Amaechi’s Political Incorrectness
Since Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State and Chairman Nigerian Governors' Forum spoke about the timidity of Nigerians and the impossibility of a revolution; many people have gone for his jugular with a barrage of criticisms. Some of those points made by his critiques are valid. But we must examine such a statement with deeper retrospection. For those who know Rotimi Amaechi closely- he is not a 'real' Nigerian politician. That is not to say that he does not play politics or have held political positions but that he is somewhat different from what we know about a typical Nigerian politician. A Nigerian politician lies, prevaricates and changes like chameleon. He is your friendenemy in the morning and your enemyfriend inin the midnight. He says something in the night and denies it in the morning. But the Governor of Rivers State is neither of these. If that man tells you anything, then you can take it to the bank. As someone who has been in the political arena for more than twenty years and who has held several high level positions, such a verdict about Nigerians is very and unsettling. Are we really timid? Is the elasticity of our patience limitless? I will attempt to examine this statement from three perspectives. First is that it seems to me an empirical indictment on some of us who call ourselves the remnants of revolutionary elements within the media and civil society. How have we fared in our role as the voice of the voiceless and the conscience of the society? Do we still reflect the views of those who we represent or have we sold out? What is our relationship with the political class? Where is the calculated rudeness of journalists and the unruly mobilisation of civil society that is needed to keep the greed of politicians in check? Amaechi's statement suggests that we (media and civil society) must urgently review where we stand both by day and by night. Therefore, timidity here can be figurative.
Now wait a minute, Rotimi Amaechi was a former student leader in this country. I am sure he participated in and probably led many student demonstrations during his time. What has become of the student movement today? When you hear about the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) or any other student group, how do you feel? Student unionism in Nigeria has transmogrified to a sort of dubious industry. Student elections have now turned to a do or die affair akin to typical electoral contest in Nigeria, not because of the value they want to add but for the opportunity it creates for them to line up their pockets. If you look at the rot in the educational sector, you will see that there is a lot to occupy a committed student movement. But those days are gone. What we now have is an aggregation of clueless government apologists waiting to become instruments in the hands of politicians to pursue a predetermined and often anti-people agenda. Such movements have become highly fragmented and polarised by the same divisive tendencies that have polarised our polity. So who will fight who? That purity of purpose that was the propelling force behind those who successfully prosecuted 'Ali must go' in 1978, ABU riots in 1981, struggle against tuition fees in 1984 and the demonstrations against SAP in 1989, to mention but a few are now completely inexistent. Instead you see students gathering to demonstrate in solidarity with corrupt politicians and genuflecting before dubious individuals as far as you will 'mobilise' and 'demobilise' them.
Let us now look at what almost happened in January 2012 during the demonstrations against the sudden removal of fuel subsidy. The last might not have been heard about what happened behind the scenes but what I know is that there were two sets of activists. One set demonstrated in support of the policy while another set demonstrated against the policy. A group I know of divided their members into two, with one part participating in each part of the divide. Of course they assembled back together in the evening to share their collective booties and map out strategies for the next day and share their loot. Of course we are all aware that as soon as the demonstrations began to show signs similar to the Arab Spring; the labour movement allegedly truncated the exercise by withdrawing their 'ground troops'. They later went into a negotiated 'settlement' with government and suspended the strikes indefinitely. To many observers, January 2012 was a lost opportunity. The consequences of sudden removal of subsidy cut across several classes and Nigerians were united in their anger against a government that is insensitive to the plight of the citizens. Those who know better believed that the country came very close to a revolution. But what happened, the 'activists' at the forefront of the demonstrations went into what theywe called a 'closed door' meeting and decided to truncate the popular will of the people. They call it 'closed door meeting', but as it turned out, many still term it the real coup against the Nigerian people!!!
So what does Amaechi mean by the unending elasticity of our patience? Could it be that he knows a few things that we ordinary Nigerians do not know? Does 'we the people' still constitute any form of discomfiture to the elite? Many observers argue that even though he has implemented many people oriented programs, the Rivers State Governor cannot claim to be speaking on behalf of the people. After all he has been a member of the class that takes pride in insulating themselves deliberately from the pulse of the street. If we examine his statement with greatermore objectivity and fewer sentiments, we may come to the conclusion that he might have said the truth. The level of corruption and bad governance has become so incestuous and unacceptable that something needs to give way. Our leaders have failed us continuously and our civil society is now yielding to the readily sedative balkanization of political contractors. The average Nigerian is angry and helpless. The time to rise above this apparent timidity for courage is around the corner. Nigerians may soon decide to wake up from their slumber and rise up against their oppressors. Though Amaechi might have alerted us to it but even he will not be spared when the chips are down..and he knows it!!!
Truth be told, watching Amaechi's style, one will say that far from a derogatory intention, his true purpose in making that declaration is to challenge the long dead fighting spirit in the average Nigerian to take up his fast waning right to fight challenge governance decay and impunity. Such a statement should therefore, be a wake up call to the people. And, in fact, those who are criticising him on the basis of that singular declaration might have unwittingly aligned with those who are benefitting from the present state of indolence of the Nigerian people and who fear that his comments may wake up the sleeping tiger in and bring forth the anger and wrath from the Nigerian people. The rising inertia of the Nigerian people in the face of rising incidents of bad governance is so manifest that even Nigerians daily mock themselves with the classic level of the elasticity of their patience. Its Nigerians who tell the story of how, when citizens of other nations are forced to their limits, with their back against the wall by their leaders, they fight back in the form of a revolution that sweeps and cleanses the body polity of the nation: But in Nigeria, when the rulers push the people against the wall, the people do not fight back….but instead break through the wall in continuous retreat from their oppressor-rulers!! Amaechi's statement must be seen within the context of a caution to the people to stop breaking walls in retreat against bad governance but to rise up to challenge any form of evil governance from any of the Nation's leaders, Amaechi inclusive.