Of Tactical Victories and Strategic Losses By Akin Akinrolabu
The toga of a prolific writer is one I know will never suit me. I am just not an Ayo Sogunro, Jude Egba or Japheth Omojuwa. I do love to read, but writing incisively has never been a strong point for me. I however have this niggling feeling that a piece written by a regular guy who is neither a tweetceleb nor an activist will strike home in the minds of a lot of regular guys like me. In short, call this the #FreeCiaxon protest through the eyes of a ‘normal’ Nigerian.
As I set out in the morning of April 12, 2014 for the scheduled protest march at Alausa in Lagos, two things were very clear to me: (a) we won’t get to the DSS office (b) we won’t have a ‘large’ army. I did not delude myself that we will have a mammoth crowd that will shake Lagos, but I knew, expected actually, that if we set out our goals clearly, our gathering could be a snowball rolling down a mountain. My take was that seeing our number, our goals should be two; a tactical and a strategic one.
A tactical victory which we achieved spectacularly, was to use our limited number to cause massive awareness on burning issues in the country. Our army of less than 50 ensured a massive traffic jam that must have involved about a thousand people, people who had to ask themselves what was happening and went home knowing all is not. People who saw a group of young, defenceless Nigerians stare down the barrels of masked DSS officers and a fully armed unit of policemen. They saw placards asking questions the thought had gone unasked. That was something.
When the leader of the DSS detachment was so unsettled as to his next course of action, he called his boss, the director, who asked to speak with us. Ayo Sogunro, who led us declined to speak to him, but I took the phone and did. I never kidded myself that anything would come out of our discussion, I just knew we were on the moral high ground and we mustn’t lose it! We had to be the ones who were willing to talk, to negotiate, to be reasonable.
Our protest letter took quite a while coming, but yours truly was lost in the nostalgia of my school years with the aluta songs our army sang. In my mind, we had passed a message. The DSS men we were showing no fear. If there were fears, none; not a single one of us let it show. We were like those who would die.
Like I twitted before the protest, it wasn’t about freeing Isiyaka, it was like the scolding you give a errent child. It is not cool to lock people up and release them when questions start to arise. No! This is not North Korea! This is not China. We won’t stand for it. I recall telling the leader of DSS that my children need to always know daddy will return when in goes to work. That the secret police won’t come and whisk daddy away for twitting or sharing an opinion. Not in Nigeria.
That said, we must pat ourselves on the back for showing that we don’t just sit behind out devices rant. We bark and bite. That is a great tactical victory.
Our sad aspect for me though, was the quality of leadership we had at the gathering. Don’t get me wrong, courage was not in short supply. The two Ayos who led us made me very proud. They were assertive and very patriotic, but the failed in one respect…
Let’s talk about what our strategic goal should have been: power. It is power that truly changes things. It is not enough to be a critic, if you really want change, it is best effected by you. I saw a glaring lack of initiative to seize the moment during that protest. APC (Act Now! actually) sent in two representatives who just sang and danced with us, when they weren’t chatting with each other. You had dozens of highly conscientious, educated Nigerians in a place and no plan was formulated as to build a groundswell of support for a more important cause. We did not talk about staying in touch and building and alternative platform or joining one to effected a positive change. Nobody asked how many people like me I could get to come out next time for a political meeting. Note that I did not say political party meeting. We fail to see that if we had the address of all the youths who answered the #FreeCiaxon call, we could be up to something! We could start a PAC and offer our own candidates! I’m a card carrying member of the APC, but who says we can’t choose to support a Labour Party candidate in Borno? Or an APGA candidate in Kogi? What stops us from going all the way? Do we just wait until another issue arises and we make the same noise? Strategic thinking is what we like as an generation desirous of change.
It is good to criticise, but we must engage ourselves and our adversaries. We must offer and support viable alternatives. Nigerian youths have the number! What we lack is the will.
We went out without being ‘mobilised’ Abuja-style. There were no free buses from strategic places, we got in our cars or just got into cabs or buses and arrived Alausa, that is commitment! It is a sin not to have quenched our thirst for true change. We will only keep achieving tactical victories that won’t amount to much, but the day we get our acts together and begin to build that platform we do not have now, nothing will stop us!
We can keep writing and twitting, or someone can stand up and lead this. A strategic thinker who knows that we don’t want to just irritate the government, but build enough votes to choose OUR government. Shall we let this moment pass too?
(Akin Akinrolabu @kinzuah)
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