By Usama Dandare
“People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.” ~ Eric Hoffer “The True Believer”
As far as education is concerned, being educated isn’t only knowing how to read and write or speak English like Queen Elisabeth II nor learning to operate mobile devices or browse the net. Education is all about questioning the conditions of your government and the men responsible for its policies and activities, because your present and future lies upon the activities and policies of those men. A citizen who concerned himself so little with his government that he allowed men to stay in power in spite of their incompetence just because someone within the government comes from the same tribe/religion/region with him or any selfish personal interest is more or less an educated illiterate.
As good citizens, we must adhere to that principle of exercising the right to question those we called to serve us base on our worries whenever the need to do so arises. We must presumed that we are in the best position to judge and query them, for only us can feel the impacts of their actions. Therefore, we must summon the courage to hold them accountable for all their actions and inaction.
Unlike here in Nigeria where the chromosome for courage is completely deleted in the chromosomal sequence of most citizens over the years, until recently when some fearless and courageous fellows summoned enough courage and led Nigerians to occupy the people’s assembly. Proudly, I am once again privileged to witness another historic moment in the political struggles of this country, where all cracks were temporarily put aside in a united protest against the enemies of our collective progress – the National Assembly. For once, Christians and Muslims across tribal lines stood as one and shutdown the two chambers of the National Assembly for three consecutive days without retreat in protest against the misrepresentation of the people’s representatives. Unarguably, some of their most infamous action that provoked the nation against the National Assembly were the deliberate removal of important projects from the Nation’s budget and replacement of valuable projects with less valuable ones, their attempt to amend certain laws to aid corrupt politicians in eluding justice, the failure to make public their financial dealings, the needless purchase of vehicles to Senators at a miraculous sum doubled the original price, and perhaps the incessant increase in cases of corruption and contempt of the rule of law within the leadership of the National Assembly, among other things. It was these notable actions that many Nigerians saw as acts of bad faith from the eight-assembly which need to be confronted right away. These were the main issues why we deemed it’s imperative to occupy the National Assembly, but all calls for the Senate President resignation were from other interest groups, but that wasn’t the purpose of #OccupyNASS protest as reported by some unprofessional journalists and our bunch of energetic social media nuisance.
Worthy of note, one of the first to mobilise Nigerians against the rascalities of the National Assembly was Dr. Idris Ahmed led Citizens United for Peace and Security, CUPS and Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi Divinewealth who launched the #OccupyNASS hash-tag and began mass mobilisation individually. Astonishingly, CUPS have been championing several political struggles, anti-corruption campaigns and human right movements across Nigeria in recent years. Few hours after CUPS and Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi Divinewealth announces the intended protest, Nigerians angered by the lawmakers and inspired by CUPS immediately began to pledge maximum support to the cause both in cash and mind. For the first time in Nigeria, the poor Nigerian masses despite facing huge financial difficulties were able to sacrifice and donates millions of Naira to the success of the protest. Indeed, this alone is a remarkable achievement in the journey to the Nigeria of our dreams, as Nigerians are now ready and willing to take responsibility for their destiny. Remarkably, the same protest was also at the same time replicated in the diaspora, with large turnout of Nigerians cutting across social and economic classes who joined hands to denounce the way and manner in which the eight-assembly is responding to the yearnings and aspirations of the common man. In attendance were many influential Nigerians who came to bless, endorse and lend their support to the protest including human rights activists, anti-corruption crusaders, celebrities, youth groups, women right groups and several other well meaning and patriotic citizens.
For the second time in my life after #OccupyNigeria subsidy protest of January 2012, I witnessed a moment when Nigerians shelved out their communal/religious skins and called themselves Nigerians, I saw Muslims sitting down to pray instead of going to the mosque while Christians formed a ring round to protect them from security forces, in an action that put the protests beyond any sentimental colouration. Nigerians abandoned their comfort zones, sacrificed their time/energy/resources, and spent three good days sleeping on the heated floor of Three Arm Zone with mosquitos allover and went ahead to risk their lives with an open confrontation with highly armed anti-riots police, all in their determination to save Nigeria from the burden of undemocratic legislation for the benefit of all and sundry, but yet, some pro-corruption brigades and outrageous defenders of impunity foolishly waged war against the protesters through some hate media channel both online and offline.
Many may think it’s just a matter of gathering thousands of people to match and sing, no. It’s much more than that. #OccupyNASS is much more than just an ordinary protest: it’s about poor legislation, corruption, widespread impunity especially among the principal officers of the house, lack of responsiveness to our demands, and lack of ideas from the lawmakers. Nigerians all along have acquiesced and accepted that the legislators are untouchable and cannot be challenged by the common man, but not this time, not in this era of CHANGE. We are in a different era of no more business as usual and therefore things must change. Let’s just wait and see what the outcome of #OccupyNASS will yield, but one clear positive is that this protest has taught ordinary Nigerians how to find solutions to their problems through mass demonstration and protests.
If there was one major thing that was gained from the protest was the fact that it opened the mind of Nigerians, especially those who were skeptical in demanding explanations from those in power, and it also helped in educating Nigerians on the fact that they have a right to question any act of government once they feel that those actions no longer go with their own interests. And has frightened the leadership of the National Assembly who realised that the people’s revolt can undermine them and take them out of power.
The #OccupyNASS has been unprecedented and will go down the annals of history as the first ever protest to unified Nigerian youths from all over the country with a common goal: to reclaim Nigeria from the traitors who are holding the country to ransom. In addition, the #OccupyNASS protest will go a long way in making other arms of government to stay on alert, and has also demonstrated to the rest of the world that Nigerians have the courage and maturity to hold a high profile rally in an orderly and peaceful manner despite all provocations from security forces and some hired vagabonds. This is indeed another milestone in the political development of our dear nation.
Some of the positives from this protest are already glaring: it’s significant and worthy to note that as a result of pressure from #OccupyNASS protesters, the fraudulent and dubious bill seeking amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act, designed to shield corrupt lawmakers and offenders of assets declaration from prosecution was forced to collapsed on the floor of the Senate after successfully passing second-reading. Similarly, the treasonous proceedings seeking the amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill were also forced to a stop by the protest and furthermore, the leadership of the Senate was compelled to throw away the unlawful suspension of anti-corruption campaigner in the Senate, Senator Kabir Marafa, who was suspended for standing against corruption and impunity in the Senate.
This is just the beginning, more and more protests are on the cards if the lawmakers chose to continue their insults on our collective psyche. We may be force occupy and re-occupy the National Assembly until the demands of the common masses are made, otherwise, Nigerians will be left with no other option than to re-occupy both chambers in a massive protest that will paint the wholelegislators as anti-masses and begin a mass recall of all members of the two chambers respectively. The leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives must act fast to meet our yearnings and aspirations, and stop taking us for a ride. We elected them to represent us and make our voices heard, therefore, anything short of that will not and will never be accepted.
Finally, permit me to recognize some notable Nigerians who in one way or the other made #OccupyNASS a success: I salute our own Femi Falana (SAN) for creating time to bless such important gathering, I also wish to extend my respect to Professor Balogun who flew in all the way from Canada just to participate in the protest. The courage and determination of Dr. Idris Ahmed and Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi Divinewealth for organising such a historic event cannot be taken for granted, I will like to commend them and thank them for sacrificing their all to make the protest a livable one, especially Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi Divinewealth for donating the sum of N1m (one million naira) to the project. I will also like to recognize the efforts and sacrifices of Dr. Nura Alkali, Dr. Fatima Zanna Gana, Professor Lawal Bashir, Aisha Yesufu, our own Rekiya Sanni, IG Wala and others who abandoned their comfort and sleep in the dark for three consecutive days in the open field of Three Arms Zone. You guys have indeed made us proud, at least, you have proven to be patriotic and more courageous than many of us who for one reason or the other failed to take part in the event. Indeed, history will continue to be kind to you as the first Nigerians that sacrificed their time, energy, comfot, resources and risked their lives to occupy the National Assembly for the love of their fatherland. Without doubt, you are our heroes and we will continue to be proud of you. Thank you and God bless!
Usama Dandare, a social commentator writes from Sokoto. Contact me via [email protected] or on twitter @osadaby.