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Tunde Leye: Revolving Revolution Door

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Occupy Nigeria should have taught us the power of being the most organized group within a movement, but many of us missed one of its vital lessons. It has played out in history, both remote and recent repeatedly, yet we have repeatedly failed to see it. I’ve been in several forums, discussions, symposia, workshops (help me find other words for these things) and read all manner of write ups on and offline calling for it to happen now in Nigeria. Many have concluded that it is the only way that the change we desire can come to pass and that it is the inevitable eventuality that we only wait for something to ignite. This “it” is Revolution.

But is a revolution what we really need? You see, it is easy to call for a revolution until we realize that we will be one of those it sweeps away. In those meetings, I ask those making the call how they came to the meeting. Most of them drove decent cars to the venue. And then I point out to them that if the type of revolution they are calling for happens in Nigeria, they would probably be targets of the revolutionists’ violence. Once the truth of this assertion dawns on them, the call for violent revolution dies a unanimous death in the meetings. Because it is hard work to improve our nation and revolutions are many times borne out of escapist desperation induced by frustration and not clear thinking. But this hard work is inevitable. You see, history has shown that revolutions do not solve the problems of society. They simply reset it so that the most organized group takes charge. Where the people are lucky, this organized group is actually prepared to lead and they solve the problems. The nation turns out better. However, in most cases, the people are not so lucky. The organized group that seizes power turns out to be unprepared to truly solve the problems and is as bad as, if not worse than those ousted by the revolution. A typical example is found in the first of such revolutions in Europe, the French Revolution which ended the Ancien Regime in the late 1700s. Louis XVI, king at the time of the revolution was a really bad king. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when his wife, Marie Antoinette was accused of responding callously to the people’s complaints about the scarcity of bread. The royal family was deposed and executed. The most organized group amongst the revolutionaries known as the Jacobins under the control of Maximilien Robespierre took control after this. When faced with solving the problems after the revolutionary dust had settled, they were overwhelmed. Their reign eventually came to be known as the Reign of Terror, one of the bloodiest periods of French history.

When one studies other such revolutions – the Russian Revolution produced Stalin and Lenin, the Chinese Revolution produced Chairman Mao, the Spanish Revolution produced Franco, the Cambodian Revolution produced Pol Pot, we see the pattern – in most cases, the organized group that takes over post revolution are usually not anywhere near those who started it, and they usually attack the intellectuals that shrilled for revolution in the first place, devolving into a reign of terror that leaves an unbelievably large number of people dead. It is actually a rarity for the revolution to solve the problems that precipitated it. In more recent times, we can see the chaotic aftermath of the Libyan and Egyptian revolutions.

It is for this reason I think a revolution is not the way to go in Nigeria. The first coup of January 1966 was revolutionary in rhetoric. It is the worst mistake made in Nigeria. It directly precipitated the disaster that was the civil war. In a country like ours, the elephant in the room is this – the first thing most people will check if a person attempts to lead a revolution is where that person is from. It will determine whether they support or oppose it and it will be the prism through which they interpret all the individual’s actions. Such a revolution will not solve our problems. It will only reset things for a new, well organized group (the military in the 1966 case) to take control and if that history is anything to follow, become worse than those they take over from.

Look at the most organized groups in Nigeria today. Those NURTW guys you regard as touts are better organized than the intellectuals. In a revolutionary scenario, any such group stands a better chance of taking over leadership of this nation than all of us. A Muslim leads the revolution and the Christians will view it as an Islamization of the country. A Christian leads it, and the Muslims see it as an assault on Islam. A revolution is simply not the most pragmatic way to solve Nigeria’s problems. We will only move the day when we need to solve them forward, after the revolutionary frenzy dies down.

How then should we solve our problems? We engage the system and correct them incrementally. We buckle down, do the hard work of unraveling them one by one, think them through and drive the solutions for as long as it takes to actualize them. We push our best brains to the top of the pile to use this brainpower to do this hard work for us. We vote them in. We appoint them properly. We start from the low hanging fruits and create quick wins from deploying the obvious solutions (a good number of Nigeria’s problems have such obvious problems it is painful we haven’t resolved them since).

Our politicians have work to do. Do not keep pushing the people; they will eventually get to the wall. It was what the politicians in 1966 did until the military struck. Politicians must realize that creating a performance based electoral and public officer recall system where you can be voted in and voted out by the people is key to not just the nation’s survival but to their own survival. When people see a means to change the system through their votes, they will not get to the wall where they see a revolution as the only way they can effect change in the system.

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Two thoughts here. Kwakwanso’s rally-dancing in Ekiti days after a bomb blast in Sabongari, Kano is as condemnable as GEJ’s gyrating in Kano a day after the Nyanya bombing. Unlike what APC’s media people would love us to believe, the fact that Kwakwanso has received the cleansing baptism of the APC does not make his actions any less lacking in empathy than that of the president.

I repeat my warnings – the disturbing reports we see and hear about how things are with the soldiers in the North East fighting Boko Haram are becoming alarmingly frequent. Recipe for disaster.

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Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.

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