We all detest dictatorship when we are the victims of its reverberations, but when we wear the jackboots and are handing down orders, censures; singling shots, cutting down, attacking and destroying other people we palliate our actions. In most cases, we subsume our venture in tyranny as ‘’activism’’ – a term that has now become nebulous and an umbrella for highwaymen clutching the banner of civil advocacy.
There is a dictator in every Nigerian. We want to be heard, but we do not want to hear others. Even when we listen, it is not to understand but to muster ammunition for a belligerent response. The falcon does not hear the falconer. We have become so regimented in our celebration that any view which does not follow a ‘’popular solitary narrative’’ is blitzed, and the messenger assailed ruthlessly.
It must be our way or the highway to hell. A straitjacket opinion dominates the landscape and all contrary perspectives sentenced to silence. If you dare to think different or say different, you are cancelled, ridiculed, vilified and slandered. In our world, everyone must be on the bandwagon of the solitary narrative. Is this not a tyranny of opinion? Are we not dictators?
I have become a staple for vicious internet hobgoblins. These imps find my unyielding stance on national issues vexatious. To them, it is uncharacteristic for someone from the south-east to speak in defence of Nigeria or take a position away from the prevailing socio-political doctrine. Their run-off-the-mill argument is that since I am Igbo, I must defend the Igbo – whether for good or for evil. But I cannot fit into that provincial receptacle. It is not me. My calling is for humanity regardless of tribe, religion or political persuasion.
When it is time to take a righteous stand for any group whether – Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani, Igala, Ibibio, or Ijaw – I will proudly do so. What affects one afflicts all of us.
Native mentation. This is our challenge — to see in tribal silos and do not to think beyond the tribe. We must evolve beyond this drawback. Armies of Nigerians from different sections of the country must rise up and defend Nigeria and Nigerians. We should not always retreat into ethnic shells and interpret national matters by sectional prejudice. We must stand in the beautiful middle dividing nonsenses.
My stint in activism enriched my knowledge of civil advocacies – and their ugly underbelly. The clouds are not always white and robins do not always sing. The Nigerian civil society space is one that is tainted and blackened by ego, rapaciousness, and sleaze. I participated in some advocacies in the past with a mind brimming with passion for Nigeria and a fist raised for a change in my country. I was naive. My dispassionate commitment to certain causes and conviction led me down the primrose path of deception. In my innocence, I assumed everyone raising a fist and parroting slogans had genuine intentions.
It was devastating for me when I realised some of these advocacies are well-oiled campaigns promoted by unclean characters. Most civil advocacies do not sprout organically. There is always a mighty hand behind the curtains pulling the marionettes.
There is also the all-knowing complex with the activism industry. ‘’Activists’’ appear to have the right prescriptions to Nigeria’s problems as well as the Midas touch to turn things around. They make pleasing noises; shout the loudest in the room, deliver wry but perfect one-liners, and seal every oration with powerful quotes from famous persons — all by rote. They know what to say in every situation. But many of these advocates from the Nigerian ‘’activism community’’ found themselves in government and became what they stood against in their days in the trenches – and instead of bringing change, they caused government to atrophy with a Sadim touch.
A once vibrant activist with a mouth full of hot words revealed his true plumage and betrayed his hypocrisy when he became state governor and then national chairman of a major political party. There are many like that in the activism community waiting for their turn at the table. And while they are waiting they must keep shouting until their mouth is fed.
While the ‘’activism community’’ claims to be at war with tyranny, it does not brook opposition. Members who do a volt-face or have a change of perspective are ‘’de-comraded’’ or dismissed as ‘’compromised’’. There is a dictatorship of opinion in the activism community. It must be ‘’attack, tear down, criticise and pull down’’. If you happen to point out the flickers of hope in the system, you are reduced to a quisling.
This does not obviate the place of genuine activists – those whose singular pursuit is to see a better Nigeria. Even in a crate of rotten eggs, we still have the unsoiled ones.
There is a dictator in every Nigerian. We hold those in government to scrutiny for alleged acts of tyranny while ignoring our own complicity. We should hear one another. If you insist only your way must stand, how are you different from Idi Amin? Dictatorship stirs resistance. When you come to people from a position of tyranny, naturally they will resist you. This is a normal human reaction. No one wants to be dictated to, no one wants to be pushed around or made to feel like an indentured slave. We should hear one another.