Sunday, 5 February 2012

#Occupy naija: what exactly did we occupy?

A friend of mine told me he has renounced his Nigerian citizenship,
choosing to be identified as an African in that stand. ‘Why”, I asked
as I prodded for more reasons for such an extreme decision.  My friend
was highly disappointed in the sell out of the NLC/TUC.  He, like most
of us believed that the #Occupy Nigeria protests would be a hamburger
of the much needed change in governance.  The crux of the protests had
outgrown the subsidy and pump price issue to a holistic demand for
accountability and transparency in governance.  The NLC/TUC acted as a
fulcrum for these agitations to be registered, and most people
believed that under the protection of the labour, the power of the
people would be potent enough to bring about a change in the status
quo.  This was why my friend was aghast with Labour’s ‘sell-out’ of
accepting N97 per liter.  Also, the growing momentum of the fight
against corruption had suffered a huge set-back.  Like many Nigerians,
my friend believed that the “#Occupy Nigeria protests failed, because
labour played us all along, making the Nigerian populace believe that
they could take us to an illusionary promised land.  But did it really

There are certain things which the protests threw up, as much as there
were other things which the protests engineered and started.  Firstly,
the protests revived the war of Nationalism in the country.  I
postulate this point first because this has been the biggest
achievement of the protests in my own terms.  Never before have people
risen with a collective voice.  The Durkhemian Concept of ‘altruism‘
whereby the individual puts the need of the society over his personal
needs better explains this.  Nigerians broke down the invisible walls
of religious and cultural beliefs which hitherto kept us apart and
breed animosity.  Despite various efforts by mischief makers who
wanted to capitalize on the uncertainty and insecurity in the land to
drag the Nigerian people into the murky waters of enthusiasm and
religious strifes, the Nigerian people still stood strong, transfixed
on only the fat cats and political elites.  In Kano, the Muslims
shared solidarity by offering the Christians protection during Sunday
service.  In Abuja, Christians found a human wall around Muslims as
they took a break from the protests to say prayers.  Except for the
South-East/South-South where their leaders hoodwinked the populace and
cajoled the labour into abandoning the protests, the #Occupy Nigeria
protests brought Nigerians on a common platform to embrace Nationalism
of the proliferate at the bourgeoisie rather than ethnic or religious
bickering destiny in Nigeria, which they had to achieve, not for
The #Occupy protests also brought to the fore the silence of a
toothless opposition and on a wider scale the importance of partisan
politics.  Deji Toye in his article “This too, is the failure of
opposition politics,” hinted how the opposition has failed in its role
in creating a diverse political system with opposing views.  The
silence of the opposition parties  during the protests leave one to
ponder if there indeed is an opposition party.  I concur with Deji
Toye’s thesis.  If opposition parties play dumb in important moments
such as this, then describing them as Janus-faled whores who share the
same bed with the ruling party would not be far from the truth.  This
brings me to the aspect of partisan politics in the country which sadly
is first drifting into oblivion.  During the build-up to the last
general elections, I for one was not impressed with the messianic
solutions that was accorded to the Goodluck Jonathan.  I postulated
that, being a member of the PDP, the belief  of a breath of ‘fresh
air’ was a mere illusion, just the way believing that a black American
president would mean a change in US foreign policy towards Africa.
The fact that PDP, has failed the nation over the years would only
repeat itself, even if it presented the Pope as its candidate.
Nigerians chose to vote for candidates based on personal sentiments.
There were no demands for manifestoes or party programmes.  Nigerians did
not ask for concrete plans to tackle the nation’s catalogue of social
pathogens.  I doubt if there was any presidential debate.  As such,
Nigerians criss-crossed between parties at the different strata of
elections, choosing to vote for individuals based on personal
parameters.  Need we be surprised if the president still exhibits the
same features of his party?  A leopard can’t change its spots,
remember.  As such, expecting something new from this president is a
mere utopia.

If the silence of the opposition was deafening, then how would you
describe the silence of our religious leaders.  Except for a selected
few, no prominent spiritual leader in Muslim  and Christian circles
spoke up.  The Christians rather chose to pick on their own,  Pastor
Tunde Bakare, occusing him of heating the polity and challenging his
right to go into politics.  If I may ask, if our spiritual leaders
can’t enter the political sphere, who else then?  Evil persists on the
land because the good keep quiet.  Even Jesus was a political figure.
Though He did not campaign or contest, His teachings challenged the
oppressive Roman system, and if His ideology did not threaten the
existing social structure, the Romans wouldn’t have deemed it fit to
crucify Him: Bakare, is first and foremost a Nigerian, before a
pastor.  As a Nigerian (and like all Nigerian), he has the right to
participate in and challenge the polity.  The protests exhumed the
inherent hypocrisy in our spiritual leaders who hide under the cloak
of Evangelism to bootlick each regime, courting them for favours.  They
keep drugging us with this opium for the selfish gains.

Futhermore, the role of foreign influence in the future of Nigeria.
Why was the foreign media reluctant to broadcast the protests at
first.  Why did it take the visit of the IMF president to make Nigeria
and four other African countries to introduce the removal of subsidy?
I am not equipped with the intricacies and dynamics which the foreign
actions played, but excluding them from the scheme of happenings is
only a superficial approach, especially if you are analyzing African
political complexities.  As a corollary to the afroe_mentioned, the protests exhibited the
potency of the social medial in bringing about such change.  In my
article “The Social Media as a tool for social change”, I enunciated
how the social media contributes to the success of the Egyptians and
Tunisian revolutions, and how it could catalyze a paradigm shift in
Nigeria.  The social media provided not only an avenue, but was also a
weapon in dispel the mysticism surrounding government, governance and
government officials.  Nigerians are now more than ever, fully aware
of the shenanigans of the political elite.  The average Nigerian is
now more aware of his part in bringing about change and the power we
possess as a unified voice.  This brings me to the crux of the
protests accessibility.  The focus was on eradicating corruption and
ensuring accountability within government.  Most Nigerians were taken
aback by the proliferation of figures in measuring terms, some in
foreign currencies, which our government officials have in personal
accounts or take home as allowances.  Nigerians have now known the
depth of decadence and rot in the Nigerian government.  If the Central
Bank Nigeria (CBN) Governor does not know the price of fuel, what
moral right does he have selling us the idea of subsidy?  Why do we
have an over-bloated legislative and executive arm.  This and many
questions raised calls for accountability and transparency in
governance.  This is why many Nigerians were distranught when labor
accepted N97 and called off the strike.  To many of us, the issue was
not the price bickering but on a total cleansing of Nigerian polity
from corruption.  This is why, like my friend, many people have lost
faith in this country.

Suffice it to say at this juncture, that the protests was not a
failure.  Machiavelli in his book ‘The Prince’, stated that ‘Nothing is
more difficult in like bringing about a change in the status quo,
because those who profit from the old order would do everything in
their power from preventing the new order from coming about.  We may
have lost the battle, but the war is far from being over.  Every chess
and master knows that in the quest for victory, you have to sacrifice
your pawns to make a big kill.  The quest for an effective
governance is only but a cumulative process.  It took the Muslim
Brotherhood, 80 years before they could come into prominence in Egypt.
The apartheid regime in south Africa did not happen over night.  As
such, the fight against the nation’s political elite who have hidden
behind the veils of religion and tribalism is a marathon, not a
spirit.  He who controls the mode and instruments of production,
dictates the direction of society, including the protests of the
people.  Wrestling the mode of production from the jaws of greedy
politicians is not an easy feat, and most times is a generational
battle.  But whether Nigerians would trust the labour again to achieve
this feat is uncertain.  Personally, I don’t think so.  The best way
to effect the change is where we first got it wrong.  The polls, so
till we see the desired change, let us keep occupying.

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