The Battle of the Guns and Flags; and the Emergence of a New Nigeria

‘You must speak . . . It’s our only hope.’

-Charlie Chaplin

The events of the last few weeks have left me deeply shocked and traumatised. I had forced myself to watch the graphic videos and pictures of the Lekki Tollgate Massacre and have had to live with the consequences till now when I feel better enough to write with clarity of vision. I had always known that the current political setup was rotten, but I did not know the extent of that rottenness even when I thought I did. The current political system in our country is bereft of any modicum of moral responsibility, and it must be done away with if we are serious about the survival of the next generation.

Every concerned Nigerian must deploy all their creative talents to this effort. If you can dance, use your dance to send a message to the powers that be that it is time for them to pack up and leave. If you can sing, use your song to irritate the current political leaders and sensitise the Nigerian Youth that the time has come for an enduring change to occur in our society. If you are a poet, use your art to visualise the kind of Nigeria you would want to live in from 2023 onwards and let the people know that such a Nigeria can be brought into existence through our collective effort. Men, women and the Youth must work together to enthrone a set of leaders that we can count upon to lead us into the promised land because, for many decades now, we have languished in the postcolonial wilderness of evil and ungodly leadership. It is time to change the narrative.

For me, I have always been outspoken; and I have always used the one or two talents that the Creator has blessed me with in the service of the people. I have not used my knowledge to enslave the people. I have rather used it to advocate their emancipation from the palates of Pilates and from the grips of Agrippa. I know the power games of the day and I know how society works. It would have been easier for me to play the system and line my pockets. But what about the future? What kind of society do we want to bequeath the next generation? Will our children, friends and siblings be safe in that society? Will we die and rest peacefully knowing that we left behind an unjust society which operates on the principles of ‘dogs eat dogs’? How much money can we steal and stash away for our unborn generation? How many houses can we build for them from the people’s sweat? And how are we sure that they will live peacefully in those houses? Why don’t we come together now to build an egalitarian society which everyone will be proud to call their own? Why don’t we do the right thing now before it is too late?

I was among the first set of people to write on the grand scheme to exclude the Youth of this country from its economic and political structures. You can refer to my article entitled ‘That Our Youths Should Wakeup’ posted on Facebook on the 26th of May, 2017. I have written on the need to interrogate African leadership beyond the existing neocolonial frameworks. I have written on the need for Africa to unite in order for Africans to assume their pride of place in the world. I have written on the imperative of restructuring Nigeria. I have also written on the need to make politics less attractive as a way of ensuring that only people with passion for the masses get to go into politics, among other write-ups.

 In poetry, prose and essays, I have always sought to exhort, enlighten and warn both the leaders and the led on the consequences of creating and running an unjust system. By and large, these warnings, including those of many other visionary Nigerians, went unheard and unheeded by our leaders who, as recent events have revealed, have made up their mind to see their countries and states as sinking ships that must be looted and ransacked before it goes down.

Every nation should respect its writers and critics because they represent the conscience of society. In their writings, they voice the vision of society. Ideas do not occur to people on their own accord; they are sent by the spiritual springs of existence. No form of true poetic writing takes place without inspiration, which, for me, is a deeply spiritual thing. Writers receive ideas as gifts from God and Nature. Their words may be bitter but they are likely to become sweet when chewed and swallowed. But when ignored or suppressed, the consequences are usually unimaginable. Alas! All that we wrote was to prevent the scenarios that presented themselves a few weeks ago. A nation ignores her writers to her own peril.

Each time I teach the Romantic Period in English literature class, I usually refer students to the agency of the French Revolution in ushering in the zeitgeist of the period. And knowing that history has the penchant for repeating itself owing to the regularity of human nature, I knew that it was only a matter of time before we had agitations for change in Nigeria. Why? The reason is that one of the main causes of the French revolution was the ungodly insensitivity of the nobles (leaders) to the plights of the masses. The leaders were so out of touch with the experiences of the common people that when a queen was told that the people had no bread to eat, she replied, ‘Then let them have their cake’. The tendency for the elites to interpret the existence of the people from their privileged standpoint has been replicated in the Nigerian situation where the leaders live in ungodly affluence, oblivious of the extent of the poverty the people live in. Even when they are told that the people are poor and hungry, it makes no sense to them because they do not seem to understand what hunger means. Neither do they understand hunger as it applies to the poorest of the poor. Or so we thought!

Thus, it was with this sense of insensitivity that the Nigerian leaders ruled the people. They were arrogant in their impunity and political brutality and rascality. They created, ran and sustained a system where only the powerful could breathe. They used their privileged economic and political knees to choke the neck of the poor masses and de-Floyd them of life. The recently proscribed SARS modelled itself proudly after the politicians with uncanny impunity. After all, it was a system designed for the powerful and the rich. It was a system designed for those who wielded the implements of power – like guns. The powerless masses could only cringe, suffer, endure, pray and wait. For a long time it seemed as if the Nigerian Youth had gone to sleep. When will they wake up? Of course, it was only a matter of time.

When the Endsars protest broke out, I wrote an article to warn that SARS was just a symptom of a more serious ailment. Banning SARS would just be like covering a wound with plaster without treating it. The whole system needed to be overhauled. And oh! How I was so proud of the peaceful protesters! For the first time in many years, the whole world was proud of Nigeria because of the Nigerian Youth. Everyone brought their talents to be at the service of the movement to end SARS. In those few weeks, the Nigerian Youth showed that they could better run this country compared to the current crop of leaders. The protest, for me, was a microcosm of the new Nigeria that we have been glamouring for.

The Nigerian Youth created a perfect system within an imperfect one to teach those who run the imperfect one a lesson in human leadership. They beat all the systemic barriers imposed by the Establishment to organise a world-class protest that has continued to draw admirable responses from well-meaning people all over the world. Even as I write, the Endsars protest still reverberates across the globe. In the end, it was not the protest itself that irked the Establishment, but rather its significance. The protest reveals the incompetence of the current crop of leaders, or perhaps, their insincerity in providing basic amenities for the people. The young protesters raised their own funds, provided themselves with electricity, fed themselves, took care of the medical needs of their members and raised funds to help the needy among them.

How glorious!

The most admirable thing I noted among the young protesters was unity. Tribe and religion did not divide them. It was then obvious that the tribal and religious cards were the tools used by the old Establishment to keep the people divided, because a divided people cannot fight for their rights. The divide-and-rule tactics had worked for the British, served the interest of the neo-colonial political elites and continues to service the selfish and unjust structures set up by the post-postcolonial leaders of Nigeria. But during the epoch-making protest, Christians and Muslims joined hands together. Yoruba and Igbo worked together. Hausa and Ibibio spoke with one voice: Endsars! And oh, there were no gender biases, as young men and women worked together to liberate themselves from an oppressive system. DJ Switch, among other women, showed admirable leadership traits and rare courage. Who said that our young women are not up to great things?

The Establishment saw all this and was shaken. They soon had to devise means to stop the earth-shaking movement. First, they tried to bribe the protesters. Money had always worked for them. Just throw a few naira notes at the hungry youths and you could buy and silence them. When this failed to succeed, they infiltrated the protest with hooligans in an attempt to cause mayhem so as to use that as an excuse to declare curfew and, hence, put an end to the protest. The oldest trick in the book! The courageous Youth resisted the curfew and vowed to stay on at the protest grounds. I could not sleep throughout the night of Tuesday 20th October, 2020.

I was determined to follow the progress of the protest, especially as the protesters had been threatened with unimaginable consequences if they defied the curfew. Then the graphic videos and pictures started streaming in. Sounds of gunshots as twilight set in. It was obvious that the Establishment, in their desperation to dismiss the Youth and their grievances and to sustain the status quo, had deployed the green vultures from their deadly dens to make carcasses of the vulnerable Nigerian Youth. The only defence the Youth had against the approaching vultures was the flag of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Their only war song was the Nigerian national anthem, which they sang to protect themselves against live ammunition fired from the fiery muzzles of the monstrous machine guns. Some sang this war song until they breathed their last. They held on to the flags until their hands were stiff around them. They died believing in a country that did not believe in them. They died in the hands of those who tagged them lazy and useless. But their blood was not shed in vain. They will join their voices with those that the ended SARS unjustly killed, and together they will continue to speak, demanding justice until Justice sits on the throne in this country.

In the aftermath of the shooting, all hell broke loose. The bad elements and the opportunists took over, looting shops and businesses, destroying people’s property and causing physical and psychological harm to innocent citizens. This act is highly condemnable and all perpetrators must be fished out and made to face justice. Efforts should be made to compensate those who incurred losses, be it life or property, during the protest. The people should be made to know their true enemies. Their enemies are not the businesses around them and their owners. These businesses are there to add value to their communities. They are there to develop their communities. These businesses are there to create jobs and empower the people who work in and patronise them. The true enemies of the people are those who know how to hire and use thugs to infiltrate and disrupt peaceful protesters so as to have the excuse to declare curfew and ban all protests. Without these peaceful and organised protests, they will continue with business as usual: the usual business of looting the people’s wealth and claiming it for themselves and their heirs.

And then I was heartbroken when the covid-19 palliatives were discovered! What a country! What a set of leaders! Until the discovery of the palliatives, I was about the only person who used the word ‘wicked’ and ‘wickedness’ to describe the Nigerian bourgeois leaders and their absurdities in power spaces. Suddenly, everyone was using the word with poetic license. How can you hide food from your people and you call yourself a leader? To think that we all were shouting about how people were hungry during the lockdown! They had been given food by the federal government but they chose to carefully hide the food from the hungry citizens. What was their game plan? To starve the people to death? To sustain the narrative that there is no money in government and that the country and states are poor? The incident made me lose all hope and respect for the current crop of leaders at all levels. They are heartless. They are monsters. They are evil. They are devils. To have any dealing with them is to associate with the devil himself. The best thing to do is to ensure that they are all retired come 2023. Those in government who are not like them must begin to dissociate themselves immediately in words and actions. That is how they are going to be spared.

I urge the Nigerian Youth not bother about negotiating with the current crop of leaders. They should have nothing to do with them because these people have no conscience. The current set of leaders does not care about the plights of the masses. They systematically use hunger, poverty and illiteracy as weapons against the people. They deliberately keep the people poor so that they can use them. They deliberately keep the people hungry because a hungry person can easily be bought with a few naira notes. Poverty deprives the individual of his or her dignity and humanity. The current politicians exploit these vices to their advantage during and after elections. I have written elsewhere that poverty weakens the people’s will to resist evil leadership. I have come to realise that Nigeria is rich enough to eradicate poverty, but that our leaders systematically impoverish the people because it serves their political and economic purposes. This has got to stop.

Our country is rich enough to have a world class education system. But the politicians deliberately keep the education sector in perpetual underdevelopment because a poorly educated people cannot ask questions and cannot demand their freedom from the oppressors. For seven months now, Nigerian universities have been on strike. As I write, there seems to be no end in sight to the strike. The entire academic calendar has been disrupted alongside the dreams of students and educators, who have not been paid for months. Why would anyone want to sustain his trust in such a system? The best thing is to do away with it.

I hereby urge the Nigerian Youth to ensure that the present crop of leaders is permanently retired in 2023 elections. Not even one of them should be allowed return to power. They all should be made irrelevant from 2023 onwards. It seems to me that they have sworn to an oath to be wicked and heartless. The Youth must realise that they have the power to enthrone good leadership in this country. The Youth have the numerical strength to enthrone good youth-leaders. The Youth are the ones who conduct elections. They are the ones who guard votes. Youth corps members form the bulk of the ad hoc staff during elections. Why should they be treated with levity? Why should they be used and dumped? Why should their voice not be heard? Why can’t they take their rightful place in their own country?

When the right youth-leadership has been enthroned (not the Desmond Idiot kind), a new Nigeria will emerge. I have a clear vision of the new Nigeria. It is a Nigeria that we all will be proud of. It is a Nigeria that will make all Nigerians proud, and respected in the international community. In the new Nigeria, our passport will be respected by other nations. In the new Nigeria, Nigerians will not be enslaved in Libya; neither will they die in droves while trying to cross the desert and the Atlantic Ocean into Europe. The new youth-leadership will inspire all Nigerians abroad to return and build their country. Hence, in the new Nigeria, brain drain will be brought to an end.

The new Nigeria is a restructured Nigeria, where all the federating units are allowed to develop their God-given potentials. The new Nigeria will have constant power supply. If European countries could do it, we can do it as well. The new Nigeria will have fast and efficient transportation system so that to own a car would be a luxury rather than a necessity. The new Nigeria will have a world-class education system, where teachers are well paid and the schools are well-equipped. There will be little or no need for the Nigerian Youth to travel abroad in order to access quality education. The new Nigeria will run a world-class healthcare system, which will make it unnecessary for the new Youth leaders and the elites to travel abroad for medical care. In the new Nigeria, all political leaders will be under legal obligation to send their children to public schools in Nigeria.

In the new Nigeria, we will have a world-class policing system. The Nigerian police will be men and women who respect the rights of citizens. They will arrest and convict criminals based on information, facts and evidence gained through intelligence, and not through torture and brutality. In the new Nigeria, our military and paramilitary forces will be housed in befitting abodes where they will work and think like human beings. They will also be well paid like their peers around the world.

The new Nigeria will not borrow from China; neither will she go around Europe and America cap in hand. The new leaders will be careful not to mortgage the future of the country through irresponsible loans. Rather they will look internally and deploy the creativity of her Youth to create sufficient wealth, which she will even lend to nations as she was destined to do from the beginning. In the new Nigeria, the leaders, I mean the youth-leaders, will collectively and selflessly work in the interest of the masses. Never will we have leaders as looters or looters as leaders again in Nigeria. In the new Nigeria, politics will not be seen as an avenue to acquire wealth, but rather as an opportunity to render selfless service to the people. Politicians will be paid the salary of senior civil servants in the new Nigeria.

The new Nigeria will be a united Nigeria, a Nigeria where tribe and religion will not define our politics. In the new Nigeria, all Nigerians will be regarded as Nigerians and no Nigerian will be more Nigerian than others. I am writing about a Nigeria that is defined by basic human values like love, honesty, integrity, patience and hard work. Bribery and corruption will be a thing of the past in the new Nigeria. The Youth will use their knowledge of technology only for the good of the country. Our identity will be stronger abroad. Nigerians will be welcomed anywhere in the world with open arms because in the new Nigeria, they will not be travelling out of their country as beggars and job seekers, but as investors and respected expatriates.

We will not import petrol and kerosene in the new Nigeria. Our refineries will function optimally in the new Nigeria. The new Nigeria will be a peaceful Nigeria, where all her peoples will live together in harmony.

Let no Youth betray this vision of a new Nigeria because many have already paid for it with their blood.

What is your vision of the new Nigeria?

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