Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi
Congratulations to the people of Egypt on a successfully-executed and peaceful revolution from the closing days of January into February 2011. Those days certainly stand in history as more than remarkable. The people’s tenacity but also the restraint of the military can both be equally lauded as the causative factors to the dawn of a new era in Egypt. Of course, there is still some baited breath as the future of this new democracy is far from being certain.
Skeptics are quick to point out Iran among others as unsuccessful revolutions. Even as other despots around the world hold on to power, the fear of who’s next is said to be creeping up on them, “them” being the rest of the Arab world. So why would I even throw Nigeria into this mix?
Over these past few days, the discussion on our lips about Egypt’s revolution has been captivating at times, apprehensive at others. We recall the pictures streaming into our living rooms: Prayers being said about the martyrs who died in the cause for freedom, the lone guy walking down the street suddenly gunned down, the young and old faces, thousands-strong crowds gathering every day in spite of warnings and curfews. They were all pictures of courage and selflessness. Mubarak’s 30-year reign finally came tumbling down after 18 days.
The dissent against Mubarak? Lack of free elections, staggering unemployment, immense poverty and seal these with this one: an amassed personal wealth (not worth since he didn’t earn it) said to be in the billions (of dollars).
Now we must be looking at the connections to other seemingly democratic states that are not, such as Nigeria. No ruler has had such a long-running stint in Nigeria, but certainly the other conditions hold true: So while there may not be the call for any despot to stepdown in Nigeria, the façade of a democracy must be something to be raised and examined.
The looting of treasuries in Nigeria is not limited to the federal level but trickles down to ministerial, gubernatorial, and legislative thievery. The oil-rich country seems cursed by her God-given gift. I have little time to recap the issues strangulating Nigeria. The terrorist clashes and religious intolerance continue.
Recently, public schools were shut down and children’s education stalled for months so that voter registration can take place! Suffice it to say that in spite of the goodness, entrepreneurship, and talents of much of Nigeria, this country as a nation remains backward-acting and regressive. Who am I to take that tangent when Nobel laureates and top academicians such as Prof. Wole Soyinka and Prof. Chinua Achebe have sufficiently spoken out on these issues?
The question of restoring democracy, freedoms, and the pursuit of happiness to the average Nigerian cannot be questioned. And so I repeat, “Is Nigeria next in this cascading movement for liberty and accountability?” To find answers, we turn to Nigerian voices young, old, in the country and in the Diaspora. Social media has been a revolution, in and of itself. I decided to pose this question to as many people as I could. One young respondent, a self-identified Nigerian American, was aghast at my question, stating quickly, “It would be a blood bath!” The military would have absolutely no such restraint as has been shown by the Egyptian military. It would be an avenue to settle scores.”
An older Nigerian-American was less shocked at my question but also stated emphatically, “No way would this happen in Nigeria. Did you not witness the solid one-force movement in Egypt? They came together as one regardless of creed, ethnicities, and religion.” Then she turned the question back to me: “Do you ever see Nigerians doing such a thing without breaking into the Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Igala, Efik, ethnic divides?” Even the so-called democratic structure of political organizations in Nigeria cannot withstand the regional and ethnic rivalries in seeming times of peace, what more in a challenging time of revolution. But then again, I thought to myself, one never knows what eventually triggers and galvanizes a people to come together and fight for their lives. Last year, listening to a presentation on Tunisia, I asked the presenter about the socioeconomics of the country and was told then that former President Ben Ali was on top of things. Well, history has proven otherwise.
One more thing, in my opinion, that endemically may never let Nigerians come together and fight for what rightly belongs to them and their children is greed. Simply stated, in the Nigerian culture, the prevailing sense of nationhood and consciousness is “Where’s my piece of the pie?” I can hardly see us going beyond individual selves to fight for the general good. With every change in regime, the idea of keeping despots accountable is quickly lost because the next group of leaders is looking out for “Me, Myself, and I.” How can genuine democratic freedoms come about in such stagnant and choking personal greed?
Nonetheless, maybe our younger generation of Nigerians (under 30’s) holds out muchneeded hope for Nigeria. For one, they are certainly connected on social media. They seem to exhibit more pride in the Nigeria nation than most of us (Age 30 and above). While we sometimes sound as if we’ve given up on our country, many of these younger ones have hope. And hope deferred is still hope.
•Ifedi, Assistant Professor of Education at Ashland University, Ohio, is acontributing editor of USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine. She is author of African-born Women Faculty in the U.S. : Lives in Contradiction (2008, EdwinMellen Press, New York). She has a blog at drrosaire.wordpress.com
USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin…. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com
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