Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
AFTER THE PROTESTS, WHAT?
"We give this government notice; by its second anniversary on May 29, they must show substantive results of the things we have raised. Today, we are here with a yellow card. On May 29, if things are not better, we will come with a red card". Chidi Odinkalu speaking for #I stand with Nigeria coalition in Abuja, Feb. 6th, 2017.
Still reverbrating and, reflecting the mood of the nation are the nationwide protests that occurred on monday, this week, under the umbrella of #I stand with Nigeria coalition. In spite of the last minute withdrawal, possibly as a result of police harassment of popular musician 2face Idibia, the protests swept through such cities as Lagos, Abuja, Port harcourt, Uyo, Ibadan among others. The opening quote taken from remarks made in one of the rallies by a former Chairman of The National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, captures the raw mood of the protesters who were undeterred by the unfortunate attempt of the police and the progovernment group to criminalise the protests. The amorphous and disparate nature of the groups suggested that the social eruption was less organized than spontaneous, and constitutes a thermometer of the public pulse and increasing outrage of the Nigerian populace against perceived policy failure and under achievement.
It is a pity, as The Punch editorial of wednesday Febuary 8 pointed out, that the police clamped down on the protesters who were merely exercising their constitutional rights.Officialdom in this country is yet to learn that protests are symbolic communication safety valves, which allow for non violent methods for citizens to voice displeasure and demand redress. It is a contradiction therefore, that the All Progressive Congress and the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which rode to power on the crest of ebullient protests against the former President Goodluck Jonathan policies, has attempted to demonise lawful assembly against its own bungling. The statement credited to the APC national leader, Chief Bola Tinubu, that protests will not solve Nigeria's problems, should be revised to read that protests alone, not complemented by sensitivity on the part of the nation's rulers, will not solve Nigeria's problems. For that matter, protests are communication outlets, bellweathers of vibrant democracies, to pinpoint grievances and political warps, so that they can be rectified before they morph into widespread tumults. So, instead of lamenting or berating them, the authorities should be grateful for this People's Parliament insisting on a conversation around the sufferings of a tormented humanity.
As the protesters clearly expressed it: Nigerians are groaning under the weight of a hyperinflationary spiral, the atrophy of public institutions, the abjection of social services such as health and education, the decline of the anti corruption fight into selective retribution along side presidential clearance for favoured ones. To that list must be added, the mismanagement of the national question, the controversy around Buhari so called medical vacation, as well as growing insecurity across the land, despite striking advances in the war against the Boko haram insurgency. On what the protesters may do next, there is no consensus . For, while Odinkalu puts them on recess until May, popular comedian, Charlie boy was quoted by The Punch (Tuesday Feb. 7th, 2017) as saying, "next month there will be a bigger rally.We are going to shut down Abuja. We are sending a message to them. We have suffered enough. Our mumu don do.(we have been foolishly quiet enough)". Before developing the narrative further however, this writer craves the reader's indulgence to interrupt with a short take.
I attended the Convocation Ceremony of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, last week. As many know, I assumed duty at the University in December last year, as the Pioneer Occupant of a Professorial Chair in Governance, generously endowed, in a fit of customary innovativeness, by His Royal Majesty Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland. On another occasion I will discuss the tradition of endowed chairs, which in our famished academic culture are few and far between, causing even some senior academics to ask me: What is it all about? For now, the focus is on the 25th and 26th Convocation of the University. One of the striking things about this year's event is that as the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adejimi Adesanya remarked, it is the fourth to be held during his tenure, which terminates in July this year. As Adesanya read his address in the expansive hall, a Professor of biology sitting next to me, whispered that Adesanyah is one of the few V.Cs of the university to finish their terms in the normal way. Several others were swept off by crisis. It is to Adesanya's credit that he successfully stemmed the tide of anomie and achieved the feat of presiding over five uninterrupted academic sessions, seamless, and with the students graduating on schedule and with their certificates ready for collection. In view of this, one of the questions frequently asked around the campus and else where is: What will happen to OOU after the exit of the Adesanya team? While the answer to that question will be provided in due course, it is interesting to note that, as a result of the stability in the last couple of years, admission request to the university climbed steeply from 1,000 in 2012 to close to 18,000 last year. Taken alongside the fact that the university is not owing staff salary up to date, it is possible to hazard the statement that the university has begun the task of recapturing the shining academic stature which it once enjoyed.
To be sure, there several areas of governance and infrastructure left untouched by Adesanya's turnaround tenure. In a context of resource scarcity, symptomised by the ever dwindling allocation from government, such deficiencies as the delayed restoration of power to the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences are not unexpected, even if unpalatable. The last four and half years show however, that institutions laid waste by conflict and paralysed by polarization can be restored to a measure of vitality by leaders and administrators who set clear goals and go after them with single minded focus.
To return to the initial discourse, the big question now is: After the protests, what? If the right lessons are learnt, then police will climb down from their high horses to recognize the place of civil protest in a functioning democracy and stop hounding. Two, Buhari should come clean on his lengthening health travails in order to prevent further poisonous rumours from being circulated about them. That will also end the current season of political uncertainty brought about by the lack of full disclosure. Third, a cabinet reshuffle should be undertaken, and with it the sack of highly placed officials accused of having itchy fingers. That is the way to restore the anti corruption agenda to popular acclaim and support. Those will not be enough. The long deferred revisiting of a round table around the national question should now be instituted without delay. Finally, if as acting president, Yemi Osinbajo recently put it, "we understand the wailings of Nigerians" then new initiatives to achieve economic redemption and lessen human suffering should be introduced without delay