Dear Nigerians, Before You March… By Hemenseter Butu
There is nothing quite as potent as being specific.
In a world replete with things scrambling for attention, only those who are able to capture ours with spirit within the shortest possible time win. Be it politics, advertising or business development, there isn’t much room for ambiguity to thrive.
I remember watching a video of the Christian comedian Michael Junior asking a man to sing the chorus “Amazing Grace” then asking the same man to sing it again, this time painting him a picture of the specific reason why he was singing it. Despite the hypothetical, the second rendition was at least a million times more moving. Why then was this so? Why was he unable to hit the same notes and move the Earth the first time even though he had the innate ability to do so and did do so seconds later? It is quite simple, 18th century philosopher Thomas Reid puts it in quotes “There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.” A man who clearly knew how to sing one of the most awe-inspiring versions of Amazing Grace didn’t KNOW how to do so because he didn’t have any SPECIFIC reason to do it.
What does this have to do with the planned protest on Monday the 6th of February 2017? I’m glad you asked. It is clear that people are angry, devastated, exasperated, but what are they angry about exactly? Are we just angry because Tu Face Idibia is angry or are we angry because every year our legislature spends billions of dollars and no meaningful law is passed? Are we just angry because those we hold in high esteem are angry or are we angry that the naira is depreciating and instead of explain to Nigerians the administration heaps blame on past governments and throws invectives at citizens.
What exactly are we protesting? For if we spend millennia protesting in ambiguity, we will end up changing those in power a thousand times without making any real progress. So I submit that we must protest specifics. Let it be clear what we are demanding moving forward.
I for one want to see a protest against an education system that builds classrooms but does not improve quality of teaching, and end up being idiocy multiplication centers. We must demand that universities undertake research and get government funding. We must protest that this research be meaningful research with tangible applications and not just academic exercises. We must protest against the large sums our legislators take home and how largely unsupervised they are. They must be accountable, they must be checks and balances to ensure a legislator is meeting some specific target, be it making laws, enhancing policy or preventing harmful legislation from being passed. The legislative chambers must not be allowed to become a retirement plan for State Governors. We must protest the inability of citizens to access healthcare. Save for very few hospitals and very brave medical practitioners, the entire healthcare industry in Nigeria does not work. Simple operations are botched, hospitals have neither enough staff nor equipment. We must protest the judiciary and their continued role in assisting corruption. They too must have checks, they must not become gods, perverting justice at will without consequence. We must demand youth and women inclusion in governance with specifics. Every constituted board in Nigeria must be made up of 50% women and youths as that demographic alone makes up 80% of the country yet is represented below 5%. It is not enough to demand inclusion we must demand that inclusion be based on merit and employment across board be based on merit too. We must demand a better police force, we cannot be policed by people who see the average civilian as the enemy and is in turn seen as an oppressor. The recruitment of the police must have background checks, it must be made to attract the best of the best, they must be trained to uphold the law at all times. We must protest the redundant laws that still exist in our constitution that make it possible for oil companies to flare billions of dollars of gas while paying peanuts as fines. This list is in no way exhaustive but I think we get the picture.
This protest will not be effective if we do not know why we are marching and what we plan to achieve. If we have some set of nicely articulated but ambiguous goals we risk repeating the same thing and expecting a different result.
I love my country Nigeria and it is with great love that I pen these words. We have marched before. This time let us march with specific purpose and come out with a promise, a promise we can refer to in the future as a benchmark to vote in or vote out.
Hemenseter Butu writes from Daegu, South Korea engage him on twitter @HemButs