by Ohimai Godwin Amaize
If the only reason we want change is to see our enemies oppressed and destroyed, then we have lost the plot.
The French revolution, which began in 1789, remains one of the most classic examples of how citizens can rise amid the terror of oppression to liberate themselves. Within three years, the Bourbon monarchy, which had ruled France for centuries, collapsed. The transformation that followed was unbelievably epic. At the heart of this revolution was a man named Maximilien Robespierre.
Robespierre was such an enigmatic personality who exuded great charisma. As a spokesman for the opposition and a staunch critic of government, Robespierre was a tireless and consistent advocate for the ‘rights of man’ to be extended to all men – including the poor, and the slaves in the Colonies. He was even a vehement opponent of the death penalty. But as the realities of the revolution dawned, that perspective changed.
By the time the French monarchy was completely annihilated and a new government in place, Robespierre ascended power. He rode to power on the strength of his Jacobin membership. The Jacobin, then, the most famous political grouping of the French revolution, identified itself with the popular movement of the people who saw popular violence as a political right. A most bloody example of their notorious rough ‘justice’ was the prison massacres of September 1792, when around 2,000 people, including priests and nuns, were dragged from their prison cells, and subjected to ‘justice’.
And when the new government debated the fate of the deposed King Louis XVI, Robespierre, once an opponent of the death penalty – championed the declaration that ‘Louis must die in order for the Revolution to live’. Once he tasted power, his transformation was quick, nasty and brutish!
In the months that followed, Robespierre became an acclaimed advocate of the use of sickening violence to secure the revolution. Thousands of French citizens were executed and this period in French history became known as the “Reign of Terror.”
Many historians have described Robespierre as an opportunist who used the Nationalist sentiments of his time to further his personal interests and career. He justified the murders of all who stood in his way. In his speech “The Terror Justified”, made before the French National Assembly, he attempted to excuse the bloodletting that characterized the aftermath of the revolution.
What happened to the let’s-build-a-new-France-and-anti-death-penalty advocate that was Robespierre? In power, violence and bloodshed suddenly became fashionable means to his desired end!
But history is everything. And ironic! In a wicked twist, history repeats itself. On 27th, July, 1794, Robespierre was barred from giving a speech. He was arrested, afterwards. He tried to shoot himself but missed, and spent his last few hours with his jaw hanging off. He lost his head to the guillotine as a victim of his professed terror tactics, on July 28, 1794.
This is not a history class. I have only situated the ensuing discourse within this historical narrative as a guide to my generation; a generation that is in a hurry to see change happen in Nigeria, anyway and anyhow. Indeed, change is an inevitable constant. But how we change, why we change and when we change are even more fundamental to change than sheer change in itself.
I have seen young people speak passionately about the new Nigeria they want to see. But often times, it is a function of pent-up frustration and a heart boiling with anger and vengeance against those we say are the enemies of the people.
There is certainly nothing constructive about this kind of passion and this is not the kind of change that will alter Nigeria for good. If the youth are given the leadership of Nigeria today, what will they do with it? Transform Nigeria or oppress their contemporaries?
If the only reason we want change is to see our enemies oppressed and destroyed, then we have lost the plot. How else can one explain the agitations of some of our youth for the return to power of an old General who was sacked from power as military Head of State a year after I was born? We just want someone who will wipe away our ‘enemies’. Sad. What we really need are leaders who will wipe our tears away.
Nigeria is in need of leaders, not monsters who seek to get into power under the wings of change and then unleash upon us, a reign of terror and revenge. The youths must begin to develop by themselves, strategic ways to birth the change they want to see.
I have done something. I joined the PDP and alongside other young professionals founded the PDP Youth Circuit. Aside from writing brilliant articles, tweeting and Facebooking, what really are you doing? What are you doing to bring about a switch from the politics of tribe, religion and other bigotries?
Ohimai Godwin Amaize is popularly known as Mr. Fix Nigeria, Amaize was born on September 9, 1984. He is an alumnus of the premier University of Ibadan, Nigeria with a post-graduate certificate in “Managing for Integrity”, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. He is a registered member, People’s Democratic Party. He tweets @MrFixNigeria.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.