Fury from Our Youths: A Breath Away from Freedom


Lai Mohammed, the current minister of Information and Culture confirmed the fears of Nigerians recently when he announced that he was at a loss to understand why youths are in the streets demonstrating. For those who don’t know, this same man was at the forefront of the propaganda machinery that swept away the former administration calling for “change “in every area of our life. Everyone remembers him; why not? It is impossible not to remember someone who promised them every good thing under the heavens—end to banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, hunger, strife, maladministration, bloodletting, etc. But today, only few years down the line, with his “administration” in the saddle, Life has become hellish for the same Nigerians that spontaneously drove the youths into the streets. The specter of dying in acute poverty, hunger and starvation over and above unbridled nepotism, obduracy has inevitably spurred them into non-violent action! Take this scenario: a man returns home from “toil”—for there is no work anywhere—except for those privileged in the executive, legislature and Judiciary—to find hike in electricity tariff; he had trekked home earlier because of high cost of petrol and because he had no money—under Lai Mohammed’s administration money is a scarce commodity—to “purchase” electricity credit nor fuel for his generator and even foodstuff to feed his family and with no prospects ever except promises, you can imagine the state of his mind! The agony of not being able to feed your family and remaining jobless for a length period knows no fury—not to mention the lingering dismal human right records.  The Bible attested to this fact that a man who reasonably cannot feed his family is a dead man—an infidel. And if Lai Mohammed insist, he still does not know why they are demonstrating here are other reasons: what other leaders before now did not attempt, including the late Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Yar Adua, etc., this one, under his administration has overdone it—enough for the owners to see. The symptoms of bad leadership are all there for anyone to see—lopsided appointments, wrong citing of projects, abuse of government regulations and laws, undermining the constitution, term limits for retirements and promotions, neglect of vital infrastructures, deceptive values, and cold shoulders for the poor! If Lai Mohammed wants  to know, the nation is going through dark times. Amongst others, the youths are demonstrating against preposterous nepotism; the  choice of nonviolent demonstrations was  made to give room for peaceful negotiation—and it wasn’t made in one day; it came after protracted abuse and neglect of larger sections of Nigerians for them to spill into the streets. Just in case Lai Mohammed still doesn’t understand what nepotism and nonviolent demonstration is, the following explanation will tell him.  Nepotism is described as “favoritism granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other high profile activity; the term originated in the assignment of important positions to nephews by Catholic priest and bishops in the papal kingdom; Nepotism has been criticized since the ancient times by several philosophers including Aristotle, Valluver and Confucius; they unanimously agreed that the practice was both evil and unwise. The famous philosopher Valluver was to state in his book of Kural literature which formed a manual for governments and corporations about nepotism and favoritism that: “if you choose an unfit person for your job just because you love and like him, he will lead you to endless follies”. That is not far from what the nation is witnessing today. The most incredulous is why a man so loved and overwhelmingly elected only few years ago has suddenly become the butt of widespread demonstrations! As it was in his military days so it has become in his civilian cloths—nearly 40 years after! Nepotism means bias, partiality, partisanship, inequity and discrimination; this cannot be mistaken for democracy which is essential for freedom of expression, fair legal system, equality before the law and freedom from arbitrary arrest; those who have little or no tolerance for political pluralism are not far from being described as dictators—or at worst despots. Nigeria is not North Korea, Syria, Eritrea, Yemen or Equatorial Guinea where human right records and nepotism are highest. This is far from the expectations of Nigerian youths! At least not those born in the 90’s that are now all over the streets. It seemed unbelievable but how would Lai Mohammed feel to wake up and see new functional railway transportation like it is in Bangkok running from Nyanya to Gwagwalada; massive alternative highway cutting through the mountains in Mararaba all the way to Karshi, Kuje and Dei Dei? Is he happy that all his government does is to sponsor non profitable ventures like the hated Ruga system, the water bill, award of contracts to benefit outside regions? Have they ever promulgated bills to take care of the aged? Bills to cater for the youths? Who will stomach the vengeful and ill-advised retention of people who ought to have retired to pave way for younger ones? Who will understand the consistent elevation of one tribe over and above the others? If Lai Muhammed does not know, the youths are wiser; the Bible stated that in Egypt, a Pharaoh rose who did not know Joseph; the youths on the streets today do not know who Muhammed Buhari is; they are using nonviolent means to express their grievances for the rulers; what worked for the generation of the Lai Mohammed’s cannot work for the new digital generation; there is nothing anybody can do about this—not even booming guns. The youths are but a breath away from freedom! Most of us hardly read books; that’s why the Whiteman said of Africans “if you want to hide anything put it inside book and they will not see it”! About nonviolent demonstrations, let me help Lai Mohammed explain the choice. A certain Gene Sharp who was the head of Albert Einstein Institution in New York advocated nonviolence for practical rather than spiritual reasons. He rejects religious exhortations that we should turn in the other check and love our enemies contending that people in power often deserve to be despised and fought—because of distrust. But he clearly argued against the use of violence saying that at the end, it creates more problems than it solves leading to greater injustice and suffering. He postulated that the best way to oppose an unjust regime is through nonviolent actions that may lead to massive institutional reforms. Another philosopher named Erica Chenoweth did empirical studies to demonstrate the powers of nonviolent quest for social reforms titled: “Lysistrata non action” refers to the Aristophenian play in which Greek women withhold sex from their men until the men stopped fighting wars. The goal is to get the people to realize that they have more power—more choices—than they think they do. He stated that even the most brutal tyrants need the cooperation of citizens –not just those serving as soldiers and police but throughout the society. Yet another Philosopher David Hume wrote: “were you to preach in most parts of the world that political connections are founded together on mutual trust and consent you will be asked to shut up for advancing absurdities!” Though realists accuse proponents of nonviolence as being naïve and wishful thinking, Mao Zedong stated that “political power grows not from the barrel of the gun but of the people!” History offers abundant evidence of the power of nonviolent methods-even against the most ruthless regimes. In 494 B.C, working class plebeians in Rome Consuls staged a kind of sit-down-strike in a hill near the city, later called the Sacred Mount; they remained there for several days disrupting life in Rome until the Consuls acceded to their many demands; likewise, more than 200 years later, Roman soldiers employed same tactics to win concessions from the Roman Senate. Gandhi in India organized nonviolent means using boycotts, strikes, and other nonviolent means to oust the British empire; Martin Luther King marched against segregation and other legally sanctioned forms of racism while Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) overcame white rule in South Africa; in East Germany, Mongolia, Philippines, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere the results were the same. The most recent are the Arab spring and the revolt that pulled  down the aging Tunisian administration. Pessimists like Lai Mohammed who love to be heard often forgot instances in which ostensibly powerless people prevailed over violent regimes without use of force not to mention these days of social media revolution that allows simultaneous live streaming of events globally! There is really no hiding place for dictatorship, ethno-religious leadership and politically deceptive and hegemonic regimes. Nonviolent means of demonstrations like the type Nigerian youths are employing now are well suited to meet insidious as well as noble ends. Lai Mohammed should therefore not discountenance the fury of the Nigerian Youths for they are a breath away from freedom! His very nebulous and often fraudulent concepts in the past has caught up with him—and is here to haunt him. For those of us who are in our middle age, it is painful disappointment that 60 years after Nigeria gained independence from the British, it is only grief, pain and regret that we have. But while the lucky few would tell you that Nigeria is the only country that we have, because they get all the “appointments”, “jobs” the rest majority who are continually “cheated” wonder if Nigeria would ever be like China—or whether they would be around next 60 years to see the desired changes!