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Opinion

October 1: A Day Of Lamentation

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By Tochukwu Ezukanma

As usual, on October 1, 2019, Nigeria held her annual ritual: the commemoration of Nigerian independence.

The day that was celebrated fifty nine years after is October 1, 1960. On that historic day, the Nigerian Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Belewa, concluded his speech with, “I open a new chapter in the history of Nigeria and of the Commonwealth, and indeed, of the world”. Understandably, Nigerians were overjoyed by the new chapter in human history that the prime minister opened on that momentous day. They were proud of their nascent country. They were hopeful and optimistic because with her enormous mineral and agricultural resources, and the most educated work force in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria was potentially “Africa’s superpower and a stabilizing democratic influence in the region”.

Lamentably, fifty nine years later, our pride in Nigeria has been battered, our hopes dashed and our optimism sullied.

The entire spectrum of the Nigerian society is troubled; every institution is dysfunctional. There is hunger and disease, violence and bloodletting, lawlessness and strife, in the land. The political class is contemptuously indifferent to the plight of the Nigerian masses. Thus, social injustice and inequity thrive; and the economic gulf between the elite and the masses deepens and widens. The level of corruption is terrifying, and threatens to unravel the social fabric of the country. Not surprisingly, despite its historic significant, the independence anniversary lost its luster to many ordinary Nigerians. They find little or nothing worthy of celebration in an oil-rich country, where the generality of the masses are consigned to ignorance, poverty, joblessness and hopelessness.

On the other hand, in their total disconnect from the people they supposedly represent and serve, the power elite were, on that day, in a celebratory mood. Attired in meticulously spruced-up agbadas and sheltered in the VIP dais, they gleefully relished the pomp and spectacle of the occasion. After the event, the Senate President, rhapsodically, declared to the press, “Nigeria at 59 has achieved a lot”. What achievement was he talking about? It must be this false sense of achievement that informed that baffling and disgusting triumphalism that marked the event. And to the press, the Secretary to the Government preached a disingenuous sermon, “The change must begin with each and every one of us. …we must begin to change our attitude, our ways of doing things, become lawful citizen….” His sermon was self-serving sophistry because any realistic moral and ethical change must start from the top and filter down to the bottom. The change he demands must start with the power elite, not the masses.

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The Nigerian rulers should change; they must stop behaving like colonial masters or Apartheid elites, totally estranged from the plight and yearnings of the people. They must change the present unconscionable system that relegates Nigerian workers to vegetate on the lowest minimum wages, and makes our legislators the highest paid legislators, in the world. State governors must stop embezzling between five hundred million naira (N500m) and one billion naira (N1, 000m) each, every month, as “security vote”, in a country where 70% of the population live in poverty, and some state government employees labor for months without being paid their salaries.

Nigerians are nostalgic for the 1960s and 1970s, when corruption was an aberration, and our leaders were relatively accountable to the people. Despite the enormous powers of their offices, the likes of the prime minister, Tafawa Belewa, and premier, Michael Okpara, remained relatively impecunious because they were not corrupt. Then, the notoriously, incorrigibly corrupt were accused of misappropriating ten percent of the cost of government projects. “NEPA” “did not take light”. Electricity supply was virtually uninterrupted all year round. Street lights functioned, almost faultlessly. They automatically came up at 6pm and went off at 6am. It was when Nigerians respected the sanctity of human life; and the levels of crime and violence were extremely low. In the days preceding the civil war, the police were not armed with guns; they could maintain law and order with just batons.

Across board, academic standards were very high in Nigerian schools. Admission to the universities was on merit, not through bribe and connections. The lecturers were content with the impecuniosity of their prestigious and venerated profession. Thus, they did not sell hand-outs, sort out, trade good grades for money and sex. Nigerian universities met global standards, and the University of Ibadan, especially, its medical school was world renowned.

Nigerians were not as selfish and insatiable; expectations were modest and reasonable. Money was expected to be earned based on individual abilities and resourcefulness. Illegitimate wealth and unexplainable riches were despised and excoriated.

Unfortunately, over the years, everything changed dramatically for the worse; and at 59 years old, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries of the world. Even, ordinarily, strongholds of morality and integrity, like the judiciary, academia and the church are corrupt in Nigeria. Those in power are not accountable to the people, and have no qualms in stealing everything within reach; they steal public funds with the ruthlessness that will flabbergast, even, the most vicious armed robbers.

Electric supply collapsed and darkness holds sway over the country. We lost our sense of outrage, and Nigeria degenerated to a bastion of moral squalor honeycombed with bandits, kidnappers, killer herdsmen, armed robbers, con artists, ritual killers, etc. An exhaustive catalog of the woes of Nigeria is beyond the scope of this article. The point however is that without being figurative or hyperbolic, Nigeria is totally “jaga jaga” and everything about her, totally “skata skata”. Therefore, October 1, 2019 should not have been a day of celebration, but lamentation.

We should have lamented the unfulfilled potentials of Nigeria and the indescribable rot and wretchedness that engulfed our beloved country.

A onetime American Secretary of State, Mrs. Hilary Clinton, once summed it up, “They (the Nigerian ruling elite) have squandered their oil wealth, they have allowed corruption to fester and now they are losing control of parts of their territory because they won’t make hard choices”.

It is the refusal to make hard choices by a series of irresponsible and corrupt governments that explains our seemingly intractable multi-facet problems. With the much-hyped selflessness, incorruptibility and gutsiness of Mohammadu Buhari, Nigerians justifiably expected his presidency to be a watershed: a break from the past.

This did not happen because he refused to make hard choices. He cannot make hard choices because President Buhari and his entourage, and the shady and self-seeking cabal that pulls the oligarchic strings from behind the façade of democracy are benefiting from the anarchy and corruption that suffuse the land.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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Opinion

Nagode Aisha Buhari For Punching Garba Shehu, Mamman Daura’s Shoe Shiner

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aisha buhari

By Churchill Okonkwo

Aisha Buhari has proven herself before now as an amazon and woman of courage and character. When in October 2016 President Buhari said Aisha “belongs to my kitchen, and my living room and the other room”, a good percentage of Nigerians (men and women) lambasted him for demeaning and derogating women. In response, President Buhari stubbornly maintained that his wife belongs in the kitchen even in the face of national outcry. He added that Aisha should stay out of politics.

Unfortunately for President Buhari and the people around him who claim to be speaking on his behalf even without his knowledge, Aisha has stayed in politics and has fired again. This time, she has accused her husband’s nephew, Mamman Daura, of giving out orders for the scrapping of the office of the First Lady. In the allegation, Aisha accused her husband’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, of ordering for the scraping the office of the First Lady without the President’s knowledge. By this statement, Aisha Buhari is clearly saying that Garba Shehu is shining Mamman Daura’s shoes.

By speaking up on the cabal that hijacked her husband’s administration, again, Aisha Buhari is demonstrating an act of rare courage that encapsulates the theme of the 2017 International Women’s day “Women in the Changing World of Work. Aisha Buhari remains a model for Nigerian girls and women. For daring to voice the genuine concern of most Nigerians, Aisha Buhari should be seen and celebrated by Nigerian women (as well as men) as a symbol of courage.

In this latest sucker punch, Aisha Buhari stated that even with the scaping of the office of the First Lady by Shehu Garba and the real powers behind Buhari, she has raised funds to run her humanitarian programs. Aisha Buhari is building momentum for the effective implementation of the goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; ensuring inclusive and quality education for all, promoting lifelong learning and celebrating extraordinary women.

I am particularly thrilled by the power and stubborn determination exhibited by Aisha when on his return in October, he publicised and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media on some incidents in Aso Rock. Aisha Buhari, thus, did the job that Shehu Garba is paid to do.

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Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina, who ordinarily should know better, have been celebrating imprisonment of press freedom in Nigeria. The media team of the Nigerian Presidency is grossly incompetent and has been displaying a blurred vision. Vision blurred by intellectual dullness and moral depravity.

This was clearly on display from the allegations Aisha Buhari leveled against Garba Shehu whom she accused of attempting to sack her media crew and getting them suspended for doing their job. Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina who recently claimed that millions of Nigerians do not care about Omoyele Sowore’s illegal detention have brought more shame and disgrace to the President and the office of the President they are paid to manage. Shameful.

As Aisha Buhari, rightly pointed out, “in saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers.” But no, Shehu Garba will not resign.

The culture of affirmation as opposed to challenge being displayed by the likes of Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina is disturbing and by some measures, offensive. Be it laziness or narcissism, there is little excuse for obviously well paid and well-educated professionals to relax into tired inertia. They deceive themselves and those around them that Nigeria is being moved in the right direction by this administration. Thus, the future of Nigeria is being threatened by sloppy thinking as superstitious nonsense spread its tentacles.

Aisha’s sucker punch of Shehu Garba as a person with not just intellectual dullness but one that also has intellectual dishonesty should be worrying to all supporters of President Buhari, myself inclusive.

To paraphrase Cyril Connolly, Garba Shehu with all his talents has now condemned himself to second-rate thought and the degrading job of shinning Mamman Daura’s Shoes. He has shown himself to be intellectually lazy and shallow: peddling ignorance as an actual governing alternative. It is very interesting watching Garba Shehu descend to the lowest level of a sycophant shining Daura’s shoes in other to keep his job.

Thank you, again, Aisha for being courageous in exposing the dangerous men that are endangering Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy.

Nagode Aisha!

@Churchillnnobi

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editor thereof.

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Opinion

Who Advises Aisha Buhari – The Angry Matron Of The Villa?

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Aisha Buhari

By Fredrick Nwabufo

Jane Appleton Pierce, the wife of Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States, is perhaps, most remembered as the ‘’calamity first lady’’. She spent her years working against the political ambition of her husband. And when he eventually became president she still did not let up.

Is Aisha Buhari ‘’calamity first lady’’? Really, I ask because she appears to reveal all the dirty and soiled undergarments of the villa to the chagrin of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In October, in the heat of the controversy effectuated by an interview granted by Fatima Mamman Daura, daughter of the ‘’cabal honcho’’ to sully Aisha, I expressed concern regarding the knotty problem the first lady was dealing with at the villa.

To me, it was clear Mamman Daura’s daughter leaked the video recording of Aisha in her most distressed state to embarrass her.

Also, I considered it duplicitous that the ‘’cabal’’ was in conflict with the first lady and at the same time cozying up to the president and huddling in his kitchen.

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I had asked: Can the cabal love the president more than his wife? Can they be for the president but against his wife? Does loyalty not come with full compliments? Is disloyalty to the wife of the president, loyalty to the president?

I believe the president and his wife share intimacy by dint of marriage. She is naturally his biggest influencer; whispering sweet ‘’nothings and somethings’’ in his ear during pillow talk.

But as a matter of fact, Aisha is now coming off as an angry black first lady. Her concerns as regards her family affairs, may or may not be genuine, but she has become catty in handling them.

The office of the first lady is a pivotal one. It should bring the zing to the administration. It should be that ‘’soft and cuddly touch’’ of the administration. The office should also be the staunchest promoter of the government and not an outlet for exhibiting hypocritical tigritude.

At the weekend, the first lady accused presidential aides of not ‘’defending the government’’ enough.

According to her, ‘’aides are supposed to take action against the offenders, or to take action or to take charge or be in control, or caution people, they keep mute. But when it comes to unnecessary things, people will start talking from the presidency.”

I find this amusing. Aisha herself has been the biggest demarketer of the administration. I will give instances.

In May, the first lady ridiculed the N500 billion social investment programme initiated by her husband’s government. She said it failed in the north.

Hear her: “I was expecting the N500bn to be utilised in different methods in the north for the aim to be achieved. I don’t know the method they used, but most of the northern states do not get it. My state does not get it.’’

In October, 2016, Aisha said she might not support Buhari’s re-election — that he is a titular head being puppeteered by three people – the cabal.

In November at the National Islamic Council meeting in Abuja, she spared no verbal attack for anyone, cutting down every organ and institution of government with her tongue.

But is it the place of the first lady to reprimand aides appointed by the president in the open? Do they report to her? Were they appointed by her?

I am really concerned. Does Aisha really know how government functions? Beyond her criticisms of the administration, which I must say resonate with me as a critic, she appears to be classically ignorant of the operations of government.

Really, Aisha has shaped up to be that lady of the manor who commands obedience by heckling, cursing and caterwauling.

I saw through the veneer of her hypocrisy when she spoke in support of the draconian social media bill. According to her, the first family ought to be protected from the irritations of social media.

She even reprimanded Lai Mohammed, minister of information, in public for not taking action on those she conceived to be offenders on social media. It was clear to me that her attacks, even on the administration, were for an insular end – not that she loved the people.

I advise Aisha, the matron of the villa, to take lessons in grace, temperance and carriage from Michelle Obama, former first lady of the US.

She could also choose to see a role model in the late Mariam Babangida.

  • Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editor thereof.

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Opinion

The Open Society Endangered ― Wole Soyinka

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Wole Soyinka

(Being a talk delivered at the UN World Anti-Corruption Day, Abuja, Dec. 9. 2019)

Present here, I fully expect, is the youth contingent of this undertaking. We are still within the United Nations designated Year of the Child, and that makes youth involvement doubly appropriate as an integral part of our encounter.

This is not a mere sentiment. As some of you here may recall, I have referred to my set on occasion as the Wasted Generation.

I recall that this led to some members of the generation after mine referring to theirs as the Lost Generation. It all happened during a lecture, and the speaker’s comment went thus: “Professor Soyinka does not know how lucky he is. His generation has been merely wasted, ours is lost.” I do not know if that speaker was right, or I was, or maybe both were.

Frankly, I am not even sure which is worse – to be lost or to be wasted. All I am certain of is –moral endangerment, the degradation of moral sensibilities in the vulnerable sector of any society, however, defined. That impressionable sector is always at risk wherever abnormalities become accepted as the norm, and the jettisoning of moral restraints is lauded, through example, as the basis of routine existence.

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If I may use a notorious example, can anyone of us have failed to remark how the phenomenon of cultism has penetrated downwards, lower and lower in generational infiltration until we now read of it even in some elite primary schools?

Children may not find themselves in situations where they can actually engage in corrupt practices, but they grow up eventually into that stage, and if they have been raised in an environment where adults are exposed as corrupt, even expelled from their positions of status, only to return to their home base, to be lauded by their communities, received with pomp and pageantry and garlanded with chieftaincy titles, it requires no special exercise of the imagination to project what the future holds for overall society.

The principle of “catch them young” is one that pervades most spheres of human activity, so it’s all a question of who does the “catching”. If we are serious and convinced about a foundational principle of social conduct, then we obviously cannot leave others to do the catching.

One of the most telling exercises I have indulged in my creative career was one which evolved from my activities in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. We initiated a youth item called “The Vision of the Child”. This consisted of members of that yet undefined generation being set a theme for creative interpretation –in painting, essay and even poetic forms. We encouraged them to let their imagination roam free in all directions.

One such theme that I set them was “The Thousand And One Faces of Corruption”. The results were remarkable. If anyone thought that children even at the ‘innocent’ age downwards from thirteen or fourteen all the way down to seven or six, do not know what ‘corruption’ means, how it works, how it affects their lives and their families, they should see some of those visual and literary compositions, talk to their authors and artists, and ask the latter to explain some of the seemingly abstruse images they create.

You would be thoroughly chastened. For example, even I had not thought of dragging Sambisa forest into the geography of corruption, being too preoccupied with the horror of that outrage in itself. They did, albeit inspired by an earlier thematic imposition – THE ROAD TO SAMBISA. This is how it all begins – read their submissions – with corruption overwhelming even basic social and governance responsibilities.

Mr Magu, the chairman of EFCC happened on that exhibition and was sufficiently struck as to request that it tour the nation. We were more than willing. Some of his staff visited the exhibition at Freedom Park and went into preliminaries with our young collaborators. That was – how many years ago? More ruefully, will that exhibition ever travel beyond its present confines?

Since then, that initiative has metamorphosed into an even more elaborate movement with the name Corruption Busters – launched in Lekki in December 2017. I was able to attend just the beginning of the event but, from the evidence of the video recording, the Vice-President threw himself most vigorously into that initiative.

So did a couple of supportive foreign embassies Since then, however, that movement appears to have gone into recession – but I may be wrong. I would be curious to see if they participated in the Walk from EFCC to this venue this morning. If not, Mr Magu, you and I have a problem!

The coincidence of global affirmations of past agreements on social conduct such as the ongoing celebration of the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Anti-Corruption Day which is today, reinforced by the World Human Rights Day on Tuesday, tomorrow, should be exploited to the fullest, not merely to involve that generation in a progressive seizure of society and humanity, but also to compel adults to see both themselves and the society they have created through the eyes of children, obtain a glimpse of how that generation itself views and assesses the conduct and values of their parents, uncles, aunts, chiefs, their ministers, even their priests and supposed moral exemplars.

Youth participation takes multiple forms, even where the youths are not physically present. Images are useful ‘take-away’ teachers. The venue of this encounter could have been festooned with the results from that – or similar –exhibitions, or other related exercises that represent minds yet under formation.

If you must take on corruption, which runs 24/7 all-year-round, then we must be alert to all opportunities to propagate the counter-gospel 24/7 all year round, with bonus ‘opportunity targets’ – to borrow from military parlances – such as the mentioned triple notations on the UN calendar. Do some of us sometimes perhaps appear obsessed by this problem? Of course.

Long before any government ever thought it to make it its business, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian individuals in their fields of activities have tackled it head-on with all attendant risk. The choice was to ‘join them or fight them’. How many here are old enough to have heard of the civilian Anti-Bribery League headed by the owner – I hopefully recollect — of Lisabi Mills in Yaba? Or later, of the government’s short-lived initiative, the X-Squad with offices in 5(?) Milverton Street, Ikoyi?

Somehow or the other it takes on the intensity of a personal battle, for which agonizing setbacks, such as the assassination of the late Bola Ige, a personal friend, but also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of this nation, only serve as a further spur. Only the cynical fail to accept that it is a contest that transcends politics, partisanship and even governance, which, in this particular instance, has sunk in recent times to its lowest ebb.

Corruption triggers off numerous collateral activities in institutional conduct and governmental interface with the citizenry, confrontation with its effects is thus plainly transformational.

This means that, for any corruption degraded society, it should be nothing less than revolutionary in approach – call it by that or any other word, it is still a revolutionary undertaking. Revolution Now? Or Soon? Later or Whenever? An anti-corruption focus is surely integral to any revolutionary agenda, often it constitutes its very trigger – checks any society you wish – from Cuba through China to Egypt or Myanmar.

Corruption is hardly ever omitted in the list of indictments that justify that very undertaking called a revolution. Thus, anti-corruption activism is a conscious, revolutionary offensive that aims at the transformation of the totality of the social phenomena. Those agencies, or governments that permit themselves to be terrified by the word had better learn to live with it.

Even governments sometimes pride themselves with claims that they have revolutionized this or that facet of society or indeed, of governance itself., meaning that such a government embarks on a drastic self-transformation in both form and practice. So much, in general terms.

Now we turn our spotlight more specifically on that agency that appears to consider the word treasonable. Has anyone been following recent testimonies in the media by those who have entered the dungeons of the state security agency and lived to tell the tale?

What has emerged in these past few days is that the very agency that recently desecrated the sanctum of justice is itself charged with corruption. It is publicly claimed that extortion has become commonplace, inflicted on helpless citizens, some of whom lack a voice, or influential contacts, unlike the yet ongoing instance of a former media publisher and presidential candidate.

Corruption can only be fought and degraded, if not entirely destroyed, within the reality of an open society. And an open society is built and sustained on the freedom of expression.

And here comes the complement to that assault. We need only veer laterally and consider a recent – perhaps merely fortuitous act of – partnership by another governance installation – the legislative houses.

We must thank the DSS for impressing on us the same obligatory call to interrogate any proposition that curtails that right of free expression, even where camouflaged under the rubric of Hate Speech. Or Fake news. Both, we all agree are not only harmful but cowardly and despicable.

However, combine these recent sample offerings from the two institutional within the context of an Open Society and where do we find ourselves? Let me repeat: a legislature proposes nothing less than capital punishment for what it deems Hate speech.

First, are we really prepared to take on the awful responsibility of telling our children that the rational response to any kind of social outrage is to kill? Does that truly reflect the ascent of humanity from instinctive animal predatoriness? Let us take a moment to follow the trajectory of what amounts to nothing less than a vicious cycle.

This very setting in which we are assembled, Aso Rock, could not be more appropriate for charting the perilous waters into which this nation is being plunged. So, here goes, a reconstruction that should by no means be considered a worst-case scenario.

Society does not operate in virtual reality. We exist palpably. The structure that is constitutionally empowered to determine what is denounced as

Hate or Toxic Speech is rendered ineffectual daily through acts of executive condescension and disdain from the peak of governance. The seal of desecration was finally planted on the institution of law, the sole legitimate adjudicator, by an agency that now stands accused of violating the very principles that this agency, the EFCC and its sister ICPC, were set up to uphold.

Is it excessive to consider the possibility that other potential accusers of that security agency are locked up in dungeons, some forgotten for upwards three to four years? Kindly check the media for testimonies of those who have recently been discharged from or discovered in DSS custody after years in their hellholes.

How would the DSS now respond, given the protection of this ready-to-kill Bill on Hate? Obviously, with a complaint of Hate Attack by the accusers, punishable by death. The agency proceeds to arrest the newspaper staff and the accusers. The case goes to hearing. The judge sets a date and grants the accusers bail.

What happens next? The agency under accusation invades the court, scatters everyone, pounces on the recently bailed ‘felon’ and drags him off struggling desperately for life and liberty. That, I repeat, is not a worst-case scenario, nor is it far-fetched. The blueprint is out in the public domain.

The anti-corruption offensive, on which we are hopefully sincerely engaged, is meaningless without complete openness and without the total liberty of every citizen, subject only to constraints imposed under the law.

It is, therefore, most heart-warming that civil society is waking up to its responsibilities and has called strongly for an apology to the nation from the so-called Directorate of State Services.

We must proceed further. We need from the DSS a list of all its current detainees, their names, addresses and records of confinement. I see no security issue fulfilled in keeping such names secret. Why is any citizen reduced to paying 50,000 Naira to bribe an officer to procure a cellphone, just to let his family know that he is alive but immured in a dungeon?

The right to information must be exercised comprehensively and most certainly in favour of citizen liberty, in conformity to that third United Nations notation – Human Rights – that it has designated for tomorrow. So perhaps something positive will be extracted from this collective violation that this nation has recently undergone.

With that foregoing, Greetings on my own behalf, and on behalf of – shall we call them? – the anxious generation, on this World’s Anti-Corruption Day. Let this morning’s overture, the symbolic walk from the designated citadel of ethical transformation to this venue be absorbed as a walk to freedom within a corruption-free air for those forgotten Nigerians in illegal captivity.

A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, wrote Nelson Mandela, a victim of a vicious system called apartheid. We do not labour under apartheid terror, so let us shorten that walk and open up society by giving voice to the voiceless, and presence to the absent, held under our very noses under inhuman conditions, forced to pay for the privilege of reminding the rest of us, in approximate freedom, that they still exist. In short, let us embrace the liberating, transformative spirit of — if not exactly Revolution Now – then at least, maybe — Liberation Now?

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