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WHO SAYS THE ARAB REVOLUTION CANNOT HAPPEN IN NIGERIA?


By: KAYODE OLUWA
 Published March 5th, 2011

The wind of change is blowing across the world. What with the landmark, historic and unprecedented political revolutions sweeping across Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Change has suddenly become the buzzword. I predict that this wind of change, albeit may take a different form and dimension, will soon get to Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world.

My prediction is based on the fact that everything changes with time. Change, although may tarry, is a necessary end that will come when it will come. Change, whether we like it or not, expect it or not, initiate it or not, will surely come at a point in time. This is because; change is a part of life. Change is necessary in life. Change is a natural process of life. Infact, change is a “living thing” and is present, imminent and indispensable in life. According to Geil Sheeshy, a renowned novelist and essayist, “if we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living”.

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There are two major triggers of change which, though are diametrically opposed to each other, must be present for change to occur. These are Dissatisfaction and inspiration. Change is triggered the moment there is a dissatisfaction and discontent with the present situation of things (i.e. the status quo). When people become tired, fed-up and disenchanted with the present state of Affairs, which they believe is not in their best interest, it is a signal that change is imminent, sooner or later. Dissatisfaction or discontent may arise as a result of a number of adverse socio-economic and political issues. These may include, but not limited to, dwindling fortunes of the economy, rising rates of inflation and unemployment, high level of poverty leading to widening  gap between the rich and the poor which may lead to a number of social vices such as Armed robbery, organized murder and assassination, kidnapping, economic crimes, corruption in high places, insecurity, restriction, abuse and violation of human rights, electoral malpractices, bad governance and inept leadership, political instability, among others. All these are some of the unsalutory conditions that can lead to a dampening or weakening of the national morale, thereby leading to public despair, rumbustious anger, and social disgust. The attendant frustration and raucous discontent among the people may engender social unrest, political upheavals, riotous public demonstrations and mass protests to demand for change as recently witnessed in some African and Middle East Countries, notably, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman etc. The popular uprisings in those countries were instigated as a result of people’s discontent with their leaders, some of whom have been in  power for over twenty, thirty and, in some cases, over fourty years and were showing no signs of relinquishing power and allowing democracy to thrive. It all started in Tunisia, where it took the self-immolation of a desperate, young unemployed graduate to trigger off a chain of mass protests and popular uprising. The huge protest and popular revolt that followed in Tunisia eventually forced the then president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee into self-exile in Saudi Arabia. Following on the heels of the popular revolt in Tunisia, was the Egyptian revolution which forced the then president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak, to resign and step down after over thirty years in office. The Egyptian revolution became the sign post for a web of popular uprisings in other Arab countries. And the rest, as they say, is now history.

Change, as can be seen from the Egyptian revolution, can also be spurred or driven by inspiration. Such inspiration may come from previous or current experiences of change or reforms in other climes. Remember that the political revolt in Tunisia, served as a catalyst for the Egyptian revolution which also became a reference point or an inspiration for other Arab countries where popular uprisings took place to effect necessary changes.

At this juncture, let me state that those who have the erroneous impression that the popular revolts that took place in the Arab countries cannot be replicated in sub-sahara Africa, and especially in Nigeria, should have a rethink. Such people wrongly believe that Nigerians are too docile, dormant and complacent to attempt to initiate such popular uprising. They are wrong and myopic in their thinking. It took the Arab countries decades, to come to the realization to effect the necessary changes. It just did not happen overnight. The way it happened in those countries, after a while, I believe it can happen in Nigeria, if the present dysfunctional, shambolic and shenanigan political system, social disequilibrium and economic bondage are allowed to continue unabated.

Mark my words. I am not making a prediction neither am I calling for a revolt but just stating the obvious. If I may recall, and some people seem to have forgotten so quickly, in 1993, there was a civil unrest, albeit not on a massive scale as witnessed in the recent Arab uprisings, to protest the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections which was widely acclaimed to have been won by the Business Mogul, the late Bashorun M.K.O Abiola. It was the popular revolt by the people against the annulment of the election that forced the then military president, Ibrahim Babaginda to “Step aside’ and resign from office.

Although, as earlier mentioned, it may be argued that the June 12 uprising was not as massive as witnessed in the Arab uprisings, it is a signal that when push comes to shove a popular uprisings and mass revolt can successfully, take place in Nigeria, and indeed other sub-sahara African countries, if the conditions are right and ripe.

KEY LESSONS OF THE ARAB REVOLUTION

One major lesson to be learnt from the wave of popular uprisings in the Arab countries is that a resistance to change can be broken by circumstances beyond one’s control. Leaders who resist voluntary change bear the risk of a forceful, not necessarily a violent, change, through circumstances that will beyond their control. Such sit-tight leaders must realize that everything that has a beginning, surely, will one day come to an end.

The political revolution in the Arab world is also a clear manifestation and attestation to the fact that the people’s power and collective will, sustained determination, and strong desire to effect necessary and desired change cannot be truncated by any leader, no matter how powerful he, or his army, may be. It underscores the Latin maxim “vox populi, vox dei” which translated means the voice of the people, is the voice of God.

Another lesson to be learnt is that people have to conquer their fears and be courageous and determined to ensure that the necessary and desired changes are effected. People have to dare the status quo, be prepared to confront the powers that be head-on and be willing to pay the price and make the necessary scarifies, for the desired change to come about.

Another major lesson, and this is very instructive, is that it has been able to debunk the previous conventional perception that change can only be effected from top-down i.e. by the leadership. The monumental political revolution that took place in the Arab world has clearly shown that change could also be initiated from bottom – up i.e. by the people or the stakeholders themselves. The people of these countries took their destiny in their own hands, collectively resolved that enough is enough, and decided to effect the necessary changes without waiting for, or indeed when they got tired of the leadership. This goes to show that change can be initiated and effected either from top-down (i.e. by the leadership) or bottom-up (i.e. by the people / stakeholders) depending on the situation or circumstances.

And the final word, for Nigeria, the government should urgently initiate and institute the necessary socio-economic and political reforms to correct the inherent anomalies and obvious imbalances, in order to assuage the frayed feelings of frustration and disenchantment among  the people, otherwise change may be nearer than we thought. A word is enough for the wise!

God bless Nigeria.

 

* Mr. Kayode Oluwa is a change Management Consultant and Public Affairs Analyst. He can be reached on 08033233844




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