Pa­tri­ots, not ‘mis­guided Nige­ri­ans’, con­fronted Amaechi

The Punch - - SPORTS - Abim­bola Ade­lakun aade­[email protected]

ONCE upon a time – six years ago ac­tu­ally – the Min­is­ter of trans­porta­tion, Chibuike Amaechi, au­da­ciously pro­claimed that they (he and his politi­cian ilk) ha­bit­u­ally loot Nige­ria be­cause Nige­ri­ans do not stone them. It was a mo­ment of hubris that could only have come from some­one con­vinced of his own in­vin­ci­bil­ity. The “stone chal­lenge” to Nige­ri­ans is anal­o­gous to a rapist blam­ing his vic­tims for not do­ing enough to stop him. I wrote it in an ar­ti­cle then that if Amaechi was con­vinced Nige­ri­ans were too docile to at­tack him, he should strip him­self of all para­pher­na­lia of power and walk the streets. Any coward can hide be­hind bul­let­proof ve­hi­cles and the DSS of­fi­cials to taunt his vic­tims. The real test of his as­ser­tion would be to face the peo­ple and see.

On Fri­day, Amaechi re­ceived his much-needed ed­u­ca­tion when he was ac­costed in Spain by some Nige­ri­ans self-iden­ti­fied as IPOB mem­bers. The me­dia de­scribed them as “an­gry” while Amaechi called them “mis­guided Nige­ri­ans.” For me, those who at­tacked Amaechi are pa­tri­ots. If they are not pas­sion­ate about Nige­ria, they would not have put them­selves at risk to chal­lenge a con­fessed looter of col­lec­tive pat­ri­mony. I am some­one who can­not bear the spec­ta­cle of vi­o­lence, but I can hardly fault Amaechi’s at­tack­ers. Whether they should have beat him up into a pulp or not is in­signif­i­cant. The fact that they could defy -and for the sec­ond time af­ter a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent with Se­na­tor Ike Ek­w­ere­madu in Ger­many – the halo that po­lit­i­cal power im­bues on our lead­ers is what mat­ters to me here.

Any­way, now that Amaechi has learned that Nige­ri­ans are not as meek as he sup­poses, can he and his friends now stop “loot­ing”?

Nige­ri­ans in di­as­pora Com­mis­sion, headed by Abike Dabiri-erewa, con­demned the in­ci­dent while also ap­peal­ing to Nige­ri­ans to put up good be­hav­iour any­where in the world “be­cause such in­ci­dents tar­nish the im­age of our great coun­try.” Like ev­ery other en­abler that pro­pels this un­wor­thy ad­min­is­tra­tion, Dabiri-erewa as­sumes two things: One, that the im­age of Nige­ria that some smart alecs in Aso rock con­trive through scripted spiels and ac­tions can over­ride the glob­ally ac­knowl­edged re­al­ity that Nige­ria is in a deep mess. Re­mem­ber that time Ma­jor General Muham­madu Buhari (retd.) told the law­mak­ers that booed him dur­ing a bud­get speech that “the world is watch­ing us?” Yes, that is how they get more fas­tid­i­ous about im­ages rather than sub­stance. Two, that the re­spon­si­bil­ity for cul­ti­vat­ing a favourable im­age for the coun­try lies with the peo­ple rather than the lead­er­ship. No, those who con­fronted Amaechi are not the ones who tar­nish the coun­try’s im­age; it is the ac­tion of our lead­ers that com­busts the lies that what we run is a coun­try.

On the same Fri­day that IPOB mem­bers re­port­edly came for Amaechi in Spain, the DSS re-ar­rested ac­tivist and jour­nal­ist, Omoyele Sowore. That was just one day af­ter the judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, or­dered his re­lease, sav­ing them from hav­ing to cook up an­other ju­ve­nile ex­cuse to jus­tify his con­tin­ued detention. the crude drama that went down in the process of his re-ar­rest was cap­tured on video and dis­pensed all over the world. Ev­ery­where they read the news on Nige­ria, they will watch that video and make a judg­ment on us Nige­ri­ans. By act­ing the way they did, the DSS made the rest of us poor Nige­ri­ans look like denizens of a jun­gle.

For an or­gan­i­sa­tion like the DSS, in­tel­li­gence should be an ac­tive verb. You should not only do bet­ter than use trained brutes to wave a gun in our faces, you must also con­sciously act with acu­men. Un­for­tu­nately, the “in­tel­li­gence” that should guide their op­er­a­tions as a so-called “in­tel­li­gence agency” has be­come an emp­tied sig­ni­fier. Their first un­in­tel­li­gent ac­tion in the Sowore de­ba­cle was ever pick­ing him up over the #Revo­lu­tion­now protests. They kick­started a chain of events that has gone out of their hands. Now, be­cause they can­not find any point at which they can exit the whole drama with even a mod­icum of dig­nity, they are dou­bling down in their use of brutish force. If you re­view the litany of parochial charges they have made against Sowore – ter­ror­ism, money laun­der­ing, trea­son, and even his meet­ing with IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu – you can tell they have noth­ing sub­stan­tial in their kitty to pur­sue this. So, be­tween the DSS and Amaechi’s in­ter­locu­tors, who is worse for Nige­ria’s im­age?

Given how hard the times are in Nige­ria, the placid­ity this ad­min­is­tra­tion de­mands of us is what is bad for the coun­try’s im­age. Protests and rev­o­lu­tion chants are, in fact, a project of self-re­demp­tion for us as a peo­ple. In all con­ti­nents of the world bar Antarc­tica, protests have been a fea­ture of their land­scape this sea­son. How can cit­i­zens of coun­tries like Al­ge­ria, Aus­tria, Bo­livia, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Ger­many, Guinea, Haiti, Hong Kong, In­done­sia, Iraq, Is­rael, Kaza­khstan, the Nether­lands, Pak­istan, Peru, Spain, Su­dan, Syria, the UK, and New Zealand be protest­ing in­equal­ity, cor­rup­tion and other dis­lo­ca­tions of their na­tional ex­is­tence and Nige­ri­ans re­main silent? We need it more than they do!

Our coun­try is not only plagued with multi-di­men­sional poverty, we are also trapped in multi-gen­er­a­tional in­den­ture­ship due to our lead­ers’ habits of in­debt­ed­ness. Things are worse for the ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans. We check ev­ery box that in­dexes na­tional hard­ship – from un­gain­ful em­ploy­ment to ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity, mal­nu­tri­tion, high costs of liv­ing, in­se­cu­rity, en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion, and even shorter lifes­pan!

Presently, more than 13m children are out of school. Many more times that num­ber that passed through our de­crepit schools have emerged as ei­ther stark il­lit­er­ates or ill-lit­er­ates. ed­u­ca­tion is not only poorly ad­min­is­tered, op­por­tu­ni­ties for up­ward mobility have also shriv­elled. From ru­ral to ur­ban cen­tres, we lack even the most ba­sic phys­i­cal and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture. The fig­ures about Nige­ria are dire, and the apos­tles of anti-cor­rup­tion are now the ones over­see­ing over some of the most bla­tant in­stances of cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria’s his­tory. right be­fore our eyes, fuel sub­sidy bal­looned by 2,000 per cent within one year. How do they jus­tify that atro­cious level of cor­rup­tion?

Here is why I called those who con­fronted Amaechi pa­tri­ots and should be thanked for their ser­vices: they are part of the proofs we have to show to the world that we are not all brain­dead cit­i­zens, con­gen­i­tally cursed to em­brace poverty and need­less suf­fer­ing. The rest of the world must have been look­ing at us and won­der­ing how come that Nige­ri­ans who have far more com­pelling rea­sons to be on the streets ap­pear quiet. Well, “ston­ing” Amaechi is a ten­dered ev­i­dence that not all of us are born to smile while we suf­fer. The fact that it took place abroad is even more re­deem­ing of our dig­nity be­cause the rest of the world can at least see that we have not yielded our hu­man­ity. No mat­ter how hard they have tried, our Nige­rian spir­its have re­fused to be cowed. We are stand­ing up for our­selves and our coun­try. If we keep quiet, we will not only be de­hu­man­ised, some­one like Amaechi will still blame us for our pas­siv­ity.

they can con­tinue mak­ing fu­tile ap­peals to “re­spect­ing the law” all they like, but those who are en­gag­ing in acts of civil dis­obe­di­ence in these grim times are the ones his­tory will vin­di­cate. The real Nige­rian pa­tri­ots are not those who have in­ter­nalised sub­ju­ga­tion to the point they are con­demned to jus­tify ev­ery in­stance of abuse of power. No, the pa­tri­ots are the ones who still have enough faith in Nige­ria to con­front her lead­ers with chants of “rev­o­lu­tion!” Whether they like it or not, we will ir­ri­tate their tone-deaf ears with our dis­sent. We will not stop speak­ing up against the pre­car­ity of our Nige­rian lives and the op­pres­sive forces they de­ploy to keep us down. They can­not deny us ev­ery div­i­dend of democ­racy and ex­pect us to play dead. We will keep talk­ing about the con­di­tions of our ex­is­tence un­til they ei­ther lis­ten-and make nec­es­sary re­forms-or they get out of the way so we can re­build our coun­try.

Ei­ther way, we will talk. To be silent is to be twice de­feated.

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