Wednesday, 19 June 2013
The #Occupynigeria Protests: A Failed Revolution By Muhammad Din Shehu
January 2012! A watershed in our annals. On a personal level, it was the year I finally got a job (Believe me its BIG news in these parts). After four years of waking up daily at 9am, sauntering into the living room for a customary breakfast of tea and bread; while watching Newstrack on Channelstv, and going straight back to bed after to snooze away my unemployment blues, I secured a job. I was naturally happy but one look around me and my happiness fell flat on its face. My boon companions and co-travellers in Nigeria’s rich wasteland of unemployment were still jobs without. A struggle it was for me to even ‘announce’ the news to them or celebrate too exuberantly. I have my reason. I did not want to engender self-pity in my friends by my ‘lottery win’. Some celebration can smack of insensitivity.
Such was my state of mind that cold January as I went through the formality of documentation with my new employers. The documentation itself was hastily done as news was rife that organized Labour was about to embark on an indefinite strike action to protest government removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) known in these climes as petrol. True to word the strike action began and all over Nigeria, spontaneous street protests snowballed into a total shutdown of economic activities as thousands protested the controversial and ill-advised decision by the Federal Government announced on the first day of January, 2012. A veritable New Year gift from the government of the people, by the people, to her people.
Nigerians before my unbelieving eyes trooped out to hastily designated ‘’Freedom Squares” from Lagos to Kano, Kaduna to Benin, Abeokuta to Gwagwalada; to confront and spat a bell-clear “enough is enough” into the faces of our “extractive elites” (as Ms. Ezekwesili delicately describe them) masking as leaders. It was the dawn of the Age of Heroes. Literarily on the edge of my seat, I watched with riveted attention; my eyes ping-ponging from my TV screen to my handset, live coverage of protesting Nigerians on Channelstv, AIT and other ‘independent’ television stations, (NTA was…well NTA throughout) and on online social media sites. As I watched, I felt a stirring in my heart. As my feet took their first tentative steps into the streets, the long-suppressed dreams of a clean-sweeping revolution ala Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana was making my heart do endless cartwheels in my chest. This was the moment. It was firmly within our grasp. Take it! Take it! I silently (and vociferously) urged my fellow protesters. During those heady days, twitter was my Information/Command centre. It was via the micro blogging site that I received ‘progress reports’ from various parts of the country on the #OccupyNigeria protests. That January, I “followed” @dawisu, @eggheader, @MercyAbang, @KathleenNdongmo, @ged, @yadomah, @elrufai and other “twittering collective children of anger” as they would be labelled months after. Through their tweets, articles and reports, they mobilized the rest of us in what, as it turned out, was the beginning of our last stand against corruption, injustice and visionless governance in Nigeria. They were and still are an inspiring bunch.
And then they killed Muyideen. This was our moment! I thought. I waited with bated breath for the people of Ilorin to set it all in motion, the people’s revolution. I waited in vain. The rallies continued. Candlelight processions were held in memory of our slain compatriots but there was no storming Aso Rock like the French masses did to the Bastille. Even Kirikiri would have sufficed for me as a symbolic gesture. My heart sank, anchor-heavy to the depths. I knew then that WE are not ready yet to cleanse the Augean stable that is Nigeria. The heartbreak was complete when labour started their negotiation with the government. I realized that it was all in vain, the protests and the marches. The day the strike was called off, tears of frustration welled in my eyes. Yes the strike was over. Yes we achieved a tiny victory by making government shift their hard-line stance of non-reversal. Yes I was no longer a member of the clichéd ‘Army of unemployed’ but I was desolate for I recognized that we of the #OccupyNigeria movement had let a chance slip by; a chance to usher in a new dawn for Nigeria through the means of a masses revolution.
To me, the most heartwarming sight of the January protests was the picture of Muslims and Christians forming a most honoured guard of protection around one another at various protest venues from Abuja to Kano. We showed in that brief instance what we can achieve together as a people irrespective of religious affiliations. That in itself represents a victory of some sort. A consoling thought.
The writer is proudly one of “the twittering collective children of anger”. He sent this piece from Okene, Kogi State where he lives and hustle for a minimum wage. He can be reached via this email address: email@example.com.