Opinion: The dangerous silence of 160 million Nigerians

by Bayo Oluwasanmi

occupy protest

How could small band of thieves in government enslave so many people and exert complete control over the rest 99.9 per cent of the 160 million people?

Despite its very evident prosperity, many people in Nigeria are in excruciating pain. That distress is most visible to the poor majority while the ruling elites do not see it or pretend not to see it. The broken covenant – the social contract – between the government and the governed illuminates the ineptitude and callousness of those elected by the people to fight on their behalf. Romantic yearning for Utopia and revolt against a polluted society are the two poles which provide the tension of all militant uprising or civil agitation.We see things differently. While the psychiatrist sees the craving for Utopia and rebellion against the status quo as symptoms of social maladjustment, the social reformer sees both as symptoms of a healthy rational attitude. Max was right when he said that a moribund society creates its own morbid gravediggers. Revolt against injustice is not only honorable but it is imperative.

Since Independence, Nigeria has been blessed with unwilling leaders. Leaders who perceive no need-spots for specific problems. Leaders who possess no gift and no competence to address the needs of the people. Leaders who cannot persuade people. Leaders who are not able to attract others to join a cause. Leaders who pursue no purpose and employ no measures to accomplish the desired goals. We lack a strong leader who could cast a national vision. In these days, there is no one in charge in Nigeria: everyone and everything seem to thrive in chaos. The federal economic and finance minister/coordinator, manipulators, and other self-styled economic gurus, continue to deceive Nigerians with voodoo economic analyses that things are not as bad as they seem. But behind closed doors, they sing different tunes.

One thing however they cannot refute is the reality of the perpetual chasm separating the poor and the ruling class. The ruling class inflamed the anger and the pain of the working class by refusing to talk about it and being disinclined to listen. The impoverishment of our people keeps me awake at night. I hear them in the darkness around me. It is the cries of these countless victims which rouse me in the long watches of the night. It is the willing silence and sheepish submission to subjugation, poverty, and oppression that infuriate me to write today and always. It is thinking of the martyrs who fought and died for the starved and strapped Nigerians that egg me on.

The members of the ruling class have destroyed the vision of the future. They have turned their backs on the future and embraced the past. The addiction of these vultures to corruption and wickedness frankly and nakedly set them against all human values and democratic norms. The slightest opposition and the merest criticism expose the few Nigerians who dare the authorities to the severest penalties. People in our reform social ladder are instantly suppressed and those who stand out independently are mown down.

Nigeria is in a mess. Able-bodied Nigerians turned beggars wandered through the streets. Petty street hawkers of underwear, socks, rubber heels, corsets, silverware, and other ancient objects appeared like a rash over the face of Nigeria towns and cities. Graduates at all levels across disciplines drive danfos, molues, and bolekajas for a niggardly amount. Others settle for the “Area Boys” specialties and dark alley businesses of assorted brands.

Our unemployed youths in the millions have become a wild and homeless lot, socially disinherited, candidates for Aro, morgues, prisons, and the electric chair. Our elderly are hungry. They depend on public charity and their Good Samaritan neighbors for food and for a place to sleep. Days of somber discouragement follow our pensioners. Some died in penury, of hunger and disease. The rest of them live a vagabond, lonely, and perilous lives. Their depression soon reached that extreme stage when the will is paralyzed and physical resistance suddenly gives way.

Like inflated currency, Nigerian workers have lost the real meaning of living. They look like a huddle of stragglers from a beaten army. Irony and shame kept intruding in their chosen vocations and careers. Their former passion for dignity of labor has turned into perversion. The once virile and vibrant Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) of Michael Imodu and Wahab Goodluck has become a castrated giant whose brag and bluster only served to cover its lost virility. Oil – our commonwealth – has been cut into cubes and blocks shared among the military hyenas and civilian vultures.

Nigerian governments – federal, state, and local – always stand for swindling, intrigue, and privilege. They could not stand for anything else. Neither law nor force can change it. If retribution occasionally catches up with them, this can only be by the dispensation of God. The hopelessness of Nigerians’ limited lives – lives truncated and impoverished by the oppressors – keeps the rest of us wondering what next?

Majority of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. And it is their starvation wages which permit the swollen pay packets of the ruling class and other privileged economic saboteurs. Once Nigerians started on the slippery slope, nothing could hold them back. At every turn, they are forced to advance, sliding further into the abyss of shame. Each federal legislator takes home N29 million every month. The governors, state legislators, and local government chairmen and council members receive criminally huge compensations. The same governors said they couldn’t afford the minimum wage of N18, 000.

The ruling native tyrants have seized as it were, all available prime land and jerked up prices everywhere in the country. Few days ago, I read that a plot of land in Banana Republic in Ikoyi sells for N1 billion while the landless poor have nowhere to lay their heads. Also last week, I read that a village head in Akwa Ibom State had begun a three-month hunger strike in protest of a dilapidated high school building erected 31 years ago. He said the governor had repeatedly ignored his pleas to visit the school.

Here is a story on Governor Godswill  Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State reported by SaharaReporters June, 30:

“Three stewards working in the Akwa Ibom state governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja was on Friday summarily dismissed by the governor, Godswill Akpabio, over missing bundles of mint fresh dollars valued at over  $250,000 (N40 million) kept in the governor’s bedroom. The governor who reportedly issued the instruction to dispense with the services of the political appointees personally found out on Wednesday during his visit to Abuja that four bundles of the foreign currency he left in his bedroom had been stolen while he was gone to a dinner with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Aso Rock Villa.

Saharareporters gathered that the bundles of dollars kept in the drawers in the governor’s bedroom were leftovers from stacks of hard currency stashed away in a private security safe.” Instead of building new roads, the rulers have resorted into buying jets with stolen money from our treasury. As at the time of writing, 400 privately owned jets were reportedly parked at hangar of Abuja International Airport. The death trap roads are now exclusively reserved for the poor. Meanwhile, Nigerians are dying in abnormal numbers every day on these roads.

Our local schools, colleges, and universities are but wastelands of academic refuse. The institutions have been abandoned long ago by the children of legislators and other robber barons.  Our hospitals have become death houses for the poor – the only patients that still patronize such institutions.

As humiliated and downtrodden people, Nigerians endure the worst abuses without complaint. One would have expected Nigerians to develop a strong hatred and dislike of the obviously rich- the thieves, crooks, scammers, embezzlers, looters, and leeches – of the economy, not because they could afford to buy things at any price, but because they were able to do so without a guilty conscience.

Few among the suffering Nigerians deny their anger even as they show it. A large number has been beaten into almost numb submission into accepting poverty as an act of God and that they’ll never reach the goals they once thought possible. But the few, very few, refused to accept being treated as lesser human beings and they respond to the insult with furious indignation by brief sporadic, uncoordinated, protests and resistance.

For a moment or so, the cultural atmosphere would be saturated with experimental resistance, protests, and movements. With the exception of one cleric who always pitches his tent with the poor masses, the rest of legion of jet pastors would admonish the poor to embark on marathon night vigils and fast for their deliverance from the oppressors.

For once – Occupy Nigeria – looked indeed as if Nigeria convulsed after the subsidy removal, underpinned by scourged inflation, depression, unemployment, and the absence of a faith to live for. Composed mainly of handful of Nigerians, Occupy Nigeria attests to the all time truth that at all times and in all creeds only a minority has been capable of courting trouble and committing emotional hara-kiri on behalf of the proletariat. The bedroom confidence of the protesters soon evaporates like a puddle under a scotching desert sun. The protest was high jacked by lukewarm labor leader corrupters. The uncompromising fire of radical, and purist zealotry lit by the organizers was instantly put out by the union bosses who clung to the empty shell of greed driven by polluted civilization.

After Occupy Nigeria protest (and like many previous protests) had been effectively neutralized and vanished like a tantalizing mirage, social life went back to normal. Nobody asked: Why can’t the oppressed prolonged and sustained the protest longer? Why can it not become a permanent basis for the reorganization of our public life? It is not a false interpretation to conclude that the major obstacle to Nigeria’s version of Arab Spring is fear. Nigerians are cowards, spineless, and weak.

Have you ever tried to hammer a nail with your shoes? Or tighten a screw with a fingernail file? Or shield yourself from a rainstorm with just a newspaper? When do you need a hammer or screw driver or umbrella? The ruling class has provided the ingredients necessary for their successful overthrow. So far, Nigerians are substituting lethal weapons generously supplied by their oppressors with shoes as hammers, fingernail files to tighten screws, and newspapers as umbrellas for rainstorm.

The rigor of the economic clime, the poverty colony, and the harsh living conditions should have made Nigerians one of the toughest, hardest, and enduring protesters and resisters in the world. The cautious, calculating, submissive, nervous time-server Nigerians watched their steps, looked over their shoulders, loudly professed loyalty, and monotonously repeated the official propaganda in exchange for crumbs from the master’s table.

Everything about Nigeria is different. Everything is in the reverse. Things that worked in other countries won’t work in Nigeria. Which is why the country is not moving forward and it would take eternity for it to advance with the rest of the developed world. Nigerians are afraid of police arrest, police clubbing, police shooting, afraid to be handcuffed afraid to endure the sun or the rain for a little longer than necessary, and afraid to confront their oppressors. They are easily cowered and easily bought. They forget that freedom is not free. And that the only language that oppressors understand is force or fire.

A poor, powerless Black woman by the name Rosa Parks ignited the American Civil Rights movement. She risked her life when she dared the white oppressors by refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger. Men, women, and children were killed, maimed, beaten, and jailed in the fight for racial equality.

Steve Biko and other countless patriots sacrificed their lives to end Apartheid. Of course our legendary President Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for the cause of freedom.

Not long ago, a young unemployed Tunisian graduate preferred to be immolated than surrender to the oppressive Tunisian regime. His personal sacrifice gave birth to the Tunisian Revolution.

Egyptians have taken to the streets again calling for the ouster of their newly elected President Muhammed Morsi. Brazilians came out in thousands to protest against increased fare in public transportation. President Dilma Rousseff had since bowed to the people’s will.

Remember President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines whose wife owned 2,000 pair of shoes? Well, the dictator was brought to his knees by the People Power Revolution in 1986 comprised over two million Filipino civilians as well as several political, military, and including religious groups led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila.

Lech Walesa the unemployed Polish electrician organized the illegal 1970 strikes at Gdansk Shipyard in protest of government’s decree raising food prices. Because of his singular act of bravery, the Solidarity Trade Union grew into a10 million-member movement. The government was forced to accede to the workers’ demands.

The list goes on and on, and on.

The world watched with disdain and mockery at the stupidity of oppressed Nigerians:

If these native oppressors are worst than colonial masters, why didn’t they rebel?

How could small band of thieves in government enslave so many people and exert complete control over the rest 99.9 per cent of the 160 million people?

How could they have successfully immobilized and sterilized so many Nigerians mentally, spiritually, and physically?

How could they have successfully perpetuated a blend of covert and overt tyranny, public policy, and secret alliances with the very oppressed?

Why didn’t the tyranny, humiliation, and primitive stagnation of life of the poor caused by these vultures in government provoke a rebellion on the part of the oppressed?

The answer to these and other nagging questions could be summed up in one sentence: 160 million fearful Nigerians!



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (4)

  1. First, i must comend the writer for putting up this thougth-provoking recipes for revolution. For the millions of Nigerians who are yet unperturbed to take active parts in the imminent but over-due radical revolution, i see their case as of victims of some sort of ideological blindfolds than Bayo’s suspected ‘fear’. Heed this, irrespective of our radical or conservative viewpoint, our optimistic or pessimistic standpoint, we would all suffer the consequences of the plunder and inhumanity exhibitted by the Hobbesian elements in the corridor of power should we fail to act now.
    Why should we wait till any moment later when we must have been too incapacitated to revolt against them. i still gnash at the abrupt truncation of the OCCUPYNIGERIA protest. its memeory still daunts me as much as it gives me an assurance that realy, there are intelligently resolute Nigerians who are gathering and are ready to ‘hammer a nail by their shoes’.
    The revolution is not of dialogue no more neither is it of writing, it is necessarily and inevitably of mass street protest, mass political attacks, mass violence – and however else it comes – against the unrepentant ruling elites. i weep as much as i hope; my tearz is of resounding and uncompromising call for an immediate revolution!

  2. I think we are coward indeed, hiding under the name of God, saying in Jesus name it wud be well. In Sha Allah and all other sort of things.
    We need to wise up and fight for our rights

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail