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A Scream In The Streets (III) By Sonala Olumhense

Memo to: Conference of Nigerian Political Parties; Campaign Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL); Association of Nigerian Professional Bodies; National Association of Nigerian Students; Save Nigeria Group; Joint Action Force; Occupy Nigeria]

Memo to: Conference of Nigerian Political Parties; Campaign Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL); Association of Nigerian Professional Bodies; National Association of Nigerian Students; Save Nigeria Group; Joint Action Force; Occupy Nigeria]

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I congratulate you on your recent efforts to confront corruption in Nigeria through your loud response to the abrupt hiking of the price of petrol on New Year’s Day. 
The question is: What next?

The answer is to look forward, not backward.  What was accomplished in January 2012 was the clear identification of the enemy.  It is not an individual, not a party.  Most Nigerians saw for themselves for the first time that the enemy is the corruption that rules their country, but the corruption is in specific hands. 

This is the new starting point from which Nigerians must fashion the future; nobody can take our people back to the ignorant and self-deceiving days of 2011 and the decades before that.

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I use the term, ignorant, carefully.  This is also the point at which our country’s progressive forces must seek to come together to commence a Street2Street, House2House education of our people to demand good governance and the rule of law. 

Street-to-Street because the new vision was born on our streets.  This struggle will also live and die on the streets.  Education, now, because one of the tricks of Nigeria’s negative political establishment has always been our amnesia: their confidence and certainty that if they wait long enough, the people will forget the horrendous crimes committed against them.

The privileged criminals should no longer be allowed such confidence or permitted that triumph. In January 2012, Nigerians marched in great numbers in the country’s major streets and lifted their voices in the world’s most important cities.

As we all know, some of the people who came out even paid the ultimate price. It is left to the rest of us to ensure that they did not die in vain.  We owe it to those who have paid, and those who have yet to be born. 

The shape of the future lies in the willingness of all Nigerians who believe that our country as presently constituted cannot survive, let alone thrive, to come out of their cocoons and their complacency and do something about it. 

What to do is to organize, in groups, to put the same kind of pressure on the government that was demonstrated in January 2012, and to do it repeatedly.

Let us be clear: Nigeria is too corrupt to function, and there is no way for a government as corrupt as we have, sitting on a political structure as devious as we have, to fight corruption.  And as long as this corruption machinery exists, we can travel only in circles, not outside or beyond it.

And as long as this corruption infrastructure exists, we will remain perpetual victims of its manifestations: poverty, militancy, violence, riots, unemployment, looting, and laughable elections that elevate the worst of us against most of us. 

The next stage of the struggle, then, must rest on organization, education and mobilization.  Progressive groups must organize within, and among themselves.  That will enable them to take advantage of the mood of Nigerians and take advantage of the new wisdom of our people.
What is at stake is what has always been at stake: that Nigeria is not being run for Nigerians or by Nigerians who believe in Nigeria.  What has changed is that it has become a little easier to make that case, and this is what our progressive groups, acting patriotically, must take advantage of. 

The objective is to compel—indeed force—change.  To do that, our progressives need to take creative advantage of publicly-available information about official corruption and use it as the fulcrum of future rallies.  Nigerians need to receive well-researched, well-written and unbiased information about the carnivores we call governments, and what they are doing on a consistent basis.  We do not need the motivation of a fuel-subsidy watershed. 

Using specific cases, numbers and statistics, we must document in unambiguous language the truth about how the government and its agencies are skirting around the corruption question, and protecting privileged Nigerians at the same time.  The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), which is a member of CACOL, has documented many of these cases that can be used for advocacy training and rallies. 

The time has come to drag corruption out of hiding, and challenge governments across the country in public rallies about the forms in which it is often protected or hidden.  Where necessary, this will be tied to the fuel subsidy mess because oil is the Godmother and lubricant of this movement. 
Still, I must point out the importance of one story.  Nigeria’s corruption story is one, not several; it just has several faces.  As one story, it would be easy to illustrate how this one developmental defect has stunted our growth and damaged our history. 

When I say one story, I mean that tactical teams can creatively develop persuasive arguments that demonstrate not that Nigeria’s money is looted, but how, by whom, and that it is recoverable.  There is no single thief in this country whose story is not widely known in several circles; in each of those circles, in the right atmosphere, someone will come forward to provide proof of what they know. 
When I say one story, I also mean consistency.  Nigeria’s corruption is driven by greed, it is true, but the ignorance, amnesia and indifference of the populace constitute the real manure in which it flowers.  Nigeria’s thieves trust that Nigerians will remain uninformed; and that even if they know, they will soon forget; and that even if they do remember, that they will remain too lazy to rise to their feet and lift a muscle.  January 2012 proved differently, but that new awareness must be fed and liberated. 

January 2012 unveiled a core of new politically-aware civil society groups such as the Joint Action Force (JAF), which has already asked Nigerians to prepare to move forward by forming local community action groups. 

This is the right way to go, and it is my hope that the JAF will coordinate a preliminary and loose coalition that will include professional, civil society, working, student and anti-corruption organizations, Occupy Nigeria, and committed labour that are capable of actions in chapters, states and local councils. 

JAF can put together a short list of the most committed participating organizations it identified in January, and enter into discussions about coordinated rallies in the future.  An endeavor of this nature must identify whoever brokered the amazing truce in Kano between Christians and Muslims, an achievement that could become a model for the rest of the country. 

For Occupy Nigeria in the Diaspora, the New York-based Nigeria Liberty Democratic Forum is capable of coordinating chapters in the Americas, while the Nigeria Liberty Forum can take care of Europe. 

The first order of business is to make contact with these groups and set up communication links and a website to coordinate ideas, energy and strategy.    The mission is to maintain focus on the patterns, practices and ravages of corruption in Nigeria. 

The principal tool of expression should be periodic rallies in Nigeria and abroad to ensure that nobody’s attention strays from the corruption that is eating back into the 19th century, and into fractions.  Unless we make serious progress on this agenda item, we have only the Hobbesian jungle ahead.
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