By Tochukwu Ezukanma
In one of her gossipy moods, my flibbertigibbet sister-in-law talked about me, “He is so full of himself”. To her, it was a disparaging characterization, but to me, it was something of an accolade. Actually, I am full of myself, and thank God Almighty that it is obvious in my deportment. I refuse to cringe before anybody or quake in trepidation of anyone because I am in complete agreement with Fela Anikulapo Kuti when he sang that “Man must be man for im land”.
Ordinarily, a Nigerian, as the “son of the soil” should be proud and self-confident in his own country, knowing that he is the subject of the concerns, policies and actions of elected and public officials and all the institutions of government. He should be at peace because his rights are guaranteed by the constitution and protected by the law. He should be smug because his entitlement to partake in the enormous wealth of his country is sacrosanct.
That the Nigerian system failed to guarantee the rights of Nigerians, and give us a sense of worth and entitlement is an aberration. Although the law assures us immunity from despotic acts of government and abuses from government agents, we are abused and exploited by government policies and the actions of government agents. The government operates in scornful indifference to the welfare, and legitimate concerns, of the people. The ruling elite deny the generality of Nigerians the opportunity to equitably share in the enormous wealth of the country. Trigger happy policemen routinely shoot and kill the innocent, and soldiers, supposedly, confined to barracks, foray into civilian centers to brutalize, maim and kill hapless civilians. Most of the times, they go unpunished. Life is merciless with the average Nigerian. It is a reality succinctly captured in another of Fela’s song, “He go be slave for im land to make ends meet”.
A system that effectively stripped the “son of the soil” of his rights and self-worth, and reduced him to a cringing, quaking “slave for im land” is unconscionable; it thrives on the systematic degradation and exploitation of the majority by a conscienceless elite minority. Was Apartheid in South African not the methodical degradation and exploitation of a Black majority by a White minority? Although Nigeria joined the global rally to end Apartheid in South African, Apartheid continues in Nigeria. The differences between the two versions of Apartheid are that in South African it was based on race and coded into law. In Nigeria, it is based on socio-economic class and not codified into law. Yet, there is no evidence that the Nigerian rendition of Apartheid is less severe in its thoroughness and systematic application than the South African.
Over the years, the Buhari administration worsened the problems of Nigeria. It visited increased extreme poverty on Nigerians. It worsened the state of insecurity and brought about an alarming debasement of human lives by pandering to banditry and Fulani terrorism. A number of narratives (some with fictional qualities) traced the origin of the bandits to President Buhari. The bandits are having a field-day; they are being financially rewarded for robbing, killing and kidnapping. Bizarrely, northern politicians and clerics are ingratiating the bandits and paying them staggering amounts of money as ransom. In their desperation to re-define criminality and exculpate the bandits from their multitude of crimes, they make statements that reek of the prattling of senility and imbecility.
The Buhari administration places more value on bovine (cow) life than human life, and has made it unequivocally clear that the Fulani terrorists are the lords of Nigeria. And therefore, have an incontestable right to every inch of the country, and the license to traverse the country, triumphantly and defiantly, flaunting their A47s; and raping women, murdering the innocent, sacking villages, and seizing them, with the explicit support of the federal government.
It has been written that, “The root of bondage is poverty, and the root of poverty is ignorance”. It is these twin scourges, ignorance and poverty, that reduced the average Nigerian to “slave for im land”. It is high time Nigerians forced the levitation of the Nigerian from “slave for im land” to “man for im land”. This can only be done through a re-distribution of power (knowledge and wealth). An enlightened and economically secure citizenry cannot be held in bondage. The redistribution of power demands courageous, collective, sustained, and strategically-directed protests and mass actions. It will take coordinated efforts of the labor unions, and professional and business associations to paralyze the economy, as hundreds of thousands, preferably, millions, in a peaceful protest, march on Abuja, and besiege Aso Rock and that bastion of grasping avarice and legislative mediocrity, the National Assembly, for an indefinite sit-in.
We will demand the immediate resignation or impeachment of President Buhari; accountability in governance; principled distribution of the national wealth; the restructuring of Nigeria; public execution for egregious acts of corruption; end to police and all official brutality; end to banditry and Fulani terrorism; the upgrading of our educational and health systems and the tripling of the budgetary allocations to them; etc. We will remain until our demands are met.
Even, at the risk of death, with tanks deployed against this sea of unarmed and peaceful humanity, and soldiers aiming their guns at it, we will stand firm. For we will be emboldened in the knowledge that: the “moral arc of the universe bends towards justice”; the greatest force on earth is an idea whose time has come; the transformation of a country, and the turning of “slaves for dem land” into “men for dem land” must involve some bloodshed; and it is better to shed some blood and attain freedom, justice and equity than for millions to continue to vegetate endlessly in the throes of economic strangulation and social degradation.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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