By BEN LAWRENCE
What is in a name? To some people without any references, there is nothing in a name. Their approach to human existence is to grab and chew and die. What happens after death has no meaning to them. After all, their families have no past. Their philosophy is that of a common mammal that lives day to day only to devour anything in sight.
But mammals still have limitations. It is said that a lion shuns any prey when it has its stomach full. Only some humans, especially those in Africa, are insatiable in their search for prey. So they brook no opposition and want to have everything to themselves, including the power of life and death. But human beings, with some finer selves that are spiritually above those of animals, act with enlightened self-interest to live and let live because the neighbour’s pain in one form or the other becomes theirs.
It was Frederick Douglass, America’s first black newspaper editor, who wrote that to expect freedom without struggle is to have the ocean without its waves and storms, and thunder without lightning. Booker T. Washington, also a post-liberation black intellectual and developer, said in his book, Up From Slavery, that there is no difference between the pain suffered by the oppressor and that of the oppressed. The oppressor toils mentally to find how to keep down the serf from rising. He only pretends to feel no pain. Washington succintly wrote that “the law of changeless justice binds the oppressor with the oppressed.”
Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, perhaps, was beholden to this law. Small wonder he rose above the animal instincts of the predator to put up a gallant fight that has thrown a bright ray of light into the darkness that has enveloped Nigeria since 2003, that of undue submission to the black maid of powers. This is where it becomes relevant that there is something in a name. All the holy books hold that man is not just the body alone. The soul cannot be seen or touched, yet without it the body is mere dust.
Oshiomhole has not changed his tailor since victory over the dark forces of decay and retrogression that seized the ancient Edos for decades. Edos were first to be westernised in Africa south of the Sahara. They established a cabinet form of government before Britain and others. They decentralised their administration long before the white man set foot on the shores of the Atlantic.
The pang of government-inflicted slavery was bound to be broken because one of their kind was to rise from the dust to free them once more. Nigeria has seen how a people under a trustworthy leadership can regain their freedom. A revolution starts like a spark of the Prairie fire. The peaceful revolution in Edo State is bound to spread to the ethnographically sisterly states of Ondo, Ekiti and Delta in one form or the other. These people are going to defy the do-or-die threats of animals in human form. And, Nigeria, better be warned not to tamper with this infectious spread of the priceless liberty Edos have just won. Never in my life did I see Nigerians so submissive to the blackmail of power as I have witnessed between 1999 and now. Gallant Nigerian youths rose in their thousands to challenge imperialism in the 1940s, a process that gathered considerable moss to force the British to vacate power.
Nigerians challenged nepotism and oligarchy after independence and also at all times checked their leaders’ tendencies to misappropriate the people’s patrimony. The dictatorship of the military was checked robustly and their heavy boots could not trample the liberty of Nigerians. The most ham-fisted of the military, General Sani Abacha, was challenged frontally and in most cases he yielded to the voice of the people. Then came the so-called democracy of 1999 and one man aggregated to himself all the wisdom of the Nigerian people and rode rough-shod over their interests.
Oshiomhole has set in motion a trend that must not be reversed. This is the time to demand accountability of the rulers of this country as was done in the past. The memories of past great fighters for freedom must not be dimmed. True, the stage has been so empty. The few of us in our seventies are still being expected to fight for the lazy youths. Some of us started to fight evil forces in Nigeria and in the world from the late teens. Tony Enahoro was gaoled at 21 for challenging the British. Michael Ogon was 21 when he defied the British and was put in prison.
Raji Abdallah was 25 when he went to jail for exposing the odium of imperialism. Remi Fani-Kayode and Ayo Adebanjo, in 1953, opposed Nigeria’s participation in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and were thrown in Broad Street Prison in Lagos. They were young. We cannot forget in a hurry Tunji Otegbeye, Femi Okunnu, Ogoegbunam Dafe and others of the Nigerian Youth Congress who put post-independence leaders on their toes.
Nigeria had Tai Solarin, Wahab Goodluck, Simon U. Bassey, Nelson Okoro and many others who constituted the check force to bad governance. Micheal Imoudu was 29 years old when he led railway workers to protest to the Governor-General of Nigeria against poor treatment of Nigerian workers. Mathew Ayodele Tokunbo was 26 when he emerged as general secretary of the Nigeria Trade Union Congress. The present youth is dormant. The so-called pro-democracy and legal rights activists are mainly dishonest and fake. Oshiomhole’s mobilisation of Edos to demand their rights should be a beacon for the youths to pick the gauntlet to break the system that now shackles them. It must not stop with Edo State.