Article written

  • on 30.01.2012
  • at 04:21 PM
  • by Randa Ghazy

Nigeria: was it a 14-day dream? 0

Is the Nigerian ‘revolution’ over? Was it just a brief moment in our history when everyone came together believing that this time things would be different?

Or has there been a permanent shift in consciousness? Emmanuel Iduma likens Nigeria’s 14-day revolt to a dream from which we awoke and returned to normalcy.

‘The horizon of your dream was of a better life, a different form of existence, a tangible and measurable difference. You saw that the debate about fuel subsidy removal was the opportunity to dream of change, because this was a protest above all protests, because this protest seemed naturally logical. But you forgot that in dreaming one does not feel; the night happens so fast, and very soon you are awake.’

Nigerians may well have woken up and it may appear that it’s business as usual but people do not experience such an outpouring of solidarity and power and remain unchanged. The apathy barrier has been broken and yes there has been a ‘shift in consciousness’ – how deep and how lasting remains to be seen. The momentum was lost when on 13 Friday, when the labour movement called for a two-day weekend break to ‘recuperate’. It would have been better if the NLC had just said we needed time to negotiate than lead people to believe this was only the beginning rather than the end. It was hardly a surprise to learn by Monday that the unions had sold out after a N100 fuel price was agreed with the government. Threats by PENGASSAN to shut down oil production and thereby bring the government to its knees turned out to be merely hot air. On his blog Notes from Atlanta, Farooq A Kperogi speaks for many when he comments on the NLC sellout.

‘Then Nigeria’s thoroughly compromised labour movement hijacked the revolt, lulled the people into a false sense of solidarity and finally extinguished the revolutionary fire that was burning down the foundations of Nigeria’s ruling elite….The Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress didn’t join the mass protests until at least three days after the fact. They were obviously drafted by President Jonathan and his agents to help contain, and if possible snuff out, the conflagration that was going to consume them. From the very start, I privately expressed concerns that the Nigerian Labor Congress would infiltrate and dilute the people’s revolt.’

Exactly one week after the protests ended, Boko Haram struck once again. This time it was a bombing carnage in Kano which left between 180 and 250 people dead and hundreds injured [exact figures differ and the number of dead continues to rise]. The sheer bloodbath and impunity with which Boko Haram continues to bomb northern Nigeria almost on a daily basis has left the country traumatised. Only 48 hours after the Kano bomb, the group attacked towns in Bauchi state and as I write there is news of yet another bomb blast in Kano.

With nearly 1000 people dead since 2009, Nigerians continue to speculate about who exactly are Boko Haram and how they are able to continue killing so freely. There is consensus that they are a disparate group with many heads; they do have support both in government and in their communities; the bombing campaigns have been in response to the murder of their leader Mohammed Yusuf and other members of the sect in 2009. It must be noted that this was almost two years before Jonathan became president.

Olly Owen expands on these factors in African Arguments but also reminds us that there is, like in the Niger Delta, ‘a persistent trajectory of under development and misgovernance’ in the region. I would add there is a similar danger of reductionism whereby in this case the sect is simply labeled ‘radical Islamists’ without considering their origins or the material context in which they have flourished.

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