The ‘failure’ of #OccupyNigeria, and where we can go from here (#NewLeadership Series by Chude Jideonwo)

Published:7 Jan, 2013

I am very proud of what Nigerians achieved this time last year, when we came together to fight an unreasonable government policy of fuel subsidy removal, and properly and effectively channeled our anger to highlight the issue of government waste.

As we mark the one-year anniversary this week, January 2012 made me proud to be a Nigerian, indeed to be alive at a time of uplifting active citizenship across the world.

There are people, especially in government, led ably by President Goodluck Jonathan who have dismissed the importance of that historic battle – crediting “failed politicians” from Bola Tinubu to Nasir el-Rufai for mobilising the people with “bottled water”.

As an entrepreneur who closed down my business and made some self-sacrifice to join hands across lines to drive that protest from Ojota to Surulere and Victoria Island and who personally secured the participation of a great number of those artistes who performed because they believed in the cause, I feel very insulted by the allusion that ordinary Nigerians who joined the protest were bribed with “bottled water”.

But, I can understand the perception. The leading lights of the protests were politicians, and when politicians get involved, thingseasily lose their meaning. Of course, it makes no sense to reduce a protestthat involved Nigerians of every hue and stripe simply because the political opposition aligned with it, but in a paranoid Nigerian political space, I understand the push-back.

They looked at the thousands in Lagos, angry and screaming and they saw the opposition’s party vice presidential candidate, Tunde Bakare speaking to them, and our short-sighted, over-indulged leaders put two and two together – and arrived at 10.

True, Bakare was an imperfect, maybe even fatal, vessel for the aspirations of the protesters, unable to rein in his passions and overtly calling for the death of our leaders, but he certainly had earned the right to lead it. He provided a backbone of strategy and resources, andmanaged to build a broad coalition that went far beyond the agenda of his political party or his own narrow ideologies.

But as much as you credit him for its success, he also made the unfortunate call that broke the back of that historic movement – when he came on stage and gave in to the pressure to break up the protest for the weekend and re-assemble on Monday.

Go home and re-load for an Occupy protest? The people of Egypt and Tunisia must have thrown their heads back and laughed at the picnic we were having.

But I don’t blame Bakare. Unfortunately, I make bold to say that retreat is ingrained in the Nigerian character. As I read Chinua Achebe make his justifications for why himself and his intellectual friendsagreed that Biafra should surrender to the rampaging Nigerian forces and give up the hard-won independence for which more than a million had died, I came to that conclusion that we are a people defined by retreat, or as my former pastor put it, “the spirit of almost there”.

Bakare made his call for surrender last year because the people were ready to surrender, and Bakare is a politician, and politicians listen to the people. The people he was leading had begun to grumble on Facebook and Twitter and to murmur at protest grounds across the country. They wanted a break from the protest; they had become tired.

I was in the middle of that protest, working with friends and associates to mobilise young people, and indeed it was a cause for great agony. Colleagues at my office were eager to return to work, many hadlost the financial and other resources that kept the appearances of a normal life while we protested, there had been reports of breakdown of law and order across the state as hoodlums held sway, and people were just frankly, tired.

Let me also share a secret that we don’t want those in government to know: the entire protest wasn’t dependent on our will to see the course to the finish, it was sadly dependent on our hope and prayer that President Jonathan would suddenly agree with us and then reduce the pump price and would quickly declare “mission accomplished” and go back to our familiar routines. When five days after we left our jobs, he hadn’t done that, and his body language portrayed a man who was convinced he was doing the right thing, Nigerians began to second-guess themselves. That was when we lost the battle.

Bakare made the popular call, that inadvertently signaled to the powers that be that Nigerians were not really for a revolution, as it were, or even a change in approach to governance.

We looked ready, we smelt ready, we sounded ready, but no, we were not ready.

No advancing army facing a ferocious, and equally advancing enemy stops to break bread. And that was the end of that.

Let me quickly say on the subject of Biafra, I cannot even begin to understand the effects of war, and how devastating – dehumanising – it must have been for the Igbos and minority ethnic groups (of which I amone) caught in the borders of what would have been a new nation in those times. It is more likely than not that if I had been involved in that war, I wouldhave sided with the majority and conceded. I would have chosen respite overfreedom, and reason over justice. A living dog is, after all, better than adead tiger.

Unfortunately, being “unreasonable” (and may I gratuitously affirm that this is said with all sense of responsibility) that is the nature of revolutions, and of the fight of a people to define their nations. It is the fight the people of Syria are having as we speak; one that the people of South Africa continued to the finish, one that South Sudan has fought and one that those inspiring people of Egypt have refused to stop having until their leaders do exactly what the mass of the people desire to be done.

It comes at so high a cost, that only a handful of nations per civilisation are able to begin and stay that course. Honestly? I am unconvinced that Nigerians belong to that small circle of peoples with thatcapacity for no retreat, no surrender.

By way of explaining this, some Nigerians have then tried to justify our culture of retreat – maybe we do not need a mass revolt; everyone after-all cannot be Egypt – and probably they are right. You couldpoint to countries like Singapore and Malaysia and perhaps post-conflict Rwanda, and to some extent modern Ghana, and speak to quiet and steady economic transformation driven (in some cases) by popular democracy as the solid alternative to “needless” bloodshed and the sacrifice of life and limb.

That is a legitimate explanation. Unfortunately, it is neither here nor there. How do we fundamentally change our country if we will not do it by driving the fear of our collective anger into the hearts of our leaders?

There is no other choice – in the absence of a mass revolt, those who seek to drive change now need to fall back on incrementalchange, a collection of little drops of activity by different sectors of society that will eventually deliver what some have called the Flywheel Effect. This will involve a deliberate, sustained effort to move from business as usual in the way our country is run.

Unfortunately (maybe fortunately) incremental change is in fact the hardest change of all.

It requires a coalition of people committed to that change; it requires a singular strategy; the kind that has driven China’s economic transformation; and it requires the sitting down to work out the details and contours of the shape this change should take.

It requires leaders who have the character to think of a long game and have the vision and temperament to build the coalition mentioned above, and it will require the collectivity of aspirations where we trade off some of our demands (call it principles) in the short term in order to win a long term war and earn the change that our country needs.

Does all of this give you a headache already? Yeah, I know the feeling. That’s why some people just prefer to take a gun and get the job done faster.

Well, take some painkillers quickly. We have work ahead of us.

*Jideonwo is publisher/editor-in-chief of Y!, including Y! Magazine, Y! Books, Y! TV & YNaija.com. #NewLeadership is a twice-weekly, 12-week project to inspire action from a new generation of leaders – it ends on March 31.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Lagos Shuts Down 70 Churches, 20 Mosques Over Noise Pollution

The Lagos State Government on Wednesday, shut down 70 churches, 20 mosques and about 11 hotels, club houses and beer parlours in a move aimed at reducing noise in the state. The General Manager, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Bola Shabi, who made this known, said that henceforth, the state government would no longer allow make-shift buildings to be used as places of worship. Shabi said: “Precisely about 70 churches, 20 mosques and about...

Freezing Fayose’s Account: Assembly Protests Against EFCC, Holds Plenary On Highway

As part of the efforts to drum support for Governor Ayodele Fayose over the freezing of his accounts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , members of the state House of Assembly on Wednesday staged a protest by holding its plenary on the highway to express their disenchantment with the action of the anti-graft agency. They lambasted the EFCC for flouting section 308 of the constitution which conferred absolute immunity on Fayose. They then...

Messi Is No 1986 Heroes- Maradona

Diego Maradona apparently boasted that his 1986 World Cup-winning Argentina team was better than the current squad now thrown into turmoil by Lionel Messi’s departure, in a recording published Wednesday. Previously critical of Messi, the 55-year-old ex-national captain and 2010 World Cup coach joined calls this week for him to reverse his decision to retire from the Argentina national team after a morale crushing penalty shoot-out defeat to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final.

Amosu Arraigned, Granted N500 Million Bail

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arraigned a former Chief of Air Staff, Adesola Amosu, before a Federal High Court in Lagos. Mr. Amosu, a retired Air Marshal, was arraigned alongside Jacob Adigun, an Air Vice Marshal, and Gbadebo Olugbenga, an Air Commodore on a 26-count of stealing about N50 billion. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The judge granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each.

Court Sacks Modu Sheriff As PDP Chairman

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja on Wednesday sacked Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party. Justice Valentine Ashi ?held that Sheriff’s ascension to office was unlawful as it was based on amended provision of the PDP ?Constitution said to be illegally introduced in December 2014. ?Though the court did not specifically mention Sheriff’s name, it made an order restraining all persons who became...

Pray For Better Nigeria, Buhari Tells Clerics

President Muhammadu Buhari charged Islamic clerics to intensify prayers for a better and progressive Nigeria. He made the call during breaking of Ramadan fast with religious leaders at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Recalling his last meeting with the scholars during the last Ramadan period in 2015 and similar meetings with Christian clerics before the Ramadan period, the President said the meetings were useful and meaningful as various developmental ideas were offered on how best to...

Firebomb Attack Outside Australian Mosque

Firebomb attack outside an Australian mosque while worshippers were at prayer was condemned Wednesday by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with one Islamic leader calling it a “hate crime”. No one was injured in Tuesday night’s blast which destroyed a car parked outside a mosque and Islamic college in the Perth suburb of Thornlie. “It is believed an accelerant was used to start the fire,” Western Australian police said in a statement, adding that three other...

Police Arrest 10 Boko Haram Suspects In Zaria

No fewer than 10 suspected Boko Haram members who reportedly fled Sambisa Forest in Borno State have been arrested by the Nigerian Police Force in Dogarawa area of Sabon Gari, Zaria. Some good Samaritans volunteered information to us on the activities of the suspects. We immediately mobilised with about 100 mobile police and we successfully surrounded the house the suspects were living in. We were able to apprehend them and they are in our...

Hotel Operators Decry High Electricity Tariff

Hotel operators in Rivers State yesterday called on the management of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to stop supplying electricity to their hotels. The operators, who made the demand when they met with a delegation of PHEDC, led by its chief executive officer, Mr Jay McCoskey, in Port Harcourt, said they were not comfortable with the outrageous bills from the power distribution company. Speaking on behalf of the hotel operators, chairman of Nigeria...

Frozen Account: Fayose Drags EFCC To Court

Governor Ayodele Fayose has dragged Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a second generation bank before a Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti over freezing of his personal bank accounts. The court has ordered the anti-graft commission and the bank to show cause why an Order Exparte to unfreeze the governor’s accounts, submitted yesterday by the Fayose’s legal team, should not be upheld. The judge gave Monday, July 4 for the EFCC and the bank to appear in...

First Foreign Victims Confirmed In Istanbul Blasts

An Iranian and a Ukrainian have been confirmed as the first foreign victims in the Istanbul airport suicide attack, a Turkish official said Wednesday. “I confirm one Iranian and one Ukrainian national have been killed in yesterday’s terror attack,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. At least 36 people died in Tuesday night’s triple suicide bombing at Ataturk airport, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said early Wednesday. Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister...

Why Buhari Ordered Arrest Of Close Ally & Arms Panel Member

President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the arrest of a key member of the panel investigating the mismanagement of public funds meant for the war against Boko Haram after receiving damning reports that he was involved in alleged money laundering and illegal possession of firearms, reliable security and presidency sources have said. Despite being his close ally and loyalist, Mr. Buhari okayed the arrest of Mohammed Umar, after perusing reports alleging that the retired Air Force officer ran...

EU Meets Without Britain For First Time Since Brexit Vote

European Union leaders will Wednesday assess the damage from Britain’s decision to leave the bloc and try to prevent further disintegration, as they meet for the first time without a British representative. And as the shockwaves reverberate around British politics, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also expected in Brussels “utterly determined” to keep her pro-EU country in the club despite the Brexit vote. Five days after Britain voted by 52 to 48 percent to...

Woman Burns Boy’s Genitals For Stealing N100

The police in Lagos State have arrested a woman identified simply as Saratu, for allegedly burning the private parts of her seven-year-old nephew, Razak Qudus. It was learnt that Saratu allegedly burnt the boy’s private parts with a stove after he was accused of stealing N100. A reporter learnt that the victim, who is a primary four pupil in a private school, lived with the suspect in the Afariogun, Oshodi area of the...

Ekweremadu Writes Int’l Community, Says Buhari Wants To Silence Him

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu has written to the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and governments of the United States and United Kingdom, alleging attempts by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to truncate Nigeria’s democracy. Also copied in the letter were the United States Congress and European Union (EU) Parliament. This is just as the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami is expected to appear before the Senate Committee...

Meet 35 Year-Old Entrepreneur Who Owns Nigeria’s 2nd Largest Rice Farm

Nigerians consume more than 5 million metric tons of rice every year, with a significant portion of its consumption needs sourced from imports. Rotimi Williams, an ambitious 35 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur and rice farmer, is on a quest to change that. Williams, a former Journalist, is the owner of Kereksuk Rice Farm, the 2nd largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria by land size. His farm, which is situated in Nasarawa state in northern Nigeria, currently sits...

UN Releases $13m For Life-saving Assistance To 250,000 People In North-east

The United Nations on Monday released 13 million dollars from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to provide life-saving assistance to 250,000 people in the North-east area of Nigeria. Mr Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, issued the release. According to the UN, the destruction of crops and looting of livestock have left many people unable to support their families. “No fewer than 50,000 people need seeds and tools for the...

FG Pays N1.6bn To YouWin Awardees

The Federal Government has paid N1.6 billion to 638 awardees of the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) programme, a statement from the Ministry of Finance has said. The statement by Mr Na’inna Dambatta, the Director of Information in the ministry, which was issued on Tuesday in Abuja, said the amount was paid in June. It recalled that under the programme which took off in 2011, a total of 18, 000 young entrepreneurs were...

Your Claim To Take Over Anambra In 2017 Laughable, APGA Tells APC

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has described as laughable, a claim by the All Progressives Congress (APC) that it would take over  Anambra State by 2017. It also raised the alarm over alleged threat by APC to use its federal might to cause a revolution that would put other political parties on the run during the 2017 gubernatorial election in the state. Describing the alleged threat as “treasonable felony,” the Anambra State Secretary of APGA, Sir Tony Ifeanya...

254 Teachers Drag Wike To Court Over Unpaid Salaries

No fewer than 254 workers, whose salaries have been stopped since February 2016, have dragged the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Bayelsa State. The workers, who are teachers of primary and demonstration schools of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, and Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori, have prayed the court to compel the government to pay their salaries.

Dasuki Authorized Payment Of $40m To Jonathan’s Cousin’s Company– Witness

A prosecution witness, Ibrahim Mahir, has testified that retired Col. Sambo Dasuki authorised the payment of 40 million dollars in favour of One Plus Holdings. Mahir made this known when he testified in the case of Azibaola Roberts, cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday. He said that Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser (NSA), instructed him to prepare a payment mandate of 40 million dollars in...