The revolution that never was
By Abdu Abdullahi
After the controversial 1983 elections, Prof.Wole Soyinka advocated for a revolution in Nigeria. This was re-echoed by Ahmed Bola Tinubu in 2014. Only recently, OmoleyeSowore recaptured it and instantly shot into national consciousness. Their unanimous advocacy was a strong resentment against various governments.
Not long after Soyinka’s revolutionary outburst, the military vanguard of General MuhammaduBuhari booted out ShehuShagari’s government on the last day of 1983. Similarly and in the aftermath of Tinubu’s call for a revolution, the 2015 elections saw the usurpation of political power from the PDP. What is this revolution all about? Are these apostles of revolution in Nigeria revolutionaries? Is Nigeria ripe for a revolution?
From the Latin word revolutio which means ‘a turnaround,’ revolution is basically about fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power occurring when the population revolts against the government, especially due to perceived oppression and exploitation of the masses.
Historically, it has been a popular belief that whenever a nation is rocked by socioe-conomic upheavals, the optional intervention is launching a revolution. Consequently, revolutions have occurred in the world, widely varied in terms of methods, duration and motivating ideology.
Between 1789 and 1799, the French Revolution took place and its method included the massacre of over 40,000 people who were perceived antagonists of the revolt. It is widely believed that the massacring marked the advent of global terrorism. Obviously, the ideological drive of that revolution was liberating the mind from what was dreaded as the unlimited coercion of the Church which was then muzzling the expansion of scientific knowledge.
In 1917, the famous Russian Revolution came into being. It was indeed, a turning point in the world history. Founded and executed on the Communist ideology, it decisively dealt with Capitalism by transferring wealth to the exploited peasants and the working class. Thus, the revolution ushered in the fall of powerful individuals who were assuming lordship over men.
During the Iranian Revolution, the late Ayatollah Khomeini introduced the religious perspective in the history of world revolutions. Hence, the Islamic doctrine was employed and deployed to define and characterize his revolution which culminated in the crumbling of Reza Pahlavi’s tyrannical and imperialistic dynasty. These three revolutions were violent in methodology.
However, an exception here was the prolonged and non-violent revolution that cut across South Africa. Nelson Mandela’s revolution against the racist and oppressive apartheid was largely inspired by Gandhi’s ideas of non-violent resistance. During his own life time, Mahatma Gandhi, another veteran revolutionary, used principles like satyagraha( truth force), ahimsa(non-violence) and civil disobedience as tools for fighting oppression.
Historically, revolutions have never been the products of a last minute resolution accompanied by a formal declaration. They are not executed through announcements, arrangements or permutations. Revolutions have always been spontaneous in agitations and eruptions, greatly influenced by a paradigm shift resulting in a significant and overall change in the way people view the world.
The beginning and end of a revolution cannot be predicted. It does not occur in a vacuum. A revolution must have a symbolic leader and faithful followers. It must identify what it is seeking to change. And such a change must leave behind everlasting legacies that move on which can be tangible like a building.
Essentially, a revolution must be created and sustained until its final explosion. In other words, there are two fundamental phenomena to a revolution; those who create it and those who lead it. In the Russian Revolution, Karl Marx created it only to be led by Vladimir Lenin who was supported by a group of revolutionaries called the Bolsheviks. The peasants and the working class revolted against the government of Tsar Nicholas II.
However, Khomeini performed two revolutionary roles. He created and led the revolution himself. In Nigeria, Aminu Kano created a revolutionary movement which shook the aristocratic class that the late Emir Ja’afar of Zazzau observed: “The damage done by Aminu Kano was to let the talakawa know they could say NO after generations of acquiescence.” That movement disintegrated with Aminu Kano’s demise.
The American Encyclopedia clearly states that for a revolution to occur there must be ‘a rising social class of the youths who are energetic and ambitious but exploited and denied political powers.’ It further elaborates that there must be the existence of ‘a tiny ruling class comprising of mostly parasitic elements who dodge responsibilities’ as well as the presence of ‘a government which is obeyed from fear and not from loyalty.’
In relation to Nigeria’s context, the sitting government is not only obeyed, but it is also the product of the people’s choice. However, we should not ignore the danger that the class of the youths is in a socio-economic turmoil. The rise in banditry, kidnapping, rape, drug abuse among others is mostly associated with the youths largely because their hopes and dreams are ruined.
The apt description of parasitic elements that dodge responsibilities is a direct reference to our distinguished Senators and Honorable Representatives. They eat more than enough from the nation’s wealth and simultaneously shun legislative proceedings, while those who are supposed to be economically promoted are becoming poorer!
From Lenin’s perspective, revolutionary situation occurs thus: ‘It is only when the lower classes do not want to live in the old way and the upper classes cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph.’ In other words, revolution is impossible without a nationwide crisis affecting both the exploited and the exploiters.
Lenin also argues that two major conditions must be fulfilled for a successful revolution. One is split in the ruling class. In fact, the first element of the French Revolution was the crisis of confidence on the part of the ruling class. The second is what is termed: ‘The Middle Class Won Over.’ This means the second condition for a successful revolution is turmoil among the middle class. They look to one or the other of the two great classes in the society- the workers or the capitalists- for a way out of the problems they encounter.
When Sowore advocated for a revolution in Nigeria through protests, he forgot that his revolution did not pass through the stage of creation. It was looking very abrupt, impromptu and lacked revolutionary characteristics, creativity and resourcefulness. Though some of the conditions for a revolution highlighted above are conspicuously prevalent, yet Sowore could not dismiss the phenomenon of a sitting government that is not only obeyed but also the choice of the people who extended its tenure few months back.
The hasty conclusion he made was a great misadventure because his foiled revolution did not have a starting point, a spontaneous quality and variable but wanted to jump into conclusion. Until that day of the planned protest, many were unaware of Sowore’s revolution and what it aspired to achieve.
In the early 2010s, the world witnessed a widespread wind of change that spread across North Africa and the Middle East. The Arab Spring erupted in response to oppressive regimes that were largely monarchical and aristocratic. The methods used included civil disobedience, civil resistance, demonstrations, protests and social media activism among others. The spring led to the ousting of Zine El- Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ali Abdullah of Yemen and the killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
In Syria the uprisings metamorphosed into a full scale civil war,The primary objective of the Arab Spring was to enthrone democracy and economic freedom. But unfortunately, it left behind unresolved and deepening political crises in those countries.
From the lessons of the Arab Spring, Sowore’s revolution would have attempted to jeopardize democracy and plunge the nation into complicated crises. Ethnic nationalities like the IPOB would have taken maximum advantage of the situation to take up arms against the state. Sowore’s revolution would have made it easy for the infiltration of armed bandits and insurgents to perpetuate more evils. The Syrian experience in particular where armed rebellion is doing colossal harm is a great lesson for comprehension.
If Nigeria had been thrown into a state of chaos, other West African countries would have followed suit just like in the Arab Spring. Sowore’s revolution was never to be because it was conceived in a country where ethno-religious dichotomy and polarization were symbolic values. The revolution we never had or never was, was devoid of lessons from the Arab Spring. The revolution we never had was more of a theory than realism. It did not pass the test of holistic revolutionary requirements.
Sowore’s heart might have been afflicted with the sordid state of affairs in the country that his only alternative was vaunted revolution. Thus, it is very easy to proclaim a revolution but cumbersome to actualize it. This is a challenging political thought for the Sowores who are obsessed with a great passion for a revolution.
Abdul is from Galadanci Quarters Ringim