Last week, former head of state and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Muhammadu Buhari warned that unless there is social justice in the country, Nigeria risks a revolution in the near future. LOUIS ACHI gauges the substance of Buhari’s warning, attempts a deconstruction of the term and aggregates the ‘revolutionary’ positions of other prominent Nigerians in recent times and their implications for the national journey.
Over the years, former head of state retired General Muhammadu Buhari has defined his personality, philosophy of life and his values. The consistency of his positions on key national issues, at times controversial, has won wide respect – for its sincerity, integrity and depth.
Against this background, his perspectives on the nation’s political and socio-economic situation can hardly be dismissed with a wave of the hand or safely rubbished.
These factors provide context to his warning last week in Kaduna, when he warned that lack of social justice will provoke a revolution in Nigeria. His words: “If there is no social justice, it is a question of time, there would be revolution in one form or the other.
After the last general election, we went as far as to the Supreme Court, but after that, see what happened in Kogi, Adamawa and Sokoto states during the bye-elections. We believe that PDP leadership is not prepared for real democracy and social justice. And I hope they will be strong enough to go through the consequences of their injustice.”
Buhari also said the money expected to educate children, build roads, hospitals and provide the required security was being siphoned abroad urging Nigerians to rise against corruption. “We believe that PDP is not prepared for real democracy and social justice.
And I hope they will be strong enough to go through the consequences of their injustice…By 2015, whoever stole public funds has automatically sentenced himself to death,” a clearly pained Buhari further warned.
If Buhari’s prediction worried the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party’s spokespersons did not betray this in their incendiary reactions. Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Labaran Maku, who spoke when he and members of the PDP in Nasarawa State visited the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, said it was those who call for revolution that would be first to be consumed in the process.
According to him, “We have heard them talking about revolution, but it will sweep the other side first. CPC isn’t organised anywhere. You can see from Kaduna, to all the other places, CPC isn’t an organised party.”
Seared by palpable deficits in governance, severe security challenges and economic retrogression, many Nigerians are singing revolutionary songs. But what really is a revolution? Today, the term ‘revolution’ is being bandied by many Nigerians, many quite politically prominent.
Samplers of recent allusions or bare-knuckle calls for a revolution came from such personalities as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Prince Tony Momoh, Bishop David Oyedepo, Emeritus Professor of Sociology Layiwola Erinosho and several others. That this symphony comes against a background of increasing loss of faith in the polity suggests, or ought to communicate more than a passing message to the nation’s leadership and fractured political elite.
Hardly a tea party, revolutions are complex phenomena; fundamental changes in power or organisational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Revolutions have occurred through human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration, and motivating ideology.
Their results include major changes in culture, economy, and socio-political institutions. Notes Wikipedia, scholarly debates about what does and does not constitute a revolution center around several issues.
Early studies of revolutions primarily analyzed events in European history from a psychological perspective, but more modern examinations include global events and incorporate perspectives from several social sciences, including sociology and political science. Several generations of scholarly thought on revolutions have generated many competing theories and contributed much to the current understanding of this complex phenomenon.
Beyond revolutions in the turfs of science, culture and the arts, political usage of the term had been well established by 1688 in the description of the replacement of James II with William III. The process was termed “The Glorious Revolution.”
Apparently the sense of social change and the geometric sense as in “Surface of revolution” developed in various European languages from the Latin between the 14th and 17th centuries, the former developing as a metaphor from the latter. “Revolt” as an event designation appears after the process term and is given a related but distinct and later derivation.
There are different typologies of revolutions in social science and literature. For instance, Alexis de Tocqueville the classical scholar differentiated between political revolutions, sudden and violent revolutions that seek not only to establish a new political system but to transform an entire society and slow but sweeping transformations of the entire society that take several generations to bring about.
One of several different Marxist typologies divides revolutions into pre-capitalist, early bourgeois, bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic, early proletarian and socialist revolutions.
Wikipedia further notes that Charles Tilly, a modern scholar of revolutions, differentiated between a coup, a top-down seizure of power, a civil war, a revolt and a “great revolution” (revolutions that transform economic and social structures as well as political institutions, such as the French Revolution of 1789, Russian Revolution of 1917, or Islamic Revolution of Iran).
Other types of revolution, created for other typologies, include the social revolutions; proletarian or communist revolutions inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism); failed or abortive revolutions (revolutions that fail to secure power after temporary victories or large-scale mobilization) or violent vs. nonviolent revolutions.
As a term, “revolution” has also been used to signify great changes outside the political sphere. Such revolutions are usually recognized as having transformed in society, culture, philosophy and technology much more than political systems; they are often known as social revolutions.
Some can be global, while others are limited to single countries. One of the classic examples of the usage of the word revolution in such context is the industrial revolution.
Jack Goldstone the well known scholar of revolutions differentiated four current ‘generations’ of scholarly research dealing with revolutions. The scholars of the first generation such as Gustave Le Bon, Charles A. Ellwood or Pitirim Sorokin, were mainly descriptive in their approach, and their explanations of the phenomena of revolutions was usually related to social psychology, such as Le Bon’s crowd psychology theory.
Theorists of the second generation sought to develop detailed theories of why and when revolutions arise, based in more complex social behavior theories – the psychological, sociological and political.
The works of the trio of Ted Robert Gurr, Ivo K. Feierbrand and Rosalind L. Feierbrand fall into the first category. They followed theories of cognitive psychology and frustration-aggression theory and saw the cause of revolution in the state of mind of the masses.
While they varied in their approach as to what exactly caused the people to revolt (e.g. modernization, recession or discrimination), they agreed that the primary cause for revolution was the widespread frustration with a socio-political situation.
The second group, composed of academics such as Chalmers Johnson, Neil Smelser and Bob Jessop pitched for the structural-functionalist theory in sociology.
They saw society as a system in equilibrium between various resources, demands and subsystems (political, cultural, et cetera.) As in the psychological school, they differed in their definitions of what causes disequilibrium, but agreed that it is a state of a severe disequilibrium that is responsible for revolutions.
It’s within the context of this complex dimensions, nuances, typologies and philosophies of revolutionary change that the symphony for a revolution in Nigeria may be appraised and perhaps understood. What are the key triggers that birthed calls for a revolution in the country?
Why are some voices previously and even currently privileged to incept change now crying ‘wolf’? Is the current geo-political, socio-economic and religious canvass of Nigeria conducive to the complex chemistry of massive, sudden change? What shape would a theoretical revolution take or what model would it adopt? Big questions!
At press time, Nigeria essentially represents a ticking time-bomb. Extreme deficits in governance, abysmal unemployment scenario, alarming levels of insecurity, a fractured and fractious political intelligentsia, official corruption and a leadership wanting a vision of genuine transformation may have provoked calls for a revolution to incept a new order.
But the sincerity of some of key members of the revolution orchestra is in doubt; not without good reason. Obasanjo for instance was president for eight years and there was no positive change in nearly all the key development indicators that societies are leveraged on.
Will the Arab Spring-type of revolt sweep the country? Notwithstanding the apparent ripeness for a massive social change, the nation’s geopolitical history, questionable sincerity of political actors and the unschooled, unrevolutionary mindset of the masses suggest that a change within the contemplation of the current voices pitching for revolution may be indeed far off. Or is it?
Revolution On Their Minds…
Even before Buhari’s warning about an impending revolution, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, while speaking at a workshop – “Economic Diversification And Revenue Generation” held in Abeokuta, organised by the Ogun State Government in conjunction with the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) warned, “There is the possibility of having the Arab Spring in Nigeria if similar conditions, hardships and unemployment which gave birth to it are not addressed.”
There is more. In early June last year, Obasanjo in his address to the 100th International Labour Conference, again warned that, “The situation in the Middle East may occur in some African countries including Nigeria, if leaders do not take urgent actions to check the unemployment situation.”
Has the former president become the local Nostradamus, the French seer that saw tomorrow? Hardly so. Instructively, before Obasanjo’s homily, some eminent and not-so-eminent Nigerians had expressed similar sentiments.
It will be recalled that at least three governments capitulated in the Arab world last year alone with Syria tethering on the edge as a result of mounting discontent. Heading the list was the regime of Ben Ali was overthrown last January by irate Tunisians who demanded for a change in the political order.
Egyptian’s Hosni Mubarak’s regime followed. After 18 days of massive protests by Egyptians who sought an end to the 30-year Mubarak presidency, that dictatorship collapsed. The third was that of the eccentric Libyan ‘strongman’ Muammar Ghadaffi, after being in power for 42 years.
As former President Obasanjo observed, the mass protests in the Arab world occurred because there was a ‘disconnect’ between ‘economic growth’ and ‘employment generation’. “It doesn’t matter which way you look at it today. People are now talking of Arab Spring. Some people will say, ‘Is Egypt not developing?’
On economic scale, after South Africa, it is Egypt in Africa. Has Libya not got resources? At one time with a population of about five million, Libya was producing as much oil as Nigeria was producing. But there was still discontent because, yes, in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it may be growing well, but in terms of employment generation, there is disconnect.”
Notes Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri, a public issues analyst, “We need to remind ourselves that unemployment which we so often decry does not simply occur in a vacuum, neither does it emerge by sheer historical accident. Unemployment, when properly contextualized, is basically the logical result of governance failure.
When such failure is so acute, deeply entrenched and consistently replicated by successive political regimes, unemployment ceases to become just a social problem but acquires the character of a festering, insidious pandemic. And that is precisely what has happened in the case of Nigeria.”
Argues Wilson Idahosa Aiwuyor in his book, “The Impending Democratic Revolution In Nigeria,” the “Signs of revolution are in the air in Nigeria, but not the kind of revolution that Prof. Ben Nwabueze recently argued for.
During the launching of his book in Lagos, last year, Prof. Nwabueze, member of the defunct President Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) asserted that only a bloody and violent revolution would reverse the pervasive decadence in governance in Nigeria.
One can understand Prof. Nwabueze’s frustration over the looting spree and corruption among the ruling class who have neglected the welfare of the ordinary Nigerian.
“But if history remains a good teacher, there is no certainty that any bloody revolution would solve Nigeria’s problems. All the retrogressive military coups that have taken place in Nigeria as well as the country’s three year civil war (1967-1970) were executed in the name of bringing about revolutionary change. Yet, none could solve the country’s problems. Nigeria should and would have a revolution, it ought not to be violent.”
Aiwuyor, a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University further observes: “If the necessary preconditions are fulfilled, Nigeria’s impending revolution could be through the ballot boxes at a crossroad – possibly by 2015 – where there would be a convergence between divine force (force majeure) and the determined efforts by Nigerians to make a break with politics as usual.
This revolution need not conform to the old sense of revolution, which is often a violent and bloody change executed by self-proclaimed revolutionaries.”
To shore up his thesis, Aiwuyor appropriately enlists the insight of pan-Africanist Horace Campbell expressed in the later’s book, “Barack and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA.”
Here, Campbell deploys epistemology and ontology to slam the conventional notion of revolution, which suggests that it must be violent or bloody.
According to Aiwuyor, Campbell draws on contemporary realities to “relocate revolution within the context of fundamental transformation in the society, sustained by a consciousness of the challenges of the moment bound to a new form of thinking among the rank and file of the society.”
Within this context, the Princeton Fellow holds that “The democratic revolution that could take place in Nigeria come 2015 would be characterized by a fundamental shift in the nation’s polity orchestrated by a change in the thinking and political consciousness of the rank and file of the Nigerian society as it relates to leadership and the obligations of elected officials.”
Significantly, much of the energy that has powered the Arab Spring came from the youths. Today, the youth revolts being witnessed in every part of the country appears a clear signal of incipient crisis on an unforeseen scale.
It will recalled that last year, the princely sum of N139 billion was approved for jobs. The common question now is what happened? President Jonathan is being accused of paying lip service to the problem of youth unemployment.
Interestingly, the three countries swept by the ‘Arab Spring’ are superior to Nigeria in terms of many economic indices. The emerging consensus is that, if these countries could explode, what then is the guarantee that such an eruption is impossible, where unemployment is officially put at 23.9 per cent and one out of every two youths is unemployed?
Appostles Of ‘Revolution’ Chinua Achebe
Miffed to no end at the socio-economic and political deterioration of his country, renowned writer, Prof. Chinua Achebe, recently called on Nigerians to rise up in unison and challenge the bad leadership and looting of the country, stating clearly that the country was doomed if its people do not act to halt corruption and ineptitude among its ruling elites. The iconic literary lion recently in protest rejected the national honour he was given by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Achebe voiced his inner position when the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, visited him at his home in Bard College, an elite liberal arts university in the suburbs of New York. His words: “We should feel we have come around and that we missed the bus the first time and that the correction of the situation in our country is in our hands.
We can’t call the British back even though some people have suggested that. But we can’t allow this to go on any longer. Already our people are getting used to living in that ugly style.”
Achebe then challenged Mr. Ribadu to mobilize younger citizens to come together and straighten up the country and put Nigeria on the road to salvation.
“The getting together of people like you across the country must be seen as the role of this generation. You must destroy the divisions that we have been taught to believe in and work together to save our country,” the writer told the former EFCC chief.
Sheikh Ahmed Lemu
In its recent report submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu-led Presidential Panel On 2011 Post-election Violence was emphatic that current happenings in the country, if left unchecked, could lead to a social revolution.
Shortly after submitting the report, the panel chairman Lemu spoke to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service, on the committee’s work, especially on whether or not the committee indicted presidential candidate of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Buhari (Rtd), where he also reemphasized that the government should be prepared to face a revolt if it decides to abandon its report.
His words: “Well, in our own case, we stated unambiguously that considering what is happening around the world today, government will be doing a disservice to itself and Nigeria if it decides to abandon our report like the previous ones. In fact, we gave example with some rebellious actions organized by students and even workers’ union alike.
So, we were emphatic in our submissions that if the government fails to act on our report, their refusal to take necessary action could lead to a revolution in Nigeria, like the type being witnessed in some Arab countries. So, we have given the government adequate warning signs on the need to act on our reports.
“But we told the President that if he does take action and throw away our recommendations like the numerous ones before ours, then the President and the Federal Government should be ready to face a revolution.
If that is what they want; we have finished our own part of the job and like we told them, we have collected our tickets to heaven, as we are only waiting for the angels and our prayers are that the angels would fly us and land into heaven. If the Federal Government fails to act, it is left to it.”
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
During his conferment with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree at the 40th convocation of the University of Nigeria, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido Sanusi warned that the revolution in North Africa could occur in Nigeria if leaders do not put her vast resources to use.
Obviously dismayed at the slow pace of the country’s economic growth and the growing rate of unemployment, the CBN governor proclaimed that only a re-engineered leadership could prevent an Egyptian-like revolution in Nigeria.
According to the blunt talking CBN boss, “If we do not put our vast resources to use, what is happening in North Africa would happen here. If we don’t take advantage of these potential, what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and the ongoing revolution in Libya would happen here. We have oil and gas, yet we are importing energy.
We have large hectares of land, yet we are importing food. We have cassava in large quantity, yet we import starch. We have large belt of cotton, yet we import textile. We have hide and skin, yet we import shoes from China.”
On an optimistic note, he also expressed hope that the nation’s economic problems would be over within the next 10 to 20 years if we do the necessary things.
For the National Chairman, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Prince Tony Momoh, a revolution is already on. He goes on to explain his dramatic position. “What do you people think is happening now where they cannot sleep with their eyes closed or ride in their cars with peace of mind or where school leavers cannot get jobs?
A revolution almost broke out in the East recently when 280 Igbo youths were arrested while celebrating 10 years existence of MASSOB and were charged for treason.
“They said they wore Biafra uniforms. What is wrong with what they did? It was the timely intervention of Jonathan that solved the crisis. The MASSOB that has been going about its agitation peacefully would have been militarised. What do people think OPC is? A revolution is already on; people would not know yet until one day when we all wake and discover that we cannot step out of our houses.”
Bishop David Oyedepo
During the launch of the United Nations-Global Report on Human Settlements held at the Africa Leadership Development Centre, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State recently, founder of the Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo berated Nigerian leaders over government’s insincerity, saying that a revolution in the political arena will prevent the country from disintegration.
The cleric lamented the gross insensitivity of the government to the plight of the masses, describing most people in government as illiterates.
According to the fiery cleric, “Something may strike in Nigeria soonest. There must be a revolution in our political arena if we want to be redeemed from total collapse. Our politicians are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. It is a pity that we have a system that is highly insensitive to the plight of the people.
Most people in government today are largely made up of illiterates who don’t have interest in information. Nigeria has been afflicted with poor governance which is our greatest problem. Government doesn’t have the capacity and morality to revamp our infrastructure. Nothing about government has ever worked. Everything is actual political robbery. There is gross insensitivity from the part of the government.”
Prof. Layiwola Erinosho
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Layiwola Erinosho, on his part recently warned about an imminent revolution due to the widespread of poverty, surging crime, corrupt judiciary, weak Nigeria Police and selfish leadership.
He also alerted that the dreaded Boko Haram might soon spread to the Southern part of the country in n distant future if the issues were not resolved.
According to him, “Poverty is the catalyst for revolution and social disorder. Grinding poverty was one of the major causes of the French revolution and Nigeria is heading towards such a revolution if poverty is not addressed very quickly.”
Professor Erinosho voiced his position this during the presentation of a paper at the distinguished personality lecture organised by National Anthropological and Sociological Students Association (NASA) of the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, entitled “Sociological Explanation of Insecurity in Nigeria:
The Boko Haram Phenomenon,”attributed this to a situation where thousands of graduates were yearly produced without commensurate job opportunities.
According to him, the situation in the country had forced them to take up jobs like gatemen, bar tenders, Okada riders while some were gravitating towards crimes such as 419, armed robbery and internet fraud popularly called yahoo-yahoo.
Noting that poverty was widespread and not easing, he said that the failure of the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies to curb surging crimes, weak or corrupt judiciary could lead to revolution.
Is Revolution Possible?
According to Jideofor Adibe, a public affairs analyst, the Middle East-type of revolution is possible in Nigeria. To clarify his position he enlists the influential work, “Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and the Uncaptured Peasantry” by Swedish-American political scientist Goran Hyden which argued that African small cultivators prioritise their informal support networks such as familial and ethnic obligations over the pursuit of profit.
For Hyden, African peasants are trapped in subsistence production because of the ‘economy of affection’, which is their comfort zone, will not allow them to engage in economically rational pursuits. The latter, accord
In a very influential work, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and the Uncaptured Peasantry (1980), Swedish-American political scientist Goran Hyden argued that African small cultivators prioritise their informal support networks such as familial and ethnic obligations over the pursuit of profit.
For Hyden, African peasants are trapped in subsistence production because the ‘economy of affection’, which is their comfort zone, will not allow them to engage in economically rational pursuits.
The latter, according to him, means that the peasants remain largely ‘uncaptured’ by state and capital. In Adibe’s view, those who believe that the type of revolution that is currently sweeping through the Middle East and the Maghreb regions cannot happen in Nigerian have relied on a variant of the ‘economy of affection’ argument – namely that the country’s ethnic, religious and other primordial fault lines are so deep that Nigerians are unlikely to rise above their sentimental attachments to these cleavages for a concerted revolutionary action.
But he argues that those who believe a Middle East-type of revolution is impossible in Nigeria appear to underestimate the power of contagion or domino effect. His words: “When, after the Second World War, Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ triggered a wave of anti-colonial movements in Africa; did this wind not also sweep through Nigeria despite the existence and politicisation of the current fault lines?
“When Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost triggered a chain of events that culminated in the fall of the Berlin wall and unleashed a wave of democratisation forces across Eastern Europe and Africa, did ethnic, religious and other cleavages prevent this from snowballing into the National Conference in Benin Republic (February 19-28, 1990), which forced President Kérékou to turn over effective power to a transitional government? And did our primordial cleavages prevent the democracy wind from blowing through Nigeria and other African countries?”