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
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.