Opinion: The Nigerian Revolution?… Not today

by Lucas Togan
Invariably all three factors – Religion, Language and Heritage – that will sustain a Nigerian revolution are missing (have always been) before the commencement of a revolution. The best Nigerians and Nigeria can hope for is a riot or another “OJOTA” gathering.

What if the Nigerian government repeats the rude-shock New Year’s gift of January 1, 2012, in 2013, will the “OJOTA-gathering” become a revolution?

There’s an old Yoruba adage that loosely translates to “one expresses one’s self best in one’s mother-tongue”. I have followed with kin interest the recent worldwide resurgence of citizens trying to take their states back from unpopular leadership. Usually it starts off as a small protest, then the government of the day in an attempt to squash this nuisance, launches an armed assault on the people. This strategy quickly leads to renewed vigor and international sympathy for the protesters. Soon the protesters grow into an opposition force and their demands gain traction.

As these unfold, there are people in the incumbent government who sympathize with the opposition but delay any endorsement. The government sustains the armed assault on the protesters; leading to increased sympathy from the international community and soon from within its rank and file. Sooner than later, top officials begin to defect and as with everything in life, when the center can no longer hold, things fall apart.

In the last 2yrs, we have witnessed the domino effect of protests in the form of the Arab spring. The question that has popped up in many circles has been, “what are the Arabs made of that is lacking in the Nigerian DNA?” In order to understand what is absent in the Nigerian gene, which makes the much anticipated revolution an oasis of sorts, let us investigate the term “revolution”.

First, what is a revolution?
• According to Jeff Goodwin, a professor of sociology at New York University, a revolution is any and all instances in which a state or a political regime is overthrown and thereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extra constitutional and/or violent fashion.
• Jack Goldstone, a professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, defines it as an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and non institutionalized actions that undermine authorities.”
• In my opinion, it is simply a sustained protest with a goal of changing the status quo – be it political, social or organizational.

Hence, it is safe to deduce that a revolution is a sustained protest, it involves the masses which comprises of people who are tired of the status quo and have decided to make a change; forcefully if need be.

If these are the tenets of a revolution then we need to know what ties a people must share for them to be willing to come together, fight together and die together if necessary, for any cause. Having done some research on the subject matter I have come to the conclusion that three factors must be present for a people to come together: RELIGION, LANGUAGE and HERITAGE. And for a revolution to succeed, they must share at least two of these.

It is obvious that the Arab spring protesters, from Tunisia to the ongoing Syrian unrest (if one can call it that) all share these three attributes. These are people of one tongue (Language) – a vast majority of these people speak Arabian. They share a common religion – Islam. And they share a common heritage – none of these countries were amalgamated. It is evident in the way they went about reclaiming their states that the people saw the state as their entitlement, their heritage. The state belonged to them personally and collectively.

It can also be seen in the American Revolution of 1776, that the idea of a common heritage, which is what the 13 colonies sought to regain from the British, was easily sold once the factors of a common language and religion were established.

In Nigeria, it is pertinent to note that the Biafran civil war was sustained (for its duration) for these same reasons. The Igbos share a common heritage, language and religion (they are predominantly Catholics). The message of oneness was easy to convey. The Yorubas share a common heritage and language but are diverse in their faith (Religion). This difference in religion will not truncate any future message of solidarity as they share two of the three factors. The Hausas also share all three factors – language, heritage and religion.

From the above, it is obvious that Nigeria is a constituent of three strongly independent entities. These entities have very strong ties within but are very loose as a union (The Nigerian state). At the beginning of this piece I shared an adage and if that is anything to go by, then each entity will revert to her mother tongue when the going gets tough in a revolution. Should there ever be a revolution, communication will be a challenge. It might be argued that we do share English as a common language but with what goes on in most regional institutions (government offices, tertiary institutions, secondary schools) where the regional language is the de facto lingua franca, I doubt English will suffice. When a common language becomes elusive (the means of communication) and as a country, we have never been bound along religious lines then how are we ever going to see the Nigerian state as a common heritage?

Invariably all three factors – Religion, Language and Heritage – that will sustain a Nigerian revolution are missing (have always been) before the commencement of a revolution. The best Nigerians and Nigeria can hope for is a riot or another “OJOTA” gathering. Beyond that, the Nigerian revolution? Not today.



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

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Comments (2)

  1. Valid argument and that's why I never advocate any stupid "revolution." As one country, Nigeria needs to have a much higher level of education for its citizens and more fluency in the English language than we do at the present time. Any government recognize that? Na!


  2. Interesting.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail