Category Archives: Enough is enough

the journey of a 1000 miles.

Today is the first time I’ve ever attended a rally/protest. Ever since it was announced last month that ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’ Nigeria would organize a rally in Lagos after the one in Abuja, I looked forward to this day very eagerly. My last post talked about my belief in the power of protest as a way of making fellow citizens and politicians sit up and take notice. The roll call of celebrities was impressive: Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City who attended the rally in Abuja and went toe-to-toe with a mobile policeman in an iconic photograph came today. Ali Baba, ID Cabasa, Rita Dominic, Banky W, Knighthouse & Mo’Cheddah, Denrele Edun, Djinee, Kel, Rooftop MCs, ELDee and many others also came to march. We might think celebrities are ‘insulated’ from the struggles of most of us, but we’re wrong. Students from LASU came around to add their own peculiar colour to the proceedings, as well as a couple of mini-vuvuzelas. The noise those things produce is crazy. When I imagined 80,000 of them supporting SA in June, I shuddered. The walk itself was a long and difficult one, especially since it occurred at high noon. Luckily I brought two handkerchiefs and used both to the end. As I marched with my fellow youths, placard in hand, I watched the reactions of onlookers. Many of them encouraged us, a few drivers honked their horns as they passed. Almost everyone looked at the messages on our placards. Mine read: ‘Probe Corrupt Officials Now’. When we got to the Government House, we were told that Gov. Fashola was in the US with the Acting President. Having been informed of our rally, I would have thought that maybe the Deputy Governor, Sarah Sosan, would address the gathering. Instead we got the Secretary to the State Government. I don’t exactly know what happened at the very end because it was taking an awful long time, but for me the success or failure of the rally cannot be determined by the presence or absence of any government official.

While carrying my placard in one hand, I was trying to tweet with the other. Some comments on my timeline reminded me of what the real battle is: it’s a battle to get people to believe that change is possible, and that WE Nigerians are the ones most responsible for that change or lack of it. The real challenge is to get this defeatist mentality of ‘what will be will be’ out of our heads. If Black people had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘we shall overcome’, I doubt that the many immigrants there (including Nigerians) would find America even half as tolerant as it is now. If the Polish people had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘solidarity forever’, Communists would probably have continued their stranglehold of oppression throughout Eastern Europe. If the native South Africans had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘Free Mandela’, Apartheid would still be in charge there. There would be no ‘rainbow nation’, no World Cup to host, nothing. Even the right to practice Christianity that we enjoy, or choose NOT to enjoy was paid for by individuals. The Bible says: ‘unless a seed falls to the ground and dies…’. It is this concept of sacrifice that most of us are yet to understand. We live in an era of instant gratification and when we can’t get it, its not worth the trouble. We need to have a mentality upgrade. This is the real battle, not who is or isn’t running for President and not who is or isn’t head of INEC. In other countries of the world, the right to protest is denied and those who protest are beaten, locked up and killed. People still go out and march. Here, we are allowed to protest yet we make all kinds of excuses to make ourselves feel better. In China, there is no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Soon there will be no Google as well. Here, we have all these media of self-expression but we fail to maximize its power to effect change in our nation. The citizens of Nigeria must accept responsibility for the direction of this country, because politicians will only ever be politicians. Already, they are decamping and re-camping like prostitutes, trying to get back into the good books of government. Most of them have no ideology, no principle, no honour, and cannot be left to their devices while they rule us. A country’s citizens are the ultimate checks and balances in any form of government, especially in a democracy and today’s rally is an exercise of the right to speak up when things are going wrong.

Make no mistake, the road to a better Nigeria will be a long & difficult one. It will not end in 2011, but it has started this year. If we don’t protest, if we don’t come out to vote, if we don’t defend our votes, what is the alternative? More complaining? More weeping and grinding of teeth? God forbid! Evil only triumphs because good people fail to take action. Our children must not complain about the same things we and our parents complained about. We keep calling on God to save Nigeria, and He has given us another opportunity to make our next 50 years as a nation better than the first 50. We would do well to take it.

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The Power of Protest

The popular saying goes that ‘silence means consent’. No matter how aggrieved you feel about anything, if you don’t speak up the chances are that you will continue to suffer in silence. For many years now, this has been the attitude of the Nigerian citizen. In our nation today, silence is no longer golden. Recent months have seen three major protests: two by the ‘Save Nigeria Group’ in Lagos and Abuja and another tagged ‘Enough Is Enough’ in Abuja. These are signs that things are beginning to change. More and more people realize that waiting on the government to do the right thing or lamenting in private will never get us anywhere. Throughout history, those who have been in constituted authority have only done what is right because they are held accountable by those they govern. Our biggest problem since independence is that we don’t hold our leaders to account. One of the best ways to do this, apart from the ballot box, is through peaceful protest. In between elections, protest is a great way for citizens to show their displeasure with government policies. For at least 15 years, the only people that protest are Labour, usually over increase in petrol or salary increments. It is only now that protests in Nigeria are going beyond Labour to the wider populace.

In any democracy, the right to protest is a key part of civil liberties. It is a right that we haven’t used enough in 10 years of this 4th republic. So many things in this country are going wrong, and need to fixed YESTERDAY. The beginning of every solution (for example #lightupnigeria) is political will that can only come from good leadership. Nigerians have not shown that they are ready for good leadership because of their nonchalant/defeatist attitude to elections. I have a feeling that when we look back in 10-20 years time, the handling of Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness will be seen as the turning point. We were left rudderless as a nation for 90-odd days, and the outrage that has generated has made Nigerians a lot more politically aware, but this awareness needs to be translated into a very high turn-out among young people for the elections in 2011.

On the 13th of this month, there’ll be an ‘Enough Is Enough’ rally in Lagos. With the success of the Abuja version, young people in Lagos have taken it upon themselves to organize one here. A lot of people want change, but until recently it’s been mostly talk without any actions to put things right. Think about it like evangelism, only that the gospel protesters will be preaching is that we are finally tired of being pushed around by the political class. When you march in the sun for what you believe in, some others who feel the way you do will see your example and be convinced to also stick their necks out. It started with the ‘Save Nigeria’ protest, where old men like Kongi who is 70 led the march and as a result, Dora Akunyili found the strength to break ranks with the EXCOF because she had proof that public opinion was shifting. Since then, the protests have spread and people are becoming more emboldened. You do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel. Nigerians are looking around for people to lead, so that they can follow. Every single youth at that rally will be telling those looking on that it IS possible to get our country back from those who have held us hostage for so long. We will be passing the message that there is hope for Nigeria, because we are that hope.

Coming out in protest will also make those change candidates who want to contest for various offices in the next elections come forward to declare their intention to run. They may feel that Nigeria is finally ready to start a new chapter as we begin our next 50 years as a nation. The ultimate aim of these protests, in my opinion, will be to mobilize young people across the country to register to vote, select their candidates, vote for the candidates of their choice and perhaps most importantly, protect their votes. It’s been coined R-S-V-P and I think it’s very catchy and it will be very effective in spreading the word. Everyone and anyone who can possibly be at this rally should do so because if Nigeria goes down, we all go down. It’s as simple as that.