By Dapo Akande
Free provision of food and water. Atypical orderly queues. Free medical care. Free legal representation. Spontaneous crowdfunding to purchase a prosthetic leg for a female amputee protester who refused to be deterred. Fund raising target was N1.5m in one month. N4.1m raised in three hours. Lesson; accompany compassion with will and anything is possible.
Raised banners. Fluttering national flags. Impassioned anthem singing…then a rain of bullets. Sudden tragedy. Eerie screams. Pandemonium. So who amongst these were thugs? Tuesday, October 20, 2020 was yet another dark day for our fledgling democracy. Yet another, because it wasn’t the first. Over 300 Shiites were reportedly killed in cold blood by our armed forces in 2015. The IPOB propagators suffered a similar fate. Lesson; injustice meted out anywhere is injustice everywhere. Never turn a blind eye because it doesn’t directly affect you. One day it may arrive at your doorstep.
Many western nations are preparing for a potentially harrowing winter as Covid 19 cases spike. The annual season of influenza approaches and portends a winter of discontent, if we’re to borrow a line from Shakespeare. Nigeria, blessed with comparatively low cases of the dreaded Coronavirus has yet again used it’s own hands to invite a disaster that should never have been. The utterly heartless and cowardly slaughter of unarmed and peaceful protesting youths, has foolishly ushered in it’s own winter of discontent.
Fed up with staring hopelessly into a bleak future, our youths finally came of age to say enough is enough. Attracting the admiration and respect of all well meaning Nigerians, they took to the streets in the most spontaneous yet orderly, legal and organized fashion to register their discontent. I, for one, doff my hat to them not just because they’ve finally woken up to the fact that power resides in their hands (no matter what anybody says) but because of the incredibly efficient, clever and united way in which they did it. They displayed a front of solidarity rarely seen on these shores, which thankfully put a lie to the tribal, religious divisions that the old guard have sold to us for far too long. It brought tears of pride to my eyes to watch as the Christians amongst them formed a wall of protection around their Muslim brothers and sisters as they took to their Friday Jumat prayers. The Muslims reciprocated by standing by the Christian faithful during the Sunday service. Such simple gestures of camaraderie speak volumes and to me signify the birth of a new Nigeria. One where the lies of the past have finally been exposed for what they are, lies.
By far the largest demographic group in the country, with about 70% of the population under the age of 35, whichever way they go, the country must surely go. They only needed to come to that realization and it looks like they finally have. Their time has come and no bullet, no senseless thugs, no method of intimidation and no divide and rule tactic can stop them. They hold the future and by God’s grace, they will arrive there.
It pleases me that people are finally waking up to the fact that we shouldn’t have to fast and pray for God to elevate one of our relatives or friends to a government position before we should hope to enjoy the good life. We can no longer wait patiently for crumbs to fall off our “benefactor’s” table. Every Nigerian, no matter where he hails from, his religion or who he knows or doesn’t know, should have high hopes of living the good life as long as he’s willing to work hard and work smart. Ask those in societies that work and they will tell you that you don’t need to be a millionaire to live a comfortable and meaningful life. You don’t have to be rich to buy a new car, give your children a good education, have peace of mind that any medical eventuality would be met without much struggle or even take your family on annual holidays; something considered a luxury by 99% of Nigerians but which Oyinbo has since realized is critical for his health and a sense of well being. It takes its place amongst the plethora of factors which determine a nation’s average life expectancy and partly explains the gap of over 25 years between that of Nigeria and that of Western Europe.
About 70% of illnesses can be linked to stress and unfortunately, we have plenty of that here. Is it the endless hours spent in traffic or the absence of constant electricity supply which makes restful sleep an impossibility for the majority? Or is it having to sleep with one eye open because of the horrendous security situation? Or the constant harassment by security forces and the agony of having to part with money that was already not enough? Stress is something we have adapted to living with but only few realize that adapting to it does nothing to minimize the damage it does to our health. Contrary to popular belief, you’re not strong or tough because you’re able to work like a jack ass without taking commensurate rest, you’re just foolish. Sooner or later one’s body will tell one that. Don’t let that be you.
Back to being rich or not rich. I will add this. In countries where leaders lead and don’t rule; where leaders respect the rights of the people to aspire to a good life; where the social contract is clear about what the people should expect of their government and what the government should in turn expect of their people that will enable them (government) fulfill their obligations, you don’t even have to be rich to own your own house. Lee Kuan Yew read his people well and concluded that a people opportuned to live in their own houses will be more patriotic and will fervently protect the stability of their society because they have too much to lose. Acutely conscious of their tangible stake in it they’ll never watch it burn.
All we need to enjoy all the above is good governance and that can only be the fall out of having leaders that care. To our most recent fallen heroes, may you rest in peace, in the knowledge that your ultimate sacrifice shall not be in vain. A grateful and mournful nation acknowledges you and says thank you.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Oladapo Akande is a Surrey University (UK) English graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. He’s an alumnus of the National Institute for Transformation and a two time author; The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. He writes from Lagos.