The End of Silence!

Goats are known to run from danger until they are cornered and have nowhere to run – at which time the only other option will be self defence. An endangered goat that is about to charge at the attacker will likely stamp a front foot to the ground, as if to say, “I know I can’t run into this wall, so you leave me with no option but to fight you since you have decided not to leave me alone.” For a nation of people that have been considered too resilient to respond by their long term rulers (in various manifestations), the series of actions that begin today, in Nigeria, may surprise usurpers more than the shock goat-chasers get when their erstwhile victim decides it’s time to stamp a front foot.

At 10am today (January 12), Nigerians will converge on the capital (Abuja) for what has been dubbed the Enough is Enough rally. The Save Nigeria Group has announced that the rally is against Power Vacuum in Nigeria, Vacillation over Electoral Reforms, Terror-Tag on Nigerians and Corruption in the Country. Beginning from the Unity Fountain, the walk will terminate at the National Assembly Complex in a rally whose speakers include Prof. Wole Soyinka, Dr. Tunde Bakare, Prof. Pat Utomi, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Hon. Farouk Aliyu Adamu, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), Dr. Tunji Braithwate, Hajiya Najatu Mohammed, Pastor Sarah Omakwu, Mr. Femi Falana, Hon. Olawale Oshun, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Mrs. Ayo Obe, Mallam Naseer Kura, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Hon. Uche Onyeogocha and others.

In a statement signed by Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe, Engr. Buba Galadima, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, Mallam Tanko Yunusa and Mallam Salihu Lukman, the group stated that the protest is against ten forms of poverty: Poverty of Ideas, Poverty of Performance, Poverty of Resource, Poverty of Hope, Poverty of Honor, Poverty of the Mind, Poverty of Regard, Poverty of Spirit, Poverty of Commerce and Poverty of Environment. “Nigeria can only know justice, peace and progress when her citizens will work for it. Join the campaign against the 10 Poverties,” the group announced.

Anyone following the news of current events in Nigeria, especially the grand deception around the president’s health and ability to lead the nation, would wonder how any of the now obvious scenarios could be possible in a place where 150 million people walk without handcuffs. A race for breaking news, citizen reactions to new (or confirmed) news, discussions (both online and offline) and shocking statements from government handlers have now become the trend. Imagine what s presidential spokesman said on Sunday, after the news of the president’s grave health was made public: “Of course the president is alive, he’s not even in an emergency situation. I am aware that the issue of his health has become a political weapon for some people, which is sad. But he is still at the King Fahd Hospital, and he is still being treated.”

I believe that this walk will lay a great foundation for events that will unfold across Nigeria as we march towards the 2011 elections, beginning with next month’s test in Anambra state. More than any other time in the history of Nigeria, this is not the time for anyone to look the other way and assume that deliberate efforts – in their various forms – are best left for activists. If you can’t join the walk in Abuja later today (unfortunately, I can’t do so myself owing to distance), borrow Nigeria your FaceBook status and Twitter messages by writing about the protest. “Nigerians say ‘Enough is Enough’ to Power Vacuum, Vacillation over Electoral Reforms, Terror-Tag on Nigerians and Corruption. #Save Nigeria” is exactly 139 characters and will work for any of the micro-blogging platforms.

Many look away because we are a nation of people who have learnt to provide for all their personal needs. When power fails, your inverter and generator kick in. You can’t remember if the phrase Water Corporation is something from your Nursery School storybook because you installed your own water bore hole. Did someone say security was on the government to do list? You have no idea because your monthly expenses include various security groups – from the ones at the gate of the estate, to the ones at the gate (at home and in the office), and the non-human guards you feed for the sole purpose of attacking those strangers. Basically, you have learnt to create what a mentor of mine called an island of sanity that you crawl into when the madness around you gets under your skin. Truth be told, that island gets eroded into everyday because you can’t completely shut out the scenario around you. Why do we all sleep behind bars – not prisons, but those various layers of security equipment – if the islands can truly stand?

At this time, I appreciate Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem, First they came…, in which he summarises the story of inactive German intellectuals when the Nazi eliminated targets, group after group:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out.

They have come for you! Even if for the sake of your own self preservation, do something. Another mentor of mine refers to that as Enlightened Self Interest. Think of your children who you’ll probably prefer to keep closer home now so they don’t get introduced to alien thoughts. Consider your investment in various sectors of our national life. Imagine how politically expedient it will be for you to align with the people’s desires ahead of your political plan declaration. Please, do something. Join the protest. Invite the media. Post a tweet. Tell the world through Facebook. Gather your staff in the conference room at 10am and ask each of them to consider Nigeria’s future in their everyday actions. Each of us has a part to play and when the cookie crumbles, you’ll have to answer the question: “What did you do when they came for the first group of helpless people?” Silence isn’t golden. If anything, it’s the end of silence!


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