Who is afraid of violent change in Nigeria? – By Sanusi Muhammad

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Circumstances can be changed by revolution and revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought”……………Osygyefo Kwame Nkruman (1909 – 1972). (First indigenous president of independent Ghana)

Before it was infested with crisis that later caused its downfall in the 2015 general elections, there were, several news reports originating from PDP national secretariat, Wadata Plaza primarily as a campaign strategy to demoralize opposition parties in the contest. Some of the reports were factual and strong while many were the usual political talks to win elections.

PDP had warned against a call for violent change of government which inspired this comment for sharing to remind Nigerians that all hands must be on deck to continue to protect and defend the democracy, no matter what it may take.

Nobody, especially someone versed in democratic ethics would advocate for violence when peaceful dialogue has not been closed. Giving all benefit of doubt, the road to dialogue has not been completely foreclosed in the Nigerian state even though the populace is getting weary of the antics of elected leaders who have no regard for their votes. Yes, in view of the desperation and frustration of the people and the excruciating economic atmosphere, the only way out to escape unscrupulous thoughts is to ensure that the people’s votes always count in elections.  That is where the message of several Civil Society Groups really comes to the fore. The clamor for reform assumes devastating dimension when successive administrations in the country compounded the misery of their people and made their situation looked hopeless. At every point in history where people advocate for a revolution, the situations are usually bad. Ab initio, it was a tussle between the colonialist and the colonized but now, it is a battle between despotic/bad governments and the people. Is Nigeria at that stage? A look at the brief history of countries where clamor for reforms/revolution once assumed centre stage can provide answer to this nagging question.

Cuba for example was a Spanish colony since 1492 that witnessed early mixture of draconian colonial master and tyrannical national government. In 1898, the United States of America declared war on Spain and captured Cuba along with several other Spanish possessions. The Cuban Republic was founded in 1902. However, its independence was limited by the insistence of the United States that it had the right to intervene in Cuban internal affairs. When Cuban leader, Ramon Grau Martin enacted legislation that reduced the influence of the United States government and businesses in Cuba, the US responded by supporting Cuban military officer Fulgencio Batista, who overthrew  the Grau government in 1934.

As Cuba’s army chief, Batista functioned as the real power in Cuba, installing series of puppet presidents. He served a four-year term as president himself from 1940 – 1944 and returned to the presidency in 1952 when he organized a military coup that overthrew the elected government. During his second regime, Batista’s government grew increasingly repressive and corrupt.

Resistance to Batista’s government developed among university students and gradually spread to include varied segments of Cuban society. Because the Cuban economy was growing in the mid-1950s, the opposition to Batista focused mainly on the repressive nature of the dictatorship and Batista’s suspension of constitutional government. A number of Cuban revolutionaries, however, advocated major social/economic reforms to end peasant land evictions, to reduce chronically high seasonal unemployment, and to narrow social and economic inequalities.

One of the people opposing Batista was Jean Fidel Castro. On July 26, 1953, Castro and associates attacked an army barracks (Moncada) in Santiago. The attack failed and Castro was arrested but the bravery of his actions and his defence speech at his trial won him widespread attention. Castro was jailed, but Batista released him in 1955. He traveled out to Mexico and to the United States to gather extra forces, experience and funds to invade Cuba. While in Mexico, he met an Argentine Revolutionary wizard, Ernesto (Che) Guvera, who proved a valuable ally that, brought Castro to power. Cuba ever since then, has been witnessing giant strides in all fronts.

The English revolution is also traced to social, economic, constitutional and religious developments over a century. In focus were questions of sovereignty in the English state and Puritanism in the Church. The political quarrel became an armed conflict in 1642. The result was the clearly waned influence of the Church in Britain’s governance today.

Also the French Revolution was the bedrock of serious transformation of France political system lasting from 1789 – 1799.During the course of the revolution from an absolute monarchy to a republic of nearly free and equal citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were widespread as it ranks as one of the most important events in the history of Europe.

In 10 years of the revolution, France got transformed and then dismantled the old regime. That is the political and social system that existed before 1789, and replaced with different governments. These governments were short lived but altered France’s political system for good. The French Revolution provided the most influential model of protest against absolutism in public affairs.

The history of revolution in Russia is also instructive. The people goaded by the workers, protested the absolute rule of the period, leading to the October Revolution of 1917 masterminded by the Bolshevik. It led to the emergence of communist rule in Russia that changed the face of the country for good and its interface with the outside world.

The Irish Revolution was anchored on the struggle to domesticate governance in Ireland from British control. Even though the Irish were twice unsuccessful at this in 1886 and 1892, the British House of Commons forcefully passed the third Home Rule Bill in 1914. The Irish Free State was established in 1922.

Ghana, an African country, witnessed a semblance of revolution with military coloration when John Jerry Rawlings did a cleansing of its political landscape. My fervent prayer is that military option will not happen again in Nigeria and achieving this could be bolstered through promising actions and utterances from the politicians and those piloting the affairs of governments of the day and not veiled threat. Neither would a PDP empty boast that was scattered by its own members in 2015 of ruling the country for the next 60 years that was in contempt of the people’s votes suffice here.

‘Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable’. The sense in this aphorism is that whether or not we like it, any regime of electoral corruption, insecurity and economic despondency cannot be accepted by the gullible. The option of a mass protest should not be foreclosed if helpless trend in many states of the federation continue where the people are deceived.

The antidote to this is good governance that is currently lacking in several states of the federation under the guise of opposition to the ruling party.

According to a Greek Philosopher, Aristotle (384BC – 322BC), ‘Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal and equals that may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions’. And this state of mind is highly common among the people of Nigeria due to bad governance and insincerity of leaders.      

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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