(Memo to: Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP),Campaign Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL),Association of Nigerian Professional Bodies, National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigerian Labour Congress).
This is an invitation to you to deploy, together, a nationwide mass demonstration against the corruption, hypocrisy and indifferent leadership that has run Nigeria aground.
The time is right. A sprint of Usain Bolt dimensions is required just to bring Nigeria abreast of where nations of our potential were 10 or 20 years ago, but our leaders are still waving only clichés they have neither intention nor imagination to pursue.
The Rule of law. Vision 20-2020. Seven-point plan. Electoral reform. One of the world’s most advanced. Development. Rebranding.
We know: you and me, that they are all empty. We know because while they spew those banal concepts and insult those who actually pursue work, their own conduct warns us the future is in jeopardy.
What confidence did the Ekiti re-run election teach you?
What are you learning from the trial of James Ibori in Asaba, at the hands of a judge of his own choosing?
What have you learnt from the government’s award of billions in contracts weekly that it conveniently neglects to implement?
What do you make of the current bragging of the People’s Democratic Party that it intends to “win” all non-PDP states over the next couple of years?
What have you learnt from the fact that when our president is ailing, he flees abroad, leaving ordinary Nigerians to die in our local hospitals everyday?
What are you learning from the magic show that passes for politics in PDP-Anambra?
Compatriots: it is all before our eyes: nothing has changed, and the past is our future.
I know you all know this. I have read public petitions, articles and statements authored by you.
It is all well-intentioned, but misplaced. You are showing the glory of the village full moon to Stevie Wonder. The leadership to which you send your messages neither reads nor cares. It is either unchanging, or unchangeable.
My message to you, therefore, is: Stop scratching your heads. Put down the pen. Fifty years of memo-writing has yielded no progress. Let us rise, and seize the history of this nation in our hands.
And I say the time is now because only two weeks ago, our Spectator-Leader, Umaru Yar’Adua, rose to disclaim a federal order issued in his name that, he claimed, violated our constitution.
The man lives. And whatever was the cause, he rose in some defence of his name. This would be a good time to send him an even more important message: a Gani Fawehinmi-inspired scream.
I should know. I have written about Nigeria from teenage to grey hair. I understand now why many that took the same path have surrendered their bylines and retreated: in Nigeria, criticism leads only to starvation. Critics are dismissed as people who have not had a chance at the buffet.
Something else: Nigeria drifts also because our leaders find us easy to manipulate. They prey on our divisions, our vanities, our simplistic hopes that they will look down and see us, Lazarus, dying for a drop of water. They prey on us while we pray. In effect, we drift not because they are strong, but because we permit them the knowledge we are weak.
Think about it: despite the evil governments and the mess they have made of us in the past generation, the authors of our plight remain among our nation’s most powerful today. The monsters they created are responsible for our financial collapse, our political nightmare, our economic doldrums, and our ethical wasteland.
In the past few weeks, notable Nigerians have spoken about where we go from here: Balarabe Musa, Chinua Achebe, Olu Falae, Patrick Utomi. Your organizations too.
Despite this, the federal government still lacks a gear by which true justice is dispensed and everyone is the same before the law. Brazenness and impunity remain the rule. State power is not being used to power the state or defend the weak. As we speak, the laughable House of Reps is pursuing a law that would place its members above the law. The privileged are providing for themselves.
In other words, even if it does seem we can go no lower, we are.
In recent public statements, some of you have spoken eloquently about these. I will not paraphrase you. I will not quote you. I will not even celebrate your sharp turns of phrase or outbursts of oratory until you admit that words and petitions are no longer enough.
That is why I urge you to develop a strategy of taking our collective destiny to the streets—peacefully—to deliver a clear, proactive message to the government about our collapse. In subsequent weeks or months, depending on what your tactics you agree, demonstrators can picket specific institutions or offices and demand justice and accountability. They can merely sit in front of specific buildings and eat guguru and epa for days, until the occupants beg to be allowed to run away.
Compatriots: History assures us there is power in the streets. There is untold power in the readiness of the disadvantaged and the exploited and the weak to walk together and talk together and sing a common song together. On the contrary, there is only weakness where they permit themselves only scared whispering and grumbling and writing in their corners and individual little groups.
Let us, one and all, strip to our most active attire and walk the streets in search of justice. This is particularly important now: halfway from our last false start and the eve of another belt of elections. It is the eve of Nigeria inflicting the ‘Rebrand Nigeria’ buffoonery internationally. It is the eve of Nigeria’s 2010 arrival at the United Nations Security Council to make a case abroad it refuses to make at home. It is the eve of Nigeria trying to convince the world there is nothing wrong in doing nothing to implement the Millennium Development Goals.
And yes, Yar’Adua is currently in Nigeria, not Germany or Saudi Arabia, and reportedly breathing on his own. We must take this opportunity to make an impression on him and the regression he has superintended.
We are tired of whimpering in our little corners, such as your bedroom and this column, and getting nowhere. Let us advance outdoors and scream together, in the streets. You have the organizations that can inspire every Nigerian to join a peaceful demonstration of your definition. Let us announce that Nigerians are no longer content to leave Nigeria to travel unsupervised. We have the power, in peaceful protests, to paralyze in order to energize.
This is in our hands. Let politicians and professionals and trade unionists and students join hands with housewives and teachers and drivers and nurses and journalists and clerks and doctors and drivers and policemen and artisans and lawyers and the unemployed so we can unchain each other, and speak with one irrepressible voice. I will be there.
It is time. Let us seize it and determine the future, or shut up.