It was sometimes in February 2012. A former military head of state came on a condolence visit to a former boss of mine who had, a month earlier, lost his father. One of the two surviving daughters of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, was in attendance. We sat round a dinning table, discussing the deteriorating socio-economic conditions of Nigerians. Then, the host mentioned the possibility of a Ghana-type revolution led by Jerry Rawlings in Nigeria. The former head of state retorted off-handedly that there won’t be revolution in Nigeria because the country had no Jerry Rawlings!
Such, typically, is the opinion of Nigeria’s ruling elite who reduces revolution to a one-man military putsch, ignorant of the true meaning of revolution, oblivious of the fire kindling under their feet, and totally bereft of even a modicum sense of history.
The grossly incompetent and irredeemably corrupt Nigerian political and business elite continue their in their mis-governance and pillage precisely because they have concluded and re-assured themselves that Nigerians are docile and are incapable of articulating, not to talk of, fighting for their rights to good governance and decent living. The incumbent President once said that Nigerian youths are lazy!
The ongoing protests organised on the theme #EndSARS is sending shock waves to the Villa and Government Houses around the country. Oh, the ‘lazy’ youths could bestir themselves and organise these massive campaign and protests resonating with human rights leaders, non-state actors and celebrities globally! What’s going on?
But only the tone deaf Nigerian ruling elite and the incompetent governments they foist over us are befuddled by this positive development. How could it have been otherwise? Police brutality is the immediate cause of ongoing protests. But the remote causes are latent in the worsening material and social conditions of our people.
For the past four years, Nigeria has been the poverty capital of the world with about 60 percent of its population in absolute poverty. In the global definition of absolute poverty of anyone living below $1.9 (N722) per day, that translates to at least 120 million Nigerians out of an estimated population of 200 million living below the poverty line. According to the World Poverty Clock, six Nigerians slip into the poverty abyss every single minute.
In its latest report, National Bureau of Statistics projects that unemployment rate in the country will deteriorate to at least 30 percent by end of this year. If underemployment (a situation, for instance, in a which a university graduate, is riding Okada to survive) is added, the correct unemployment rate will be in the neighborhood of 60 percent. In this midst of this, government officials at all levels continue to spend borrowed money on themselves and their family members in ways no parallels can be found any where else in the world. Right in the newly presented 2021 Budget, the Presidency proposes to spend N10.2 billion on building renovations and electrical repairs in Aso Rocks. The National Assembly hasn’t backed down on spending N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex, the entirety of which cost only N7 billion just about 2 decades prior.
Elections which should have a been a veritable means of changing bad leaders have become a huge joke. The musical chair between the two major political parties proves to all that the electoral processes as presently constituted and operated can never produce any good outcome. No competent and honest leadership can emerge from the so-called democratic process in which poverty is weaponised to buy votes of pauperised Nigerians - from the very process of party primaries to the general election. What does it matter whether it’s the APC or PDP that wins an election? Whoever and whichever, the monthly unaccounted-for hundreds of million Naira ‘security votes’ continue, the remainder of the money is shared among the politicians, their relations and tiny reference groups. The people continue to wallow in needless wants, while their rulers enjoy the largess in ceaseless “I-can’t-kill-myself” escapades.
As all these are going on, the people continue to have access to facilities that make communication easy, fast and more widely accessible. With videos of the first family, governors and other political operators having lavish weddings for their wards in villas and palaces, and of government functionaries transporting thousands of co-elites in chartered flights to Dubai to mark mothers’ birthday anniversaries on WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook, Instagram and other social media, it was a matter of time that the perfidy of the Nigerian ruling elite became manifest for all to see.
In addition to the above is the global context in which the practice of mauling down protesters by authoritarian governments is fast becoming difficult and unviable. Let any government kill ten, twenty protesters and that government will sooner than later become history. Just an ordinary threat of visa ban by the United States and United Kingdom before the recent Edo governorship election knocked sense into the authorities that were used to brazenly rigging elections.
It doesn’t matter really how the current protests end, what’s sure is that the material and non-material conditions are ripening fast for a revolution. It’ll come because the Nigerian ruling elite will not self-correct or suddenly become reasonable and acquire the requisite competence and incorruptibility to turn things around for the the betterment of all. The determined youths leading the push for a much better Nigeria have discovered the unassailable power of protests. They have the number, determination, resources and tools to effect the genuine change that the country sorely needs.
- ‘Sina Kawonise is publisher/Editor-in-Chief of NewsScroll newspaper