Marching on the centers of power

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By Tochukwu Ezukanma
In Nigeria, power is deployed as a ruthless enemy of the people. It remains a tool of an evil oligarchy wielded at the detriment of the people. At the economic strangulation and social degradation of the masses, it panders to the arrogance of power, inordinate wealth and insatiable greedy of a morally-bankrupt power elite. This unconscionable reality will persist until Nigerians take a stand in repudiation of the status quo and demand a change. After all, history has taught the incontrovertible lesson that power does not give up anything without a demand.

The governor of Ondo State, Olu Mimiko, once defined armed robbery as”small work and big pay€. By this definition of armed robbery, the presidency, the national assembly, the state Government Houses and state assemblies are bastions of armed robbery. A simple example will elucidate the staggering dimensions of these robberies. The president of the wealthiest country in the world, United States of America, earns four hundred thousand (400,000.00) dollars, about 64 million naira, per annum. And from his income, he pays for the feeding of his household. The government only pays for food and entertainment for public events at the White House.

In Nigeria, the yearly feeding allowance paid to the president is about 500 million naira. So, the feeding allowance of President Jonathan is about 8 times the salary of the president of the USA. The monthly salary and allowances of the Nigerian Senate President is more than the yearly salary of the US president. Each of the Nigerian senators earns 10 times as much a US senator and 4 times as much the US president. As we compare these figures, it is important to note that the income per capita in America is 20 times that of Nigeria. In addition to this theft of the people’ money, cloaked as salaries and allowances, Nigerian politicians and office holders devise other countless avenues for stealing and sharing billions of dollars from the public coffers.

The victims of these piratical despoliation of the national wealth by the different arms and tiers of the Nigerian government are the masses. Not surprisingly, 70% of Nigerians live below the poverty level.

Many families can barely eat one square meal a day. People rummage through trash dumps for edibles and reusable items. Due to poor healthcare delivery system, many suffer and die from preventable and treatable diseases and Nigeria, proportionally, has the highest maternal and under five child mortality rate in the world. Countless millions inhabit overcrowded, shacks in fetid, squalid neighborhoods and lack clean water and other basic necessities of life.

Due to high incidence of poverty, millions of school age children are not in school.   The Nigerian system is an oppressive, unjust and inequitable, and needs to change. But then, freedom, justice and equity are”never voluntarily granted by the oppressor. They must be demand by the oppressed€. Therefore, we must make demands – collective, courageous, vociferous, and strategically directed demands on the powers elite for what are rightfully ours.

Frederick Douglas, the most important African-American leader of the 19th Century, was making the same point when he stated that,”power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will. Therefore, to profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation is to want crops without plowing the ground…€  And now is the time for agitations and demands. As usual, this year’ independence anniversary (October 1, 2013) will be replete with its usual pageantry, extravagance and triumphalism. It is understandable that the power elite will be celebrating for they have quite a lot to celebrate:
uninhibited powers, unbridled privileges, etc. But with our hopes and expectations of independence betrayed, what is there for us to celebrate?

With lives ruled by poverty, insecurity, wretched housing, unemployment, etc in the land of relative plenty, the average Nigerian cannot, justifiably, be part of the celebration.

Therefore, Nigerians should refuse to participate in this year’ independence festivities and revelries.    That should be our day of protests, agitations and demands. We should march, peacefully, in the hundreds of thousands, and preferably, millions, to the centers of power at Abuja and the state capitals and tell the president and his ministers, governors and legislators that we are sick and tired of the mess they have made of this country.

And demand that they: stop looting the national wealth through their mindlessly excessive salaries and allowances, security votes and outright theft of public funds; respect the inviolability of the ballot box and the legitimate aspirations of the people; and ensure an equitable distribution of the national wealth, etc.

We should then take over these centers of power for an indefinite Sit-In until our demands are met.

It is most likely that the presidents and governors will refuse to heed these demands and may resort to violence in dealing with the situation.

But even with soldiers training their guns on us and tanks aiming their guns at a sea of, unarmed and peaceful, humanity, we will stand our ground: refusing to back down or waiver in our demands, even, at the risk of loss of lives.

Thomas Masaryk, the founder of modern Czechoslovakia, once stated that”great political and social changes begin to be possible as soon as men are not afraid to risk their lives.€ We will stand firm encouraged in the knowledge that the”moral arc of the universe bends towards justice€; the birth of a new order may require the shedding of blood; and that its better to shed a little blood for freedom, justice and equity than for millions to continue to live endlessly under economic strangulation and social degradation.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from
Lagos, Nigeria.
[email protected]
0803 529 2908

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