Opinion: The Egyptian revolution and the true cost of freedom

by Frank Onuoha

Egypt protesters

 The Egyptians who chanted for “freedom” from Mubarak years ago suddenly found themselves at the mercy of an “incompetent government” led by Morsi and now… an all-powerful military that hides behind the toga of the “people’s defender”…

A few months ago I could have sworn that what Nigeria desperately needed was a revolution. The high level of impunity and political filth found at every corner is appalling and would certainly compel one to lean towards a totally revolution like the Arab Spring that began on December 18, 2010 in Tunisia and overthrew several sit-tight leaders and supposed dictators in the region. Nigerian people deservedly NEED to be free from the charlatans and corrupt leaders that trout the corridors of power but they have to champion it like the Arabs have done. Freedom cannot be given it has to be taken, makes a great argument.

The July 3, 2013 military coup – or intervention as some apologist chose to call it – in Egypt has made me reflect on that stand. Egypt was the second state to experience the Spring which crippled the government and forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 2011. It will be recalled that the success of that movement was largely hinged on the support the people got from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. On Wednesday it was the military that again came to the rescue of thousands of anti-Mohamed Morsi protesters. Again the chants of “freedom” rend the air at Tahrir Square – the protesters have won.

Sometimes when I reflect the prize of most ‘freedom’ I ask myself is it really worth it? The truth of the matter – or as I have always argued, Man is not really free. If you think you have freed yourself from one bondage, you may realize you signed up for another form of bondage. The Egyptians who chanted for “freedom” from Mubarak years ago suddenly found themselves at the mercy of an “incompetent government” led by Morsi and now – I must add, an all-powerful military that hides behind the toga of the “people’s defender” to perpetrate their devise. The revolution may have won in Egypt but not democracy.

I use the word ‘revolution’ tentatively because as a student of History I have seen the ramifications in which it could be portrayed. Revolution is a two edged sword. While it worked for the English migrants to the new world in the eighteenth century and relieved them of the obnoxious policies from their motherland, it only worked for the French Third Estate in the nineteenth century for a little while before thrusting them into the hands of an all-ambitious Napoleon. I am sure most Germans in the twentieth century would have given anything to take back their support for a young revolutionary called Adolf Hitler years after his designs became apparent.

Years ago Egyptians were celebrating the birth of freedom from Mubarak today they have a coup d’etat led by the army. Again the street is cheering widely meanwhile by the corner lay disgruntled pro-government supporters – the Muslim Brotherhood, who will soon demand for their pound of flesh. Such is the prize of most ‘freedom’. Man is never really FREE.

The Egyptian protesters may be right in demanding that the president stop monopolising power, institute a clear system of Separation of powers and encourage press freedom however I think it is unreasonable to expect all these changes in less than one year in a country that have been through a lot. Their support for the army is even more grotesque in that they have surreptitiously endorsed the same thing they fought against a few years ago – dictatorship. The army has flexed their muscle and majority are happy. Freedom has come once again by the boots.

After a week of the coup the cost is already being counted: the constitution has been suspended living the window open for dictatorship or arbitrary decisions. Morsi is under house arrest. Pockets of resistance led by the Muslim Brotherhood have already forced the army to declare a State of Emergency in South Sinai and Suez Canal. The Presidential Palace is currently surrounded by antagonists of the new government. While the army may be trying very hard to convince the outside world that it has the situation under control with minimum force being applied, that may not be the case. Reports coming from the country show ample use of force leading to deaths and injuries of pro-Morsi protesters. On Friday 5 July the aftermath of the conflict left 30 people dead as supporters of Morsi and clashed with the security forces. At least 1077 were injured. Another Spring may just be doors away.

Certainly, the new interim leader is wearing an over-sized hat and might find himself in the rain in a few months to come. The Islamist supporters of Morsi will be out for him. Sleep will be suspended. Such is the prize of freedom. According to the Guardian UK, “One of the consequences of deciding the fate of regimes with military coups, however popular is, once you stage a coup once, you can stage another one again. Once parliaments are dissolved and constitutions suspended the street becomes the only arbiter of legitimacy.”

It is certainly not the type of freedom I will propose for Nigeria. If we let that door open for the Egyptian type of revolution and allow the military to dictate our live, I wonder if we are ready for the consequence that will follow. The Egyptians are paying a high prize for an uncertain future.

It is in this times that I tend to believe that the voice of majority is not after-all the voice of God.


Frank Onuoha is an historian, writer and researcher.


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

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail