….If we do not occupy! There, I said it. By the way, this was the Word of the Year 2011 and from the looks of it- a strong contender for 2012 as well. Before you hiss and close the page, please just humour me and read on…I think I can make some sense of it. So we all know the story, indeed a lot of us featured in the movie. First let me start by saying that I found the whole concept quite interesting. For starters, we are occupying Nigeria….I ask, what have we been doing since 1914? Last time I checked, there were 160 Million occupants of this land that we still haven’t figured out how to cater for. Anyway, back to the point. We took to the streets in what was dubbed the ‘Mother of all protests’; we hacked websites (which I thought was REALLY cool by the way); we printed flyers and t-shirts; staged impromptu concerts and even released spoof videos and soundtracks. Two things I came away with from the whole charade…..erm….parade……erm protest were that Nigerians are not as placid and lifeless as most people think and that we have the craziest sense of humour (you saw the pictures and read the broadcasts- Big ups to BB…a revolutionary device). Anyway, long story short- few days later it was all over. ‘Labour’ called it off and we moved back into our houses and promptly resumed our hustle (gladly so for many of us if we’re to be honest) and that was it. Of course, we quickly shifted our attention to blaming NLC/TUC for ‘selling us out’ and the beat goes on….
While I agree with protesting against fuel subsidy (The other strong contender for Word of the Year 2012) removal and cutting government waste or any of the other idealisms we concocted to convince ourselves to hit the streets, I think our approach was fundamentally flawed. It’s the classical case of putting the cart before the horse. I guess as N141 left our purses for every litre purchased, it enraged us and emotion quickly over-rode reason. ‘Careful, careful’…that is the voice inside my head telling me to measure my comments in the next few lines. So, maybe we didn’t really think this through? Perhaps we went to battle without a strategy? As I hope that it is a clearly established fact that Occupy Nigeria was neither a physical/geographical Issue (I really hope!), I ask when we set out to do so, which Nigeria were we occupying? What/Where/Who is Nigeria? Is it Ojota Park? Eagle Square? The Streets? Aso Rock? Twitter (Ouch!)? No! Nigeria is you, me, my brother, your sister, our parents and neighbours (as well as the merry band of idiots we somehow managed to select to be our leaders- You’d think that 160 Million means you have a lot to choose from eh?). When we so vigorously took to the streets to Occupy Nigeria, we were meant to occupy ourselves. Two questions…How and Why?
First, the Why. Have you ever met a person named Kunle and you say ‘Yoruba right?’ and he goes ‘no Ijebu!’ Or have you noticed that whilst the textbooks say Hausa/Fulani the people like the clear distinction ‘Hausawa or Dan Fulani’ (Modibo…on a lighter note). The other day a very good friend of mine was trying desperately hard to explain to me why Onitsha-Ugbo people from Delta state are not Igbo. Catholics are either Charismatics or Mainstream. The rest of us used to be called Protestants, now its Anglican, Baptist, Methodist (What a name!) and Pentecostals. Let me not even get you started on RCCG, MFM, TREM, HOTR and other acronyms that bear a sinister resemblance to Abacha’s long list of qualifications. There’s more! Ijaws and Itsekiris; Tivs (Still haven’t gotten over this name) and Idomas; Igbiras and Igalas; PDP, CPC, South-south, North-north, Nnewi south, Nnewi north, NASFAT and Ansarudeen….Even in my home state of Lagos, there is Island and Mainland (the razz people! Unfortunately, I’m from there- Mushin to be precise, the very underbelly. Anyways at least, me and Wande Coal dey rep the hood!)I could go on forever! The biggest challenge for the 80’s child is compartmentalization- period! Too many boxes; too many mistresses jealously clamouring for our devotion, too many masters demanding our allegiance! We’ve been told that these boxes tell us who we are and without this knowledge, we are lost in the world. In the end we are like a huge mass of sand by the sea shore- together but not bound; splitting up under the slightest pressure. Need I consult the parable about the man who built upon sand?
Secondly, is it GEJ who drinks ‘pure water’ and throws the sachet on the streets? We hardly have power but when we do, I don’t see Prof. Barth Nnaji carrying ladder to ‘tap’ light from another street so that his metre wont read. The owner of the Gas station tampers with his pumps, this annoys the bus driver who in turn tampers with his fare. This annoys the passenger who is on his way to Alaba and he decides to tamper with his wares which in turn enrages the unsuspecting consumer (Maga for short) who is actually the attendant at the gas station who despite the adjusted pumps charges extra N20 for jerry can purchases. Sound familiar? If you’re not in this picture, it is only because biro and paper do not permit me to paint a bigger ecosystem. If I could, I’m sure you’d be in it somewhere. He who is without sin….yet, we really jumped up to pick the first stones! The 80’s children are pathological blamers. We are simply unable to accept responsibility…translation? We’re irresponsible! Maybe the older generation is right, maybe we aren’t ready to be leaders! We had a tree to cut down and we went for the leaves!
He that has ears…..
Note: Lives were lost during the Occupy Nigeria protests. I do not in anyway think lightly of the sacrifice made by these our courageous comrade. I spare a minute to pray for those they left behind that they may find strength to bear the loss. This is my two Kobo to ensure that their blood did not spill in vain.
Stick around to discover the How.