Revolution is in the air.Like an ineluctable and irresistible airborne-virus,which infects anyone with whom it makes contact,the revolution bug seems to have bitten us all.Whether on the street or online,it seems people have little else to enthuse about.And Nigerians are no different.And all this,because of the events in the Arab world in the last three months.From one part of the Arab world to the other,street protests have become de rigueur.The list seems endless:Yemen,Iran,Tunisia,Egypt,Algeria,Libya,the Gulf states,Kingdom of Jordan.etc.In all these places,Arab citizens,having tired of the rule of unelected and unaccountable patriarchs,have taken to the streets to forcefully eject their oppressors.While the situation is still fluid in many of these countries,street protests have already seen off dictators in two countries,Tunisia and Egypt.In a third,Libya,a virtual civil war is in full swing.
Nigerians who have been glued to their Television sets or Laptops,like people everywhere,as these events have unfolded,are wondering if revolution could happen here,too.Naturally.For the great majority of Nigerians are dissatisfied with the state of the country.People are completely disenchanted with the political class.The feeling here is that something has to give.People wonder when it would be their turn to cast off their oppressors.Everybody is talking about revolution.So topical has revolution become,that one of Nigeria’s top lawmakers found it necessary to reassure a group of visiting German lawmakers,that the sort of regime-change that took place in Tunisia and Egypt,could not happen here.According to him,this is because Nigeria has a “functional democracy”.Therein lies the concern.Does Nigeria really have functional democracy?
An objective analysis of the events in the Arab world shows though there were social and economic factors involved,the main reason for the recourse to street protests as a means of changing the leadership,was because constitutional options were nonexistent.All these Arab countries suffer from a lack of functional democracy.As a result,street protests represent the only viable option,for effecting leadership change.In a real democracy,we would likely not see this type of regime-changing protests.This is because democracy provides a safety-valve,by giving citizens an opportunity to take revenge on their oppressors,through regular elections.Thus,voting can be cathartic.It gives you the opportunity to express your support or disapproval of your leaders or their policies,allowing you to vent your frustrations about the direction of your country,and it’ leadership.If Arabs had real democracy,they would have been able to change their leaders,without all this drama.
And i am talking real democracy here,where citizens’ votes count;not sham-democracy,where elections are routinely stolen.Democracy developed as an alternative to absolutism.It empowers citizens by giving them the vote.Through the vote,citizens have the power to hire-and-fire their political leaders as they deem fit.Elections were devised as a tool for sharing and rotating power,among different political parties.By promoting the embrace of peaceful politics they ensure peace within the realm.When elections are routinely stolen,they become a weapon for monopolizing power,and the political exclusion of those outside the ruling party.This “weapon-isation” perverts the ideal of democracy,taking us back to the alternate model of government:absolutism.Make no mistake about it,the wounds inflicted on the body-polity by vote-stealing are so grievous,they hark back to the violence and banditry of feudalism.
When citizens are disenfranchised and denied the ability to choose their leaders,through election rigging,the resulting conditions approximate the feudal state.History teaches us that the only way to change the leadership in a feudalism,is through violence and bloodshed.You will recall the Russian and French revolutions where citizens rose up,and in an orgy of blood-letting,extirpated the members of the aristocracy.Denied constitutional means of change,the citizens of the Arab world had no choice but to confront tyranny with the only option available to them.The question for our esteemed lawmaker is this:”does Nigeria have real democracy?”.Can he really claim that votes count,that voters wishes are respected?This question is important because,while his view that the Tunisian/Egyptian model cannot be reproduced here is correct,his complacency is worrying.Worrying because a worse scenario could be in store for Nigeria:Libya!!!
Tunisian and Egyptian societies are largely homogeneous.Held together by religion,the Arabic language and ethnicity,these people could act in concert against a common foe.It was impossible to turn anyone tribe against the other,simply because they are largely one tribe.Contrast this with Nigeria,dominated by tree opposed and equal different ethnic groups who subscribe to different religions.The leader would have been able to count on the automatic support of his “brothers”,regardless of the demerits of his cause.Any sustained protest against the president would have been dismissed as a witch-hunt by his people,and the country would have been on the brink of civil war.Just like Libya.Like Nigeria,Libya is a colonial joinery of three provinces following Italian victory in the Italo-Turkish war(1911-1912), Tripolitania in the northwest, Barka(Cyrenaiaca) in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest.
Today,following the protests launched in February by ordinary Libyans,the country is in a virtual civil war,with the eastern part of the country under “rebel” control,the rump Khaddafi government holds Tripoli,while the international community holds the ring.Thousands of people have been killed.Unlike the Tunisians and Egyptians,Libyans are not one people,and so it has been possible to turn one tribe/province against the other.If Nigerians were ever to attempt to forcibly change it’s leadership through popular street protests,the outcome is more likely to be the Libyan scenario,rather than that of Tunisia/Egypt.The thought of the carnage going on in Lbya now,should concentrate minds here.The political class must raise it’s game;it cannot continue to be so complacent.Governance must improve.Make no mistake about it,this is the age of the internet driven protest.Nigerians will rise up against tyranny.Nigerians should be allowed to choose and change their leaders.Henceforth,elections must be free and fair,starting with the 2011 elections.This might be the only to avoid “Libya”.Our esteemed lawmaker should note that the road to “Libya” is paved with complacency.