“…take away the sword states can be saved without it”: Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839)
Lytton’s quote clearly demonstrates that the debate on how to save nations has been an ongoing one throughout the history of nation building. Evidently, the debate on how to save Nigeria has attracted some bigwigs. It is no longer an issue discussed in closed doors. On one side of the debate there are those who argue that only a bloody and violent revolution can save Nigeria. On the other side are those who argue that good leadership will save Nigeria from the need for a violent revolution. Whichever side one takes should not be an indication of patriotism or villainy.
A few weeks ago, I asked the question, what happened to the Nigerian revolution? Some people jumped to the conclusion that I was advocating violent revolution. Yet, not long after that, General TY Danjuma the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council and the Secretary Prof. Ben Nwabueze had an open debate about the model of revolution that would save Nigeria.
Professor Nwabueze argued that only a violent revolution will save Nigeria from imminent collapse. General Danjuma, on the other hand, argued that a good leader will save Nigeria from the need for violent revolution.
Dr. Sam Amadi, a close friend of mine, also chimed in on an article he wrote in Vanguard titled “Between Bloody and One Man Revolutions”. After a good analysis of the situation in Nigeria, Dr. Amadi was caught between supporting a bloody revolution and a peaceful revolution. However, he agreed that Nigeria does need a revolution. The only part in Dr. Amadi’s argument that I take cautiously is the belief that because a violent revolution saved France from imminent collapse, therefore, it will also save Nigeria from the same fate. When one juxtaposes the social and political dynamics of both countries, one finds that applying the same solution may provide a different result.
Unfortunately, when the word ‘revolution’ is mentioned, most people automatically conclude that all revolutions start with the emergence of a bloody or benevolent leader who will change the trajectory of a dreadful future.
This conclusion is what the General, the Professor and Dr. Amadi have in common. They are advocating for the emergence of a leader who will change the course of events in Nigeria by blood or sanguine.
In my opinion, there is another kind of revolution that, according to me, seems more grounded and more likely to produce the fruits of civilization.
I am talking about a revolution that begins with each of us as individuals; and instead of merely being one man’s bloody or benevolent wish to change the trajectory that Nigeria is currently on, this ideal becomes a collective wish.
Although this is the most powerful type of revolution, people seldom acknowledge it as such because it places some kind of responsibility for change on their shoulders. It goes beyond the appearance of a few who will either form a benevolent dictatorship or a ruthless one that will beat us all into shape. Without a collective movement to change the course of events in Nigeria, I doubt how far any other form of revolution will go. I base this conclusion on the history of revolutions in Africa.
Historically, revolutions in Africa have never been real agents of change. This is because at every point, African revolutions have always been used by one man or a few people to push an agenda. In most instances, counter revolutions are needed to check the unrestrained behavior of these so called revolutionaries.
African countries have not been spared from the kind of revolutions that saved France and Europe. I mean the kind of revolutions that changed France as Dr. Amadi argued. Africa has seen its fair share of revolutions. Many of these revolutions were seen, at some point, as encouraging prospects in midst of adversities. Yet, the revolutions that were once seen as welcome developments quickly morphed into some kind of oppression that sets Africa’s civilization years back.
As much as Nigerians clamor for a revolution, be it bloody or bloodless, there is no guarantee that it will take a different path from the other revolutions we have seen in Africa. As evidenced by the recent events of senseless killings, a bloody revolution in Nigeria may lead to the kind of genocide and ethnic cleansing that is going on in other parts of Africa like Sudan, Congo and Rwanda. Innocent people, who have no hand in debating the kind of revolution that will save Nigeria, will eventually end up being the ones to pay the price.
As opposed to “one man” or “bloody” revolution, I favor a revolution that begins with Nigerians as individuals. The basis for many of the problems Nigeria faces as a nation lies personally in the hands of individuals.
For instance, every Nigerian will be quick to tell you why Nigeria needs a revolution – Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Yet, the tragedy deepens when you realize that this same Nigerian who just told you why Nigeria needs a revolution has his hands stretched out to collect a bribe. In other words, the essence of a revolution in Nigeria is to stop this person from collecting bribes and from circumventing the law.
We all agree that Nigeria needs a revolution. But the face of a Nigerian revolution is the face of every Nigerian. Even if, as Dr. Amadi argued, a Gorbachev comes and implodes the system that nurtured him, it is only a matter of time before such a revolution goes the path of other African revolutions. A sustainable change does not require a Gorbachev or the storming of Bastille. A sustainable change requires that Nigerians as individuals place some importance in the concept of collective survival. In arguing that that the state can be saved without the sword Bulwer-Lytton speaks to the power of citizen responsibility and collective action. Nigeria can be saved without the sword if Nigerians understand that they are the face of a Nigerian revolution.
Posted in : African Opinion