Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Opposition to a new Nigeria - Cowardice or Complacence?

“Nowhere on God’s green planet have I seen a mass of humanity so cowed by their corrupt and thieving leaders; nowhere in God’s universe have I seen a people so afraid to confront their leaders and ask what they have done with billions; nowhere in this world have I seen a bunch of lily-livered souls willing to be subjected to the most inhumane, vile and contemptible conditions the world has seen in the midst of plenty and not hold their leaders accountable”. Phil Tam-Al Alalibo

“Talk, preach, sing, act, march – but by all means refuse to lie down and die”. A preacher (addressing a church of blacks during one of the Martin Luther King Jr. marches)

Methinks there are very few words that describe the average Nigerian better than lily-livered.

I was talking with a friend recently, and he told me point blank that he admires the ‘Boko Haram’ guys! Just like you probably would, I attacked him instantly! I launched into a discourse on the benefits of Western education and the likes, and then a single sentence from him shut me up! He said he admired the fact that they were willing to die for what they believed in. He made sense, he doesn’t like what they stood for – but he admires their courage and pluck. These guys believed with all sincerity that western education is wrong for them – and they died defending their beliefs.

The same guy went on to ask me – “Koye, are you willing to die to make a better Nigeria?” Amazing myself in the process (at the weakness of my argument), I smiled and said no while arguing that I can add more value by living to make a better Nigeria. However, when he left – I wasn’t so sure...

Sometimes ago, a fellow who prefers to remain anonymous dropped a comment on this blog where he labelled Nigeria a nation of cowards. Find the text of the comment (unedited except for a few spelling errors) reproduced below:

When you have students that graduated with First class honors in Engineering from UNILAG, UI and OAU working in banks, you feel sorry for Nigeria. There is no hope for a country where people are scared of change. 'E no go better' until we get tired of all this nonsense. We need to replace those guys in government first and foremost. When people talk about success stories like India and China, they diminish the influence that having the right business environment does to the entrepreneurial spirit of the populace. Personally, I have given up on the country. Even if we start moving in the right direction today, it will take one or two generations to get where we want to be. Time is not even the issue; we just don't have the will. When I think about Nigeria, cowardice comes to mind. We have never been a lazy bunch but we are a nation of cowards. Yes, even you.

Apparently, this fellow shares the same views as Phil Tam-Al Alalibo. I have come across a lot of people with differing views, and this post is an attempt to present a discourse on the issue from my own point of view...

As far as the process that will take Nigeria from where we are to where we are going is concerned, there are quite a lot of differing schools of thought on what path to follow. At the extreme left end of the scale, we have militant groups such as MEND (Men bent on Ensuing National Development) who have decided to take up AK-47’s to get their demands from a seemingly unfeeling and irresponsive government. On the other hand, at the extreme right end of the scale – we have individuals who have chosen to commit the whole change process to God and then they sit down and support their folded arms with crossed legs.

Aristotle argues that in any matter, both extremes must be avoided, and care must be taken to find, and then toe the thin path that marks out the middle. In the matter of the change process, in complete agreement with Aristotle - I believe that we must take care not to tend towards either extreme. This seems quite simple to understand: I believe it is irresponsible of me to pray for Nigeria and then pass up opportunities to contribute my quota, and I believe it is outright wrong for me to kidnap a foreigner and refuse to release him for days in a bid to get the government’s attention.

There is the class that believes that the fact our resilience and resoluteness as a people is enough indication of our courage (and indirectly proof that we are not cowards). On the other hand, people such as Phil Tam-Al Alalibo believe that our not taking to the streets to protest government’s highhandedness and to fight for our ‘rights’ has earned us collectively the title of cowards. What do you think?

Recently, I came across an article written by someone who claimed his brother was killed in the riots that resulted from the annulment of the June 12 elections. The fellow was himself shot during the protests. In the article, he stated with an air of finality that he will never get involved in a protest march in Nigeria. According to him, his family was hurt when MKO Abiola said in a speech he gave on his return from exile that he did not send anyone to march for him, then they were doubly hurt when MKO’s son went on to marry Babangida’s daughter. In his own words, if the person he risked his life for could say such words, and then his son could ridicule their sacrifice by marrying the daughter of their arch-enemy – then he was a great fool to embark on the protest in the first place.

Imagine such an argument! If you had an opportunity to talk to this person, what would you say to him? Where would you start from?

According to the Encarta Dictionaries, to sacrifice is to give up something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered of more value or importance. This fellow (above) knows firsthand what it means to sacrifice. He took a bullet because he believed in MKO, and see what he got for it?

Does such a person deserve to be called a coward? Does such a fellow deserve to be lumped together with Nigerians in generality and labelled lily-livered? You answer that.

Let’s take a trip, shall we? Dull your senses to your environment, whether London or Lagos, and come on this ride with me.

(This post is continued above... Stay with me, and try to follow the train...)

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