into them. We have neither clear-cut national programmes nor do our political parties have any manifesto and modus operandi which can be taken seriously. Our state and federal governments operate largely by instincts and feelings of the stomach and short-sighted imaginations and partly on shoddily and spontaneously put-together programmes, which the next government will gladly discard as irrelevant, only to replace them with even worse alternatives. We easily resort to playing the tribal card once we feel we are out of reasonable justification for our actions and those of our fellow tribesman or woman, who messed up in public office. Various shades of questionable undertones and overtones determine how we plan national policies and how we play our politics too. There are rarely any rule. If there are at all, they are only followed selectively. On the whole, it can be convincingly said that the country operate at best a jungle system.

It needs no more saying that we need a change. It has been said over and over again and it will continue to be said. Lest I bore you, I have chosen to stop here, obeying the injunction of a Yoruba adage which say: Too much talk does not fill a basket. The point has been made: We need a change of attitude. We need a change of belief and perception system, we need a change of value system and priorities. Common and public interests are not only to be confessed to by words of mouth alone! We must act accordingly. We need to give up and change so many things! In short, we need to sincerely and objectively see and turn ourselves inside-out. Let me sum it up like this: Anything that we need to effect the needed change is the embodiment of the new spirits which I strongly believe we need right now.