I should begin with this confession: Once upon a time, I was cynical about ordinary Nigerians’ incurable docility – even when they are pushed to the wall by the glaring failures of their governments and the inherent dysfunctionalities of the system.
Unlike the French and Americans, even the Sudanese and Tunisians closer to us here in Africa, Nigerians do not seem to possess the drive to spill out into the streets and do demonstrations to demand for change. Are we a spineless lot eternally condemned to be the butt of abuse by our leaders? I used to ask.
For decades in this country, we witnessed citizens being subjected to the most dehumanizing and horrendous living conditions and denied a basic commodity such as petrol which should ordinarily be in great abundance in a leading crude oil producing country. That is aside the widespread insecurity, arrant disregard for citizens’ rights and privileges and the corruption that lurks in high places, which has now become an accepted norm.
Yet, all Nigerians did was grumble, call out to God in urgent supplication to intervene and then went back home to sleep, most times on empty stomachs.
As a result, our elected leaders have become impervious to being accountable to the electorate, one of the supposed cornerstones of our democracy. Governments have come and gone, each with its own contrived disasters which task our extraordinary patience and inflict untold pain and misery on us.
Yet, all you heard were the usual lamentations, blame game and, once again, our consolations to ourselves that the Almighty God would get us out of the woods. Then we went back home, hardly able to sleep, our mental states in disarray.
But the next day we trudged on. We continued with the daily grind of either sleeping at filling stations to buy a gallon of petrol or waking up at 12 midnight to go queue up at a bank to be rationed N5,000 out of your own hard-earned deposits. This, because Mr. Buhari suddenly thought it wise to change the colour of the national currency at this late hour.
We are an incredibly good people who take suffering good naturedly, with complicit equanimity. Fela’s cynicism was at its best when he captured this self-destructive ‘virtue’ so fittingly: suffering and smiling. That has also been the lot of Nigerians in recent weeks as the cash crunch and fuel scarcity intensified.
However, there is something very strange happening at the moment. They say that every cloud has a silver lining. My cynicism is giving way to a glimmer of hope, even optimism, now that the presidential election is at hand.
It happens that, this time around, Nigerians are happily enduring the current frustrations and disappointments because they know that they are on the cusps of a new dawn that will be of their own making. The have refused to be lured into resorting to street protests or such other public displays of anger, pain and discontent.
This revolution will be wrought through the ballot box. Despite the extreme vexations caused by government policies and provocations by some politicians and vested interests, the people have relatively remained calm, even though there have been isolated cases of violence here and there.
On the whole, they have maintained a resolute stoicism and deliberate forbearance, even in their greatest moments of suffering. Under the circumstances, docility has turned into a willful determination to radically change things for the better.
This revolution will also be unlike the sometimes violent protests that marked the Arab Spring which erupted in Tunisia in 2010. It will be different from the prolonged and riotous Sudan street demonstrations which led to the ouster of long-time dictator, Ahmad Al-Bashir, in a military coup in 2019.
Sadly, most of those revolutions have since suffered serious setbacks. The status quo viciously hit back through subterfuge, cunning and coercion to regain power, directly or indirectly. Thus, the remarkable gains made by the people have largely been reversed. But our own revolution should not be short-lived for it shall be ushered in through peaceful means.
You don’t need a radical unionist to tell you that the current dispensation in Nigeria urgently needs to undergo a fundamental shake-up in which you should actively participate. The biting hunger churning in your belly is strong enough inspiration.
You do not need the opposition to tell you that the Buhari administration has failed to deliver on the promises it made to Nigerians, beginning from 2015, and that it is time for you to be an agent of removing it.
The pervasive ghosts of disillusionment, social dislocation, penury, misery, insecurity and apprehension stalking you at every turn are enough catalysts for you to take a bold step towards your personal redemption and salvaging the motherland from the precipice.
Fellow countrymen and women, we should cast our votes inspired by the vision of a new Nigeria.
Yes, a different country is possible.
Yes, a revolution is still possible.
(GYANG is the Chairman of the N.G.O, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Emails: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org)