by Adeniyi Adelakun
1. Nigerians are still not ready.
The temptation is there to dismiss the ‘protesters’ who took to the streets in a pro-Buhari demonstration as paid urchins. While that would be convenient and comfortable, it wouldn’t necessarily be true. Who’s to say they weren’t paid? No one, except maybe the participants themselves. But here’s the thing – this is the same country where, just a few days earlier, James Ibori, by every definition, a convicted criminal, was welcomed with genuine glee by citizens of the state from whose coffers he ensured his own enrichment. Even the leader of a national security body, the Director General of the Department of State Services, paid him a visit to “welcome him back to his fatherland.” We’ve always known it, but yesterday stood as a stark reminder that there might be no degree of suffering or failure of leadership, no degree of embarrassment, ridicule or disdain, that will be sufficient free many Nigerians from the shackles of hero-worship and sycophancy.
And away from that set of people, there exists another subset of our society whose job it is to say “I told you so.” The hurdle of realizing there is something wrong with the state of our leadership has already been crossed by these people, but as opposed to focusing squarely on the government, they seem to believe that it serves the nation better to antagonize people who supported the current administration, going on to question the right of these people to speak out against the government, forgetting that, when it comes to bad leadership, the only real loser is Nigeria.
2. “They” still don’t get it.
Our leaders remain as detached from the reality of the situation in the country as ever before. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday acknowledged the protests. Speaking at a Consultative Forum on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he admitted that the economic situation of the country is “serious,” going on to recall a quote from a conversation he once had with President Buhari. “I know how difficult things are. All my adult life I have always earned a salary. I know what it is like when salary is not enough,” Osinbajo quoted Buhari as saying. Nice. His empathy is noted. But it is terribly misguided.
Apart from the fact that, Buhari, a President and former Head of State, (one who, before that, also served as a Governor and a Minister,) is unlikely to be dealing with any financial struggles even remotely resembling those of the average Nigerian, the statement belies a disappointing rhetoric popular with Nigerian political leaders – the notion that people protest simply because of money. It’s not quite as tactless as suggesting that people are paid to protest, but it comes down to the same thinking – if you have money, you won’t be protesting. You can’t possibly, and you shouldn’t be dissatisfied with the state of your country, as long as your own home is in order. Here’s the sad part – many Nigerians believe this. This is really what brought us here in the first place. Instead of pressuring the government to fix public water and electricity supply, we invest in boreholes and generators.
And let’s not forget Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s declaration that since Nigerians’ salaries are in Naira, they shouldn’t be bothered about the exchange rate.
3. Nigerians are forever creative
You can always rely on us to find the humour in everything.
4. There is hope for our police yet
Is it an indictment of our police force that we see the lack of any negative occurrences as something to celebrate? That should be the order of the day, but history has taught us well. People are reasonably skeptical about the police, and the days leading up to the protest were rife with talk about the police opposing its occurrence. Well, yesterday came and went with no reports of police obstruction. Perhaps it’s the beginning of new things. Perhaps it was due to the pressure placed upon them in the press beforehand, or perhaps it was just a good day. Whatever it is, we’re grateful for it.
5. Nigerians will win in the end
Despite rumours of political interference and attempts by the police to stop them from taking place, the protests went on as scheduled. Nigerians showed up to speak for their country, despite the fact of 2baba, who brought these protests to prominence to begin with, announced he would no longer be participating.
There may be people who don’t get it, for whom politics is nothing more than a game of “gotcha,” but away from the noisemakers, there will always be the ones who have enough common sense to look beyond any notions of petty victories, who possess enough gumption to stand for the good of their country,