By John Uwa
onsidering the precarious economic, religious, social, security, political, educational, mental and physical situation Nigeria finds itself in today, it may not be possible to refute the assumption that over 90% of the Nigerian population yearn for a New Nigeria. And unless one is, tragically clueless, a beneficiary of the unprecedented looting of the Nigerian commonwealth, a broad day liar like the scribe who, despite the obvious, tells us that the government of General Buhari has done well with the security and economy since 2015, or all three, the preceding assumption should be taken as fact. And by a new Nigeria, I mean a country where the culture of the Rule of Law is held as sacred irrespective of tribe, religion, ethnicity and personality; a country where mediocrity is replaced by meritocracy, individualism replaced by collectivism, sectionalism replaced by nationalism, and extremism replaced by patriotism; a new Nigeria where its citizens understand and believe that there must be punishment for vice and reward for virtue, a new nation where its citizens must live together in unity, equality, fairness and mutual respect. And without doubt, the measurements spelt out above for a new Nigeria are the indicators for qualifying great nations.
However, the real dilemma embeds in the following questions; how do we usher in a New Nigeria? And, how do we wrestle and take back our country from the strangulating grip of a few dishonest and manipulative Nigerians masquerading themselves as politicians and statesmen? Answering these questions is as difficult as trying to understand why we stay hungry amid plenty, perennially import products that are natural to us, kill on behalf of God and celebrate the very people who plunder our commonwealth and threaten our existence as a nation as a people, and give amnesty to criminals while their victims remain unintegrated in IDP camps. However, George Orwell’s beast fable titled Animal Farm tends to provide some artistic canvass for answering the questions posed above.
In Animal Farm, Orwell tells a story of a group of exploited animals who are moved into rebellion as a result of important factors that would change the tragic course of their destinies. The first was an inspiring dream of redemption told to them by a more experienced pig named Old Major; and the second was the highhandedness of the human farm owner, who exploits the animals for personal gain. With these two factors, the animals staged a successful revolution that sacked the human farm-owner and set up a new government where animals would be in charge. Unfortunately, the revolution was betrayed by a dictatorial government headed by a brutal pig named Napoleon. Napoleon would change the guiding anthem and rules of the farm to soothe the exotic thirsts of the ruling class and send his deadly state dogs after any animal that dares to protest against his tyrannical rule.
Two important tools used by Napoleon in putting the other animals under subjection were the promulgation of the inspiring anthem that led to the revolution and using the state security apparatus, synonymized as the vicious dogs, to enforce compliance. The second was to use deception, lies, and propaganda to portray contrary views as enemies of the state. The novel is an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution which sacked the tsarist autocracy and saw Joseph Starlin betraying his comrades like Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky and the Russian people while assuming the status of a dictator. However, the events, characters and places of the novel can be deployed in explaining the tragic social, political, and economic destinies of Nigerians since the turn of the 4th Republic.
Generally speaking, the events of the novel allude to the insidious approach to governance in Nigeria characterized by the gross abuse of power, gross disregard for the interest of the ‘people’, avarice, corruption, clannish patronage, planlessness, wastedness and gross incompetence. The first revolution which sacked Mr Jones, the farm owner, may be likened to the 2015 presidential election which ushered in the APC government headed by Gen. Buhari after the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan. That election was particularly successful for two reasons; firstly, it came at a time when the Nigerian people wanted a change from the old order of looting, which characterized the PDP government, into a government that will usher in the dawn of a new Nigeria. Unfortunately, the expected change was never to be as the new government, turns out to be even ‘more corrupt’ and clueless than the earlier one. The tragic per capita income, plummeting exchange rate, increased corruption, overwhelming insecurity, institutional exploitation of the populace, ethnic suspicion etc. are all indexes of the disillusionment of Nigerians. Secondly, there is a general agreement that the current government rode into power through massive media propaganda, lies, intimidation, misinformation and false promises. Once it assumed power, it went 360 degrees on its promises, supervising, as it appears, the very opposite of its promises.
For example, without realizing that no tyranny or circumstance can silence the voice of redemption and freedom, it went ahead to clamp down on the voices of the people by banning, the now reversed, use of Twitter—a tool that was very instrumental to its emergence. With this restriction on the use of social media, Nigerians found themselves in a situation not different from those of the events in Animal Farm where the pigs (the ruling class) modified the brotherhood creed to suggest that “some animals are more equal than the others”, and then put a complete embargo on the singing of the revolutionary anthem (beast of England, beast of Ireland, beast of every land and clime, harken to my joyful tiding of the golden future time…) which brought them into power. And to enforce compliance, they will send their dreaded dogs (the DSS, EFCC etc.).
Unfortunately, with the precarious situation we find ourselves as a nation, Nigerians have reached the precipice and crossed the rubicon of silence and have proven that they can be united in the struggle for a new Nigeria. The END SARS protest is a pleasant reminder of this hope of an untied Nigeria. While that protest was brutally terminated under the pretence of ‘breakdown of law and order’, it would set a fire of freedom that no dictator could extinguish. As we inch towards the 2023 general election the Nigerian youths are reigniting the spirit of END SARS to take back their country through the instrumentality of Peter Obi who has shown promises in theory and practice through empirical examples, verifiable records, and the “no shishi” mantra. With the emergence of Peter Obi, the redemption song now has a tonic sulpha with the youth of ‘every land and clime’ in Nigeria adding their voices to make the song even more melodious. We see a youthful generation of over a Hundred million wanting to take back their country from the strangulating grip of recycled politicians of the ‘emilokan’ generation, and vesting it in the hands of a man whose main vision is to convert Nigeria from a consumption economy into a production economy, and from sharing formula into job creation formula.
Unlike other presidential elections in the past, 2023 releases some freshness in the presidential options by presenting Nigerians with a beacon of hope hanging like an apparition in the sky, waiting for all suffering Nigerians to rise above ethnoreligious prejudices and barricades, that have set us on a roller-coaster to self-destruction, and to make the right choices in electing a new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
From the reception trailing Peter Obi’s candidacy, there appears to be a dislocation of the ‘super structure’ required to win an election from the political parties, and relocating it in the hands of the people and civil organizations—ASUU, NASU, NUT, NUC, TUC, NANS etc. who bear the direct consequences of misgovernance and incompetency. Peter Obi’s candidacy transcends ethnic and religious prejudices to hang in the sky as an apparition of hope, waiting to rescue millions of Nigerians drowning in the lake of death, ploughed by the PDP and irrigated by the APC, through the general election of 2023. What we can do to ‘fire’ the grandfathers by whom we have been so blessed, and to usher in a new Nigeria is to request issue-based campaigns, register as voters, get our PVC and continue to sing the redemption song into the 2023 Presidential election.
John Uwa (PhD) wrote from the University of Lagos
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