Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Protests and Change in Nigeria By Japheth J Omojuwa
Certain things happen so that we can put certain phenomena into perspective. Before perspectives though, stating the absolute truth is necessary especially considering the misinformation going around. The worst enemies of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi would not have the effrontery to say in their private bedrooms that they did more for humanity than the late human rights activist did. I doubt any sane Nigerian would dare say that on national TV. The Channels TV headline that ascribed that blasphemy to me has since been corrected but I wish such headline never happened. This is a country where the headline is the whole news, where even the real news when read or watched doesn’t get put into perspective and essentially where biased hearts get to dictate the direction of the head. I never at anytime said, insinuate or suggest that social media was doing more than Chief Gani Fawehinmi did. The video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SZ1-ktGyvQ says it all but I should say a bit more.
Some have analyzed and intellectualized their bias into the video to suggest the previous Channels TV headline was true but such people cannot claim to be respectful of the works of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi because if you care so much about bringing another man down enough for you to debase the legacy of a legend, you would have essentially betrayed your claims of respect for same.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi in the argument has been erroneously reduced to the word protests, which was the crux of the argument. He was more than protests. He was a philanthropist who used his money and profession for the cause of the poor. I grew up reading Tell magazine’s reports of his efforts and activities with the likes of the late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti. These men were not known for just protests they were known for more. They achieved more engaging the military intellectually and strategically than they did just protesting. Kudirat Radio was not your conventional protest but it set Gen. Abacha up against the world powers. I said, “change is not just about protests, it is about everything. You put everything on the table when it comes to change.” I went on to say whatever achievements social media was attaining it could do a lot more and in fact went on to say a lot of what was happening on social media was a kind of “masturbation on nothing.”
This is Nigeria, where you don’t have to be wrong to be seen to be wrong, the wrong headline along with your name makes you wrong. As at the time of writing this piece, less than four thousand people had watched the videos altogether but over three hundred thousand people had an opinion. It is not hard to infer that most people, who passed their opinion on the issue, trusted the erroneous headline, which was bad enough for the otherwise respectable news platform to correct.
Did all the dead heroes of Nigeria’s so called democracy die thinking the fight was worth it? When we had a semblance of democracy, did Chief Gani Fawehinmi celebrate it or did he wish it was not a “civil rule” like he once even called it? I remember him in tears during one of the presidential debates. That was not enough for Nigerians to vote for him. That is not to say we are hypocrites or sycophants, may be to say we are just a special kind of people. If Chief Gani Fawehinmi was alive today, would he depend solely on street protests to salvage our dear country or would he consider other possible options to go with them? Did he use arguments on television, radio and the media of the time as other tools of change or did he stick solely to protests?
Why are we the way we are? Why do we pretend to worship people in death yet never considered them worthy while alive? How many times has Chief Gani Fawehinmi trended on his birthday or death day on new media? How many people even remember to tweet “RIP Chief Gani Fawehinmi” on his remembrance? How many even know his birthday? All of these noises about the video many have not seen are essentially not about these people’s love for the legend but the intent to hurt, an act to make another person look bad.
I’d never in my entire life compare myself to Chief Gani Fawehinmi. I am not writing this because it is the right thing to write even though it is, I am writing this because comparing myself to Chief Gani Fawehinmi is what I don’t have the ability to do. If I were his son, he’d pray for me to do bigger things than he did. If he were alive, he’d pray for me to rise above his successes. That is the way in Yoruba land where I come from. Older people pray for younger people to do more and do better. It is of course not in the place of such young people to claim they did if at all they do. Someone I considered a friend said I’d never be half the man Chief Gani Fawehinmi was. I took solace in the fact that Chief Gani Fawehinmi in death would desire more for me and were he alive would pray for me to achieve more.
Lessons have been learnt. Ours is a tiring society where those you assume are fighting a cause with you are only looking for you to get hit by a bullet so they can finish the job i.e. kill you themselves if you survive the hit. It is a funny society where those you take as enemies are actually friends who want the best for you. It is a society where people do not care about the memories of great men who have gone to the beyond as long as those memories are used as tools to take other people down. It is a society where a part of the press decides to take you down if you don’t pay or pay enough. It is a society where saying the press can do better, rise above junk gets reported as saying the whole press is useless.
We can do better as a people. We can elevate issues beyond looking to make others look small, disrespectful or unkind to the works of others. If protests alone could bring change Spain would not have one of Europe’s highest unemployment rates because they had about 3000 protests last year, Egypt would be a paradise today, Syria would not be in war and Tunisia would not be in a fix. There is nothing that cannot be improved upon. The essence of life is to get better and do better than the past. Suggesting to improve on the ways of the past is not saying those that lived in the past did less. It is saying those who live today can do better.
I have not written this for those who believed I made such a blasphemous statement about Chief Gani Fawehinmi – they will believe any evil about one anyway. Some were born to only hate on others who were born to be successful. Those ones had their opinion about me long before the erroneous Channels TV headline. I have written this to put it into the history of the truth; that I respect the works of the heroes of Nigeria like Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Some of us are able to do what we do because of what he did. If there is any radicalism in me, I derived from the living energy of the likes of Chief Gani Fawehinmi. I believe that as a people and generation we can improve on their works. Not essentially as activists because I’d personally not be one but as active citizens. I respect their memories and would never do or say a thing to denigrate such people’s works and memories. Anyone who continues to say I did is not out to respect Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s memory but only out to make one look bad. For these ones, they can say and do whatever they like, the most important thing is my conscience, my faith and my strength. You cannot bring down a man whose place at the top is not rested on your palms but God’s. This is for those who need to know the truth and this for me is the truth. Thank you and God bless.
Japheth J Omojuwa.
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