2019 Elections: Why Revolution Won’t Be Televised (1) -By Senami Kojah

Filed under: Political Issues |

Dazzling commercials, hip catch-phrases and unredeemed promises bombard the media space in Nigeria ahead of the 2019 general election, but none of them hint the cautionary note of what is to come.

The Arab Spring; Parallels with Nigeria

The greatest and most powerful revolutions in history often start very quietly and in Nigeria, all the indicators of a revolution are blinking the green, red and amber all at once. However, the traffic of politics and politicians keep moving, ignoring the malfunctioning lights.

When the Arab Spring began, the reasons echoed by the protesters and revolutionaries at the time was dissatisfaction, particularly of youth and unions, police brutality, insurgency, wide margins of inequality between the rich and the poor as well as low income levels.

In Nigeria, especially on social media, there is smoke. It is rising out of posts on Facebook and Hashtags on Twitter fueled by reports of inequality, statistics of poverty and the reality of this paperwork on the daily life of Nigeria’s largely youthful population, just like it happened with the Arab Spring before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation which catalyzed the revolution.

 

In June 2018, Nigeria overtook India in the sickening race to become the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people in the world according to a report by Brookings Institution; solidifying the blow, the report adds that six people become extremely poor every minute.

In Egypt one of the events that led up to the revolution was an attempted workers’ strike on the 6th of April 2008 at state-run textile factories of al-Mahalla al-Kubra just outside Cairo. The government tried to break the strike action by compromising the union and it proved successful for a while until young people affected by that action took to Tahrir Square on the 25th of January 2008, demanding a revolution.

Here, on November 6th, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body for Nigerian workers, almost commenced a shutdown of government institutions to pressure the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to accept and implement the payment of a new N30,000 minimum wage proposed by the union. The government, in a last-minute attempt, accepted to look at the proposals followed by denials and distancing by the Federal Government from the initial promise to “look and implement” as Nigerian workers look on with disenchantment.

Tunisia’s turn came after Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself on the streets after his vegetable cart and the only source of livelihood which he resorted to due to high unemployment levels in the country. His action triggered the Arab Spring and led to the end of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule.

Of Nigeria’s active labour force consisting about 85.08 million people, a total of 16 million people are unemployed according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). To this worrying statistic, there is no seemingly sustainable plan to engage Nigeria’s enviable labour force consisting of mostly young people and just like in Tunisia, if they are not engaged and quickly in factories and industries, they will be engaging themselves in the streets.

The Revolutionary Innocence of Nigerians

Despite being poked and prodded for 58 years, some Nigerians have, over the years, exhibited what Afrobeat Legend Fela Anikulapko-Kuti described as “suffering and smiling”, but the smoke which was described earlier is reaching fever pitch. This means the blaze will soon be visible, like it was in Tunisia. Who would have thought then that of all the civil and properly organised pressure events, it was the self-immolation of Bouazizi that would trigger a revolution?

The organised calls for a new minimum wage, the endless protests to end insurgency and bring back our girls, the rising unemployment and cost of living, the senseless attacks by herdsmen going unchecked and the disturbingly long list of our malaise we have written as a nation all signal that our Mohammed Bouazizi is just by a street corner, bearing a revolutionary innocence waiting for time and chance to upset the unsustainable system that is Nigeria.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

“…the first change that takes place is in the mind, saying the revolution will not be televised is saying the thing that is going to change people, no one will ever be able to capture it on film, it will just be something that you see and all of a sudden you realize.” -Gil Scott Heron.

So while some Nigerians are disenchanted with the system and leaving the country in droves, while the socio-economic challenges persist and the senseless bloodletting continue, the political class seem blinded, their condition aided by the media.

The mainstream media, in an unholy alliance with the impregnated pockets of the ‘ruling party and the opposition’, glaze over the issues and are currently presenting to Nigerians only two political parties ahead of the 2019 general election, while interestingly dismissing the emergence of a new generation of candidates challenging the old order.

The memo has been served and the revolution has begun. It is not being reported in the news so you cannot see it. There will be no repeat broadcast, because the media is busy televising mediocrity, and it will manifest so quickly that you, money-bag, will not make it in time to the airport. It would have happened.

 

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