OPINION: Revolution – The Liberian Angle | By Bernard Balogun

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In Nigeria today, one of the most bastardised word is Revolution, though not an utterly new lexicon in the Nigerian space, but a word, in recent times that has attracted so many definitions just as there are many Nigerians. In the end, we found ourselves in a state of quandary in search of a better understanding of its true literary meaning.

Even those in the legal profession, who ought to assist us define it properly in consonnance with the Constitution confuse us the more. They have brought in all manners of political interpretations to give to selfish and self-conceited definition, not the true English meaning. We are therefore at a cross-road, a defining moment in our political journey as a country. We are certainly in a quagmire.

That is where my fear stems from. Quagmire, if not properly handled and addressed may lead to another civil war. God will not allow this to happen but we must not forget in such a hurry what Lt Gen TY Danjuma (retd), a war veteran himself, told us long ago “…no country survives two civil wars…? Nigeria had survived one, a painful and needless one at that. People of my generation, who experienced the 1967 – 1970 war, who are still living will certainly not pray for another. I experienced it. It was by divine grace that mother and l did not perish in Lokoja River Niger.

Just as mother and child were descending the stair formation in front of GBO Ollivant, l said to mother “let us not enter the river. Let us go home and see how it will end…? Meanwhile, bombs were dropping in various locations in Lokoja that fateful day in 1968.

Surprisingly, mother agreed. We went home, dad was home coordinating and eventually we all took cover in a cassava plantation in the location where you have the CAC Church, behind the PHCH office in Lokoja. That was the first time ever the Biafra plane, popularly called at that time “Ojikwu bomb” came to bomb. Mother and l were on our way to the market, when the plane appeared, far up in the sky, suddenly it came down, then began to drop the bombs in various locations in Lokoja and of course, Lokoja, an innocent and cosmopolitan town was turned-up-side-down that Thursday or Friday evening in 1968.

It is therefore not a pleasant experience l like anybody to witness again in my life-time. It was indeed horrible, devastating and a gory experience.

The Liberia experience and the Rwanda genocide are too deadly to contemplate. The population of Liberia is just 4,732million people with a land area of 111.369km. Rwand’s population is 12.21 million people, meaning the entire population of both Liberia and Rwanda do not add up to that of Lagos State alone with a population of over 20million. Nigeria’s population, going by WordBank figure of 2017 stands at 190.9million people with a land area of 923,763km. If a war should break, God forbids, no Country in the African continent can take half of our huge population. Let me quickly add during the Liberia war more than 300,000 people died, including two Nigerian journalists and military-men through the ECOMAG operations. What caused the Liberian war in the first place?

One character known as Sgt Samuel Doe, a low military personnel and a security guard at the presidential mansion desperately wanted to be President. He planned and killed President by name Mr Williams R Tobert, a fine and unassuming man, who was Liberian president between 1971 and 1980. Greed, superiority contest and self aggrandizement more than anything else overwhelmed Sgt Doe, culminating into a senseless war that saw to the deads of several innocent souls. The Rwanda genocide began, like play, like play between the Hutus, a majority tribe that controlled the governnent and the Tutis, a minority tribe, not so influential in government. The president went by the name Juvenal Habyarimana of the tribe of Hutus. In April 1994, the presidential plane was hit by a strange missile, within the Rwandan airspace with the president on board. The plane crashed and of course, the president died.

The Hutus tribe suspected the Tutis tribe had a hand in it. However, what began as an “innocent passing remark” on a radio programme regarding the presidential crash triggered the genocide, the Hutus versus the Tutis. Over night friends from the two tribes became archenemies, marriages across the two tribes annihilated and in the end over 1.1million innocent souls went with the genocide, an unhealthy and senseless tribal rivalry. I have gone into these historical synopsis to
discourage unscrupulous and inanity remarks, however frivolous it may sound, that currently rent the air, inane remarks that tend to provoke war. Yes, l am first to admit, we are faced with a number of challenges, the Boko Haram, Kidnapping, Fulani Herdsmen, our roads are unsafe, banditry, cultism, plus economic hardship in the land, name it. These are national issues that require our collective inputs, a solution route out of it, not condemnation.

Not a time to seek for cheap political points because human lives are involved in all of these . Our political differences must be put aside. If we must talk, let us exercise restraint, be scrupulous and avoid inane remarks. And this is the height of my conversation. The Revolution matter. I, by chance, met Omoyele Sowore, an innocent looking young man, at the Human Rights Radio, the popular Brekete programme around last quarter of 2018. We sat “shoulder-to-shoulder” during the live programe. From my superficial assessment of him, he did not appear to be a man who could hurt a fly. He did not wait till the end of programme but before he left, Dr Ahmad Isah, the anchorman of the programme and Media Chief Stategist/ Executive of the HRR introduced him (Omoyele) as the owner of Saraharareporters and a presidential candidate of African Action Congress (AAC).

Thereafter, he became a regular face on televisions, “mainstream media” and of course, l began to pay attention to him critically. I was therefore saddened with his encounter with the personnel of the Department of State Security ( DSS) at that unholy hours of the night. However, when l was confronted with the statement Omoyele was alleged to have made “….I’m not talking about protest. I’m embarking on a revolution…..I don’t care…..we must…..out of that place…” I was angry. Unfortunately, some sections have simplified this remark that has desecrated the Spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.

I do not know of any responsible government anywhere in the world that will treat such a threat lightly. Certainly none that l know Regrettably, however, groups of people have brought political sentiment into it, by wrongly equating Sowore’s revolutionary approach with that of PMB’s in 2011 and Tinubu’s in 2014. It is important, l make this remark. I am not here to hold brief or an attempt to support/justify PMB’s position or that of Tinubu’s. My position, and every definition, is to defend the larger “Nigerian project”, not that of any sectional or parochial interest.

I have read what PMB said “….. there is need for a revolution in our electoral process…” That was in tacit follow-up to what late President Umar Yar’Adua said in 2007 that the electoral process that saw his emergence as President was “not credible…” For Tinubu said “….we need a leader with a revolutionary mind to handle our economy…” meaning we need a leader with a mindset that will appropriately harness our economic fortune, or if you like, a leader that will have the boldness to declare a state of emergency in the economy sector. These remarks are incomparable to “…I’m embarking on revolution. 85% of Nigerians are in support (sic…do not ask me by what magic he arrived at this percentage)…don’t tell me about legal implications…we must bundle…..out of that place…”. These are confrontational, not friendly remarks. Having said these, l like to passionately appeal to the Federal government, in the over-all interest of peace and in the face too many challenges, to kindly caution Omoyele Sowore and free him. Let him go. Let us narrow or reduce our challenges. The larger Nigerian population, including our ever industrious brothers and sisters across the Niger, genuinely desire peace and equity. God bless our leaders with the wisdom of King Solomon of old. Nigeria shall be great.

Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja. 0803.787.9275

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