Revolution, Change And Democratic Leadership
In all the years that President Buhari sought to be president, he was engaged in one form of protest or the other. As a matter of fact, his running mate in the 2003 elections, Senator Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, allegedly lost his life after one of the rallies organized by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) where they were said to have been tear gassed by the Nigerian Police. The party went to court and it was held that Nigerians have the right to protest and that police permission is not required. In 2014, Buhari alongside other prominent members of the All Progressive Congress, protested against the security situation in the country.
Since his emergence as president, things have gone different. Nigerians have had to endure hardship under his watchful eyes. For a man who sought to be president three times, before clinching it at the fourth attempt, it is disheartening to see things go so bad considering that he rode on the back of change. Today, many of those who supported him to emerge as president, are either his worse critic or have chosen to be indifferent.
During his inauguration in 2015, the president said he belonged to nobody and to everybody. Many Nigerians celebrated. They were however, to know the import of that statement; that the president “no send anybody or anything” like they say in pidgin. Despite the lamentations of the people, things are still the way they were even worse. The promised change that brought the government seemed illusive.
Months after being sworn in for a second term, there are no signs that the next level would be different from the change mantra. As a matter of fact, the next level may actually be worse; and some Nigerians, tired with the state of affairs, called for protest, although tagged a revolution. What did government do? They sent officers of the DSS in the dead of the night to arrest the leader, Omoleye Sowere. Will a government that has kept faith with the people and delivered on its campaign promises be jittery of any protest? Their argument is that he called for a revolution which is a treasonable act.
But President Buhari was a chief protagonist of a revolution. As recently reported, during the Arab Spring in Egypt, Buhari through his spokesperson Yinka Odumakin, in 2011, praised the Egyptian revolutionaries and called them “the forces of change”. He also praised the Egyptian army for not allowing themselves to be used to duly thwart the forces of change. He then went on to say “the time has come for our own security forces to demonstrate similar valor by putting national interest above that of individuals when there is a clash between the two”.
The way the police clamp down on protesters and the manner in which the SSS picked the leader of the #RevolutionNow, one cannot but ask if the president means what he says?
The scuttled #RevolutionNow protest by security agencies was clearly undemocratic. Nigerians these days, feel trapped inside an Orwellian reality. Moreover, if the government is confident, they should not get away with their delusions that Nigerians ignored the protests because they believed in the promises of the present administration.
It is the belief of many that democracy should guarantee good life. A stable democracy piloted by visionary leaders see issues in their broader and more complex perspectives.
Instead of Nigerians to forget the hardship experienced during the military era, hunger, diseases and ignorance have become the lot of citizens under our democracy. Life has become a thing to endure rather than enjoy. Or how else could we call the brutality of journalists at the #RevolutionNow protest; the Fourth Estate of the Realm has become a punching bag for the police and other security agents.
This kind of rascality has no place in a democracy. Dragging journalists on the bare floor by police is uncivilized, and against the rule of the law. In a democracy, journalists need to be accorded more respect and enough regard by security agencies. A responsible government with professional police must know how to separate protesters from journalists, even though protesters do not deserve that kind of treatment from our security agencies.
That people were willing to come out and protest against this government after completing four years in office, and three months after assuming a new mandate should make the president carry out a deep introspection, considering that many would have gladly laid down their lives for him four years earlier. Sadly, the body language of the president speaks loud and dashes many hopes that any lessons are being learnt as we continue to struggle to make meaning of our democracy.