By Jiti Ogunye
Something has been bothering me of late.
It is now commonplace to see and hear Nigerians describe their country in unprintable terms, declaring and condemning it as irredeemable.
It is also very common to see many Nigerians, who are genuinely and rightly frustrated about the sorry state of our country, castigate fellow Nigerians for being unprepared for revolutionary and progressive changes in our country, labeling Nigerians who may not be protesting on the streets to bring down “ the unjust system”: “slaves” and “cowards”.
As we move to the close of this year, may I admonish fellow Nigerians, especially the social media populace, that we are not going to insult Nigerians out of inaction, into a desired action for societal reorder; nor are we going to badmouth our country into self-reform and redemption.
Anyone that has participated in popular struggles of the people for change or studied the history of revolutions would and should know that the people, for whose benefits a revolution is waged and society is reordered, cannot be won over by insults, blackmail or intimidation. They become convinced about the idea of bringing about progressive changes, by persuasion, political education and encouragement. In struggle parlance this is called “mobilization”.
Such statements as” Nigeria is a useless country; I have tuned off from Nigeria; I don’t care about or pray for Nigeria anymore, I only care about, and pray for myself and my loved ones ; Nigerians are cowards ; Nigerians are useless; Nigerians can’t fight for justice , freedom and liberty ; Nigerians are ignorant; Nigerians are slaves; et cetera…” will certainly not bring about the desired changes in our economy, politics and society.
We did not read it in history that the anti colonial struggle in Nigeria was successfully prosecuted by the nationalists only because they insulted Nigerians into joining the decolonization enterprise.
And military despotism did not end in Nigeria because “cowardly Nigerians” were coerced into the anti-military struggle by impatient and invectives-spewing pro-democracy activists.
In the prevailing circumstances, soldiers for societal renewal must learn how to engage the people. We must sit down with the people; hear from them ; learn from them; speak with them; and teach them. We must be meek; not arrogant. Even when the task of nation’s recovery is urgent. We must organize. Not demonize our people. When we assume that we can order and command them into action for societal change, we exhibit the same oppressors’ characteristics we decry and deplore in our national life.
There can’t be revolutionary changes without revolutionary evangelism!
Compliments of the season!
Jiti Ogunye is a legal practitioner and former Secretary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).