Against the Culture of Silence By Suleiman Mojeed-Sanni
The title of this piece is an adaptation of a book written by ‘Niyi Fasanmi, about a decade ago which chronicle his personal engagement with the fortunes of the Nigerian state as an observer from the forth estate of the realm. Though most of the article collections that bothers on state creation, democracy, ethnicity, Pan-Africanism, understanding Mandela amongst other mind bulging piece are surprisingly very relevant to our current state of groping for a sustainable identity as a nation. I am most intrigued by the book’s capturing of an average Nigerian’s “culture of silence” in the face of brutal denial of rights by those collectively empowered via our tax and vote to protect such rights and our layback attitude in relation to governmental policies that affects, directs, and hinders our personal and collective growth as a people, community, workforce and nation.
Aged long belief gives credence to silence being golden, an outright gulping of such cliche presents a generation of dumb followers blindly following a misguided leader. Philosopher kings such as Socrates Emmanuel Kant, Max Weber, etc believe in the rationality of the human mind to question(s) existentiality of certain things vis-a-vis the questioning of how we are being ruled. Scientists posit that asking questions lead to getting empirical facts. Facts that can be substantiated and defended. It is in view of this that, Claude Lavi-Strauss, father of modern anthropology, went ahead to posit that, “the scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.” But the stop-gap however, is, when right questions are asked, tendencies of right answers are predominant or better still the ignorance of who is being questioned is made obvious.
In the course of getting back the soul of this nation and redeem it from the present crass corrupt tendencies of her ruling elite, we must make effort to be rational agents. A rational agent in the view of Max Weber, is one that “maximizes its expected utility, given its current knowledge. Utility is the usefulness of the consequences of its actions”. Our condition needs to trigger an action mode of reasoning ( if A happens B follows). It is our corresponding actions that become an input to the environment and becomes perception which determines reaction. Practically, If our condition is undeniably demeaning, oppressive and elite driven, our action should be to question the authorities either through the ballot or socio-political revolution (which often times might not be devoid of bloodsheds and bullet)! This would make those in power have a different perception of the ruled. They won’t see us as one docile, irrelevant, and oppress-able followers. This percept would create a sensor in their brain to bring about good leadership and development.
At a two day, “Leadership, Entrepreurship, Management and Public Policy” workshop, organized by the Special Committee on Students’ Affairs(Lagos State Governor’s office), in mid November, 2012, one of the facilitators, Dr. Surajudeen Mudasiru of Political Science Department, Lagos State University, spoke on the Input-Output mechanism of Public Policy, he questions the policy formulation of governments in Nigeria and how government and citizens contribute to bring about policy formulation and implementation. From the lecture, one could see the disconnect between the ruler and the ruled. Government’s interest is dysfunctional to the interest of the populace, and sadly enough, the citizens exhibit this pulsating silence that would make even God question if He actually created this docile population of a people – we take everything, question nothing, and die embittered!
When the question, “Who is a criminal?” Was posed by Erica Licht, at the same workshop. Licht is a Fulbright Scholar from United State of America in Nigeria to do a research on “Youth and Urban violence in Lagos, Nigeria”. I was rattled to my bone marrow with guilt by the answer a student from Micheal Otetola College of Primary Education (MACOPED) gave. The answer given was direct and somewhat makes everybody guilty,” a criminal is anybody who sees a crime been committed and chooses to be silent”. The answer questions the “Siddon-look” approach popularized by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Late Chief Bola Ige, at the extreme of late Gen. Sani Abacha’s misadventure in Nigeria’s political history.
Rather than sit and look while the present is bastardized, to create a disgruntled generation of youth annoyed with their past (our own present) and not sympathetic to their own future thereby continuing the vicious circle of mindless abandonment, of silence, of contentment in the face of buoyancy that favours the few and sends many to abject penury, we must break this culture of silence. The more we burke issues that pertain to our welfare, for the mere fact that we don’t want to be at the receiving end of the offshoot of such demands, the more we are subjected to gulping down inequality, inefficiency, ineffectiveness and blatant waste of resources by the few at the helms of affairs.
Youths and activists in Egypt despite a recent revolution that ousted President Hussain Mubarak from office took back to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to question why President Morsi would amass so much power that even the deposed Mubarak could not even have at the height of his dictatorship. Under a new emergency decree, President Morsi’s decisions cannot be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, until the new constitution has been ratified and a fresh parliamentary election held, but the citizenry are not taking it likely, they are asking question, they wanted a response from a government that came to be through the toil and blood of their brothers and sisters. And they are not afraid if this leads to another revolution! In Greece, citizens are at odd with the government for taking them down austerity road. They are asking questions, I don’t know why Nigerians choose the never ending enduring road of suffering in silence; our silence hurts more than our suffering!
In a recent interview on Sahara TV, the Convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, opined that,” If people are allowed to become unaccountable, then they become tyrants.” The only way to make people accountable is to take them up on what has been put in their trust for the general good. The need to ask salient questions and demand for justice becomes imperative everyday. Yoruba’s would say,” if you are quiet, your general being and welfare keeps quiet too”.
Though we have witnessed scenes of brutal oppression where the Nigerian state had unleashed its repressive state apparatuses on citizens, we should not be deterred from asking questions and when answers aren’t coming (like it always does), we should take action against the enemies of the masses of the people. It is only that way, that people like Muyideen Mustafa, the 23year old boy shot by the Nigeria Police in Ilorin during the January Occupy Nigeria struggle won’t have died in vain. I know doing the right thing is never the easiest thing to do, but we can bequeath a legacy for generations yet unborn even though the generation right ahead betrayed us! I believe in a Nigeria that is amongst 20 most developed economy, maybe not by 2020, but definitely soonest.
Twitter handle: @Sanity0407
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