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I sent a link to one of my essays to a senior Nigerian and he sent me a DM on Twitter which said:   ‘So what are you the youths going to do about all this?’  {Read the essay here}. I didn’t reply because I hate empty words and didn’t want to string a couple of sentences together if I didn’t believe them in my heart of hearts.

In the same week, I attended the Trayvon Martin protests outside the American embassy in London. Upon leaving, I was conflicted. On one side, I was pleased with myself at taking a decision not to be passive and sitting at home tweeting #fuckGeorgeZimmerman. On the other, I questioned the success.

I arrived there at about 5.30pm by which time the Embassy had closed. It wasn’t like we got the opportunity to interact with workers or prevented people from going in or out which would surely have attracted more attention. I also didn’t feel too comfortable with the extremist demonization of Barack Obama and the American state by the protest leaders. I have a legal background so I understood the technicalities of the law that allowed George Zimmerman to be acquitted, so whatever outrage or displeasure I felt was tempered by that.

At the end of the day, Obama is one person who cannot impose his will on the entire country as we can see with his proposed healthcare policy. Also, what is the probability that the chanting of a few hundred people in London would impact the legal system of the state of Florida. If the protests in America that had more star power did not achieve anything, what difference could we make? I put some pictures on my blog and over the next couple of days, my mother sent me an email telling me she was proud of me as she had been oblivious to that particular case. She wasn’t done. In fact, she won’t have been my mother if she didn’t follow with the caveat “You know when you come to Nigeria, you can’t do this.”

In January 2011, when there were protests over the fuel subsidy removal, something she said stuck with me. “When people are tired, they would go to their houses and beg to go to work. We are used to suffering and smiling. We would cry and complain but we’ll get on with it“.

I’m reminded of this in the wake of the outrage with what was interpreted as the Senate’s desire to legitimize underage marriage. Everyone piped up decrying this. I liked the fact that something had piqued the attention of my ignoramus friends but I had serious concerns. For one, I could decipher from my interaction with people and some of the tweets I saw that there was a lack of understanding of what was at stake. It seemed more like people were talking because they wanted to feel among the ‘cool kids’ and show off their social consciousness.

Every now and then, we get this fad causes that capture our attention and inspire us to voice our displeasure. Recently, the subject of our outrage being the revelation that taxpayers money to the sum of $1.6million was used to purchase two armored vehicles for one of the more ineffective Ministers.  The online activism and outrage tends not to translate to offline activity. By the time, it’s ripe to take action, the short attention span that plagues our generation would have struck meaning and we would have moved on to another cause. “Light Up Nigeria” and the “Enough is Enough” movements gained more traction online than in the real world.

The problems they were supposed to alleviate are still rampant serving to underline their failure. It’s one thing to wear t shirts with slogans and tweet, it’s another to successfully fashion a way forward. If a straw poll were taken of all those who were on twitter voicing their displeasure, I won’t be surprised to find that most of us would not even be able to answer a question wondering how the #childnotbride issue was resolved.

A wiser man than I am goes further to describe us as “masochists who not only endure repeated painful policies, processes and practices, but indeed relish it. And that damns us as consenting adults to the chaos that is our national life.” Strong but absolutely irrefutable words. I am as guilty as the next man and whilst I could say I have made attempts in my own way, I would be fooling myself.

As a people, we struggle to take collective action. And without strength in numbers, any effort is doomed to fail before it takes off. Moreover, we are members of a society that is “democratic”. Our politicians don’t take us with the seriousness they should as they know that we can’t challenge them as we should. They keep finding new ways as if asking themselves “Those people are complaining again. Oya! Let’s do something that would keep them talking“. We have earned for ourselves an F9 in earning accountability. And what are the most effective means of getting the government to act? Petitions haven’t particularly been successful. It is one thing for the people to speak and another for the government to listen and this is something we struggle with.

It’s time to look in the mirror and rethink our approach.

Photo Credit: sfgate.com

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Oluwamayowa Idowu keeps a blog ‘Mirrors… Reflections from My Lenses’. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MayowaIdowu.

16 Comments

  1. whocares

    November 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

    what exactly do you want? no I am not being negative but this is just another post asking people to rethink, and look into the mirror etc. what makes you think they are not, or are not aware of everything they face? you said it yourself and your examples of protests etc show you know how futile some of these approaches are especially with institutions that pretend to be democratic but are not. I cannot speak for Nigerians living in Nigeria, but I can say that whenever there has been a good cause, I have seen reactions to them. Not enough, not by a mile, but enough to show that some people see and reason properly.. and short of a bloody revolution, or a fair election so we can remove the present leaders (all of them) the Nigerian government does not care enough about the people and their protests to change .I could spew words like meritocracy, accountability etc .. but how can ordinary people make that happen? (i will be cliché by saying be the change you want to see in the world is a good start) we don’t know, neither do you. you have highlighted this fine point, but have not given a solution. the professor was right to ask you for one. it is a fine role to sit and point out errors, but an even finer one to bring solutions. therefore, this is another (and im sorry to be harsh) pointless article highlighting our frustrations without ways to move forward. yes we are masochists and suffer and smile, but there is also such a thing as bending your head till the tide rolls over and then you stand up strong and fight. I have no solution either, but I try in my little way to effect change and that is all I can do for now.

    • ms lala

      November 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

      REVOLUTION…EGYPT DID IT…TUNISIA DID IT…ALGERIA WAS LITERALLY ROLLING OVER ..IT WAS CALLED ARAB SPRING AND THEY TOOK ACTIONS…NIGERIANS DONT WANT THAT COUNTRY TO EXCEL THEY ARE ALL WAITING THEIR TURN TO BLEED THAT COUNTRY DRY. ABEGI!!!!!!!

    • Seyi

      November 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      As in major yawn snoozefest piece. Bella Naija must have these kind of articles on a conveyor belt. Rolling them out and stamping another name on top. If it is not Ofili today, it will be Mayowa tomorrow next it will be what her name again. The same recycled old material. We know what our problems are, we don’t want a solution. That is the truth. We only look like we care because the internet has given everyone a voice and folow follow herd mentality is the result, not as if people genuinely want change or care about it. The people that want a solution are a very very small minority. No let the feferity and intellectual comments on Bella Naija deceive you. Such people jsut spew out those comments to feel better about themselves and think they are doing their part. The minute they close the page on to the next celebrity story. That is my recognition and that is my reality, which has brought me peace as sad as it may sound. Nigerians don’t want change and change is not coming. They want their own share of the cake believe it or not. Revolution ko, aluta ni. Noring will happen. Who wants to die and why should they die like fowl for nothing when the leader of the revolution will be settled under the table. Saro Wiwa that lost his lfie for the Ogoni people, did anything change? Are his people not collecting kick backs from the government while their entire community rots. You want change? Ask for as asteroid to strike Nigeria. You won’t now would you. Good.

    • Autoprincess

      November 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Gbam! Sad as it is to say, this here is the truth. We know
      the solution, but we are just waiting our turn to ‘chop the
      national cake’. For every corrupt public official, there are an
      hundred ‘common’ citizens that are equally corrupt. Filling station
      workers trying to sell you N1050.00 fuel as N1500.00, etc. So, at
      the end who is going to go out and start the revolution and more
      importantly, who is going to withstand the mobile policemen that
      the government will most likely deploy to stop such revolution? The
      person who just bought I better pass my neighbour generator and
      feel that life cannot be better? Or the person that is jejely
      siphoning his company’s resources steadily? We talk the talk, but
      to walk the walk? No, not the Nigerian masses. Just the other day,
      some youth and women organisation held rallies to protest the
      “witch-hunting of an Igbo princess and hardworking woman” for all
      her “great turnaround of the aviation industry”. No, we are not
      ready for change.

  2. Ready

    November 18, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I’m guilty of this as well. I’m a BBM and Twitter revolutionary…I reduced my activist status on FB a while ago. I’ve signed up as a volunteer for Enough is Enough although I’ve never been called on, and I downloaded the NEPA situation app.
    I really want to do more; I would stand behind somebody leading the charge to do more. But to be the one leading that charge, knowing how complicated and complex our problems and problem causers are? I can’t. So until then, I continue to raise awareness online, and come out for Occupy protests while I work in my advocacy NGO. While I’m dissatisfied with the small-ness of my efforts, I know that some of us are preparing for a revolution. The hope is that when the time comes, we are strong enough to step in…rather than being in the same situation in 1998 when there was real room for change, and we let the Obasanjos and Atikus step in.

  3. Wale

    November 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Actually, I think people simply don’t want to die for a lost cause. Our government is not sophisticated enough to understand dissent and group protest, all they understand is to send drunken police to crush protesters. Any attempt to revolt at this time will be very bloody. Those of us abroad need to use the only leverage we have our brains to pressure the government in the various countries we live in to force change from abroad. We should revolt with our brain. We should start a movement now to see to it that Jonathan is removed in 2015.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      November 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      As in, who wan die? We’re talking about a country with no value system where the masses you’re fighting for will gladly sell you out to the authorities in exchange for a seat in the next elected government. Any attempt to revolt will be a very lonely one…

  4. rootwoo.com

    November 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Nigerians should nt allow themselves to be deceived and sweet talked into protesting and violence by ppl who are looking for political positions, popularity etc by all means. The solution to d problems in nigeria is individual self development.

    • Autoprincess

      November 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Meanwhile, you, Rubywoo abi what is your name, please stop
      posting multiple comments with the same avatar, it is distracting
      and will definitely not encourage me to visit your site.

  5. Meet9jasinglesHERE

    November 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Can you imagine Mike adenuga’s children protesting against govt or… Mike adenuga was nt born with a silver spoön. He workd hard and created his own spoon

  6. CarliforniaBawlar

    November 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I would say the time is not right. What ever came out if the Egypt protest we so covet? more violence right? Take out a crazy leader, install a crazier one. In the case of Naija….swap crazy with corrupt. Its not like Naija has a Nelson Mandela somewhere in jail we can free to come do the right thing. The so called labor leaders sold Nigerians out during the subsidy saga…I think the major problem is if we all said enough is enough today…destroyed GEJ’s cabinet….who you wan put? All of that generation is corrupt!!
    IMHO….Get yourself some education, Knowledge is power. Get Rich…Money is talks. Then we would have a revolution.

  7. Different Shades of Nigerian

    November 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    The problem with Nigeria, this article – 9 comments. Toke Makinwa vlog -> 100 comments. Everyone pretends to care about the country, 75% are not even intelligent enough to understand the conversations. Do you think the Nigerian masses are ur friends on facebook? Or the commenters on bella naija? The real Nigerian masses are the millions of uneducated people on the streets, in the markets etc. A lot of these people have actually gone thru our mediocre education system and yet are incapable of understanding anything. If we want to fix Nigeria, lets fix our education system, then we can start talking. Why do u think the Northern vampires fight against educating their people especially their women. When this women have an understanding of what causes their VVF, you think they will need you to come and fight for them on Twitter? I doubt it.
    To paraphase: people will demand for change when they know what change is capable of producing. In the mean time lets find a way to educate the masses, not short term education. Real education that makes it possible for them to ask questions themselves #pardonMyTypos- typing from a very small mobile device

    • jcsgrl

      November 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Honestly my dear I almost skipped over the article because of the title but I’m glad I read it. Nigeria my country…I just weep sometimes and wonder if there is hope. Recently, I came across an article written by Ann Coulter http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2013-11-13.html about Nigerians and I pondered this morning if there perhaps was truth to what she said although shrouded in hatred and racism. Rehearsing our many issues whice we all know is futile. Personally, I have resolved to work on developing myself, growing as a person and seeking ways to add value to people’s lives particularly Nigerians. I try to teach and mentor when I can. The change we seek must first come from inside. Honestly I’m not sure if there is much we can do about the people in government. because Nigerians are not ready for change. We are not yet sick and tired. When we get to that point collectively we will know what to do. In the mean time let the thieves keep thieving. One day is for them and another for the owner of the house. One day opportunity will present itself and the ones who have been developing themselves and preparing in the background will be brought to the limelight and they will do what is right. Good will overcome evil…thats all I know

    • CarliforniaBawlar

      November 18, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      My dear why would you read anything by Ann Coulter??!! That ‘woman’ is certified demented!!

  8. Esco www.woahnigeria.wordpress.com

    November 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    We all know the problems of this nation. Anyone who believes that the devil does not exist is either a JJC or hasn’t been to Nigeria. There is a wicked cabal in this country whose tentacles are like a hydra around Nigeria’s oil wealth. The word ‘cabal’ is almost an anagram of cannibal. Just take away ‘nni’ from cannibal, you have the word ‘cabal’. ‘Nni’ is an Igbo word for food. These secret group are blood-suckers.

    Most of the general populace are not blameless either. Many would rather party and bullshit, chase mundane adventures or thirst to replace this cabals if given the opportunity. After all it was “ordinary people” who shamelessly lynched the Aluu 4 while policemen looked on and washed their hands off it like Pontious Pilate.

    Fast forward, I was at one of these Occupy Nigeria rally things in Lagos some years ago, and I thought that I had walked into the wrong gathering. It was like being at a fashion event, like New York fashion week or at Ascot in England. Many people were dressed to the nines, and a few were even chatting away on their phones, or taking ‘facebook-worthy’ pics with friends and celebs.

    Some people were carrying ‘placards’ with the words “David (Mark) and Jonathan out.” Some were fist pumping and singing solidarity songs. It was a Goliath crowd.

    We thought it was all fun, until suddenly bullets start flying everywhere as trigger happy policemen started busting shots into the air to disperse the crowd.

    PISHAUN! PISHAUN!! PISHAUN!!!

    See the way the crowd scattered like the Tower of Babylon. People were picking race left, right and center. Valuables were left behind, and there were shouts and shrieks all around. Someone behind me fell, I think. Key word – I think, because fear no let me turn around check am. Accidental discharge is no crime in Nigeria. Bullet nor dey carry name.

    I ran for my dear life, and ducked behind an abandoned scrap danfo bus. I started checking my chest and limbs to see if I was hit.

    I looked up and saw pandemonium everywhere. People had jumped into gutters, some girls were crying as they ran in fear. A mother had abandoned her 5 year old. A hawker had thrown his tray of Gala onto the side curb and fled behind a bush.

    After some minutes, I noticed that the policemen had moved on in their van, so I stood up, dusted myself and picked up 2 Gala from the floor, opened one, took a bite and started the long journey home.

  9. Product of public Education

    November 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Lol na today….

    Suffering and smiling. We rather be a 2nd or 3rd class citizen for obodo oyinbo than fight for freedom for naija. Abegi sip Ciroc and move on. We are not ready yet.

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