Clarion Call: Newer Wind of Change in Nigeria’s Politics Now! by Ides Mildred Aziegbe
I graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in 2008 after spending 6 years for a four year course. We, the alumni usually like to call it Great Ife, for that, I reserve my comments because this is not the point of my post. In 2004, after about six months stay at home strike caused by rioting students, I accompanied one of my friends to the Student Union Assembly in the Amphi Theater to witness one of their sessions. The session was so violent that students and leaders were hurling stones, pure water sachet and whatever they could lay their hands on, at one another. The bone of contention was that some leaders had embezzled funds and they had to be impeached. In all my life, I had never seen such an unruly crowd. I was lucky that day that I escaped unhurt and I made up my mind never to attend any of their sessions again. That day, almost all the leaders of the Union were impeached including the President.
The same year was an election year. Amongst the contestants was a very fine and intelligent young chap from Computer science. He was never among the crop of so called Union leaders who were part of the old political parties. He was fresh and not politically inclined like the others we used to know. In short, he was a fine boy. Many “ordinary” students were drawn to him. Students who were not usually part of the electoral process were interested including myself. I wanted him to win. With my usual self, I campaigned hard for him although he never knew my name or knew if I existed. I went to all his rallies and encouraged my friends to vote for him. At last he won. That year was the most peaceful year in my six years in that school. However, the old dogs could not stand him. He did not bend to their will neither did he go the way of the formal leaders. Luckily, he escaped unhurt and graduated in flying colours. This was a turning point in OAU because the political consciousness had been awakened especially among females who were instrumental to his win. For the first time, females came out en mass to vote.
Nevertheless, the old goons struck back. In the next election, they supported a candidate who had been suspended several times and was part of the old dogs. A new chap also came on board. He campaigned and behaved like the outgoing president but this time, he was unable the overcome them. The old dogs fought back and fought dirty. On election day, some girls were stopped from voting in some faculties. Ballot boxes were hijacked and stuffed with fake thumb printed electoral voters. These so called student leaders who always fought the school authorities and claimed to stand for social injustice massively rigged the school elections in favour of their candidate. I was gob-smacked at the hypocrisy of the highest order. How could they? I thought they were clean young chaps in school politics. The future leaders of our generation in Nigeria. They claimed to fight for good education, standard facilities, injustice from the school and government. If they could not tolerate losing political power at that stage of politics and their lives, how could they tolerate opposition when they get to the helm of power in Nigeria, I thought. Then it dawned on me that my generation was as guilty as the past. They don’t behave any different. They are not tolerant neither are they uncompromising. I was disappointed. I made up my mind then and there never to trust anyone fighting against established authorities in any name they choose to call it.
Recently during the 2011 elections, I supported GEJ. I openly campaigned for him. Some of my friends were unhappy. I never expect anyone to support or endorse my views. In short, that is why we are different. We see things in different light. The day all of my friends begin to agree with every and anything I say will be the day I re-evaluate their friendship. However, I got to know some people’s true colours. All in the name of political candidacy, a friend called me all sort of names. One deleted me from BBM. Another deleted me from facebook. I was overwhelmingly shocked. Even friends???? If they cannot tolerate another friend with a different opinion without losing the friendship or resorting to name calling, how can they tolerate opposition if they ever get to power. It means they can kill if they have the opportunity to. Hmmm, this democracy and freedom of speech is not an easy thing.
In 2014, I see the same trend. That I openly support GEJ is not news. What is news is that friends continue to delete me off facebook. One recently did that again. Another one set up a fictitious account to say all sorts about me. Kai, on top Nigerian matter when dem no dey even pay us sef? Na wa!!!!! Now, if we as young people cannot tolerate other views and opinions when we are not wielding power, how can we do that when the authority eventually falls on us. And we claim to be the leaders of tomorrow. In a democracy, opposition is crucial. Without it, the government easily falls into dictatorship. Why then can we not tolerate? Why do we always resort to violence, insults or use of demeaning words when people don’t hold the same views as ours? Is it a Nigerian thing? Someone told me that it is because of the years of military rule. Our senses have been bastardized and what we understand is force, that even a past leader continue to be praised for introducing a program that flogs people publicly in the name of discipline. I as a grown woman, do I need to be flogged or slapped before I do the right thing? Is that form of punishment the only way to correct a people or a nation? Maybe it is true. We have been so tormented that we do not even know how to tolerate again. We have been so dehumanized that we only understand violence and force. When students dissent with authorities or decide to protest, the first thing they do is to burn cars and destroy properties. In OAU, some even went as far as beating the vice chancellor. What is wrong with us? I thought as young people, we will be different but we are worse.
To conclude, 2015 elections are around the corner. I only pray that it does not resort to violence. I pray we learn to tolerate. I do not have to like every body but I can tolerate people and learn to live with them peacefully even if I don’t buy their ideas. Young people in Nigeria should be different but it is unfortunate that we decide to tow this path. We need enlightenment and re-education of our minds. Civilised people have learned to co-exist peacefully because the wilderness is for people of unrefined minds who think that the only way to solve their problems with fellow inhabitants is to exterminate them. I only hope I do not live with such animals in Nigeria or have them as friends.
Attention: This piece is a Facebook update. http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com believes very strongly in the public relevance and interest of the issues addressed therein. The opinion and view expressed are those of the writer.