n the recent past revolution has come to the fore of national thinking and like a bad thread has run through the fabric of discourse in our national press so much so that I was compelled to look further into this subject. It was Professor Ben Nwabueze who kicked this off in the past by predicting(?) or wishing for a bloody revolution. The octogenarian SAN was speaking at a book presentation (erroneously called book 'launching' by Nigerians) in high brow Victoria Island, Lagos, when he surveyed the nation and predicted not just a revolution but one writ in blood. The thought that like the acient Romans I would see the River Niger foaming with much blood almost made me break out in a cold sweat but then there was astute intervention from Lt General (Rtd) Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who was also present on that day and who disagreed with the legal luminary and instead averred that Nigeria would get to the Olympian heights through evolutionary means.
As if these were not sufficient to rest the matter, it was General (or is it Chief) Olusegun Obasanjo who predicted similar probably with the troubled youth rising and storming the winter palace that is Aso Rock dragging every bedecked high official to the gallows or is it the guillotine? Forgive me if I mistake Paris with Moscow! Later there was a half hearted retraction, a change of mind perhaps, so I let it pass.
Then arose Professor Tamuno S David West, university teacher, virologist, former minister of petroleum and a patriot of peerless quality. He was delivering a lecture at the Forum in UCH Ibadan, when he also joined the revolutionary bandwagon with predictions of dire consequences if there was not a change that would address the restiveness of our marginalised and troubled youth. Now I was worried. I take TS David West extremely seriously. He is a man of undoubted high intelligence and patriotism reeks from his every pore. I began to notice the virology teacher when some years back he gave a lecture in celebration of the life of the late Billy J Dudley, the political scientist and original 'waffi boy' who left us far too early to our loss! Since then I have made effort to listen to what Professor David West has to offer in terms of our national endeavour.
By the time Debo Adeniran picked up the same theme, I felt that this subject needed closer scrutiny Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, (CACOL) had given an interview to Adeola Balogun of the Punch newspaper in which he described the Goodluck Jonathan administration's fight against corruption as a ruse. He said only a revolution could bring about genuine, thorough going change. In the photo that was published with the interview there was Adeniran seated, and gesticulating, a typical bearded sandal-wearing socialist of the old school except I could not see his feet, but then these days some of the socialists wear Gucci as well!
I was about to rest content that the Pope did not have that many battalions and so the socialists could say whatever, it did not matter as they did not have the means to effect their wish for revolution when no less than Bishop C Ola Makinde of the Methodist Church picked up the gauntlet and also declared the imminence of revolution
It was also in an interview with the selfsame Punch newspaper that the prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria declared that :
"When you keep people unemployed for a long time, you are asking for a revolution. And let me tell you, Boko Haram has become a revolution; they don't kill only Christians again, they kill Muslims now. They go into their homes while they are praying and shoot them. They are going beyond religion and it is becoming a revolution. The Niger Delta militancy case is a revolution. You can't take resources from our place and develop the North, while you neglect us. A councillor is earning more than a vice-chancellor of a university or a professor and you say there will be no revolution. There will be revolution".
If all these were not weighty enough, Abimbola Adelakun, a Nigerian commentator based in Texas, writing in the selfsame Punch newspaper asked ' Is a Nigerian revolution desirable?' In the Punch newspaper of 10 January, 2013. Ms Adelakun who is also the author of 'Under the Brown Rusted Roofs' has this quote as a preface to her article, "…Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." -Denis Diderot.
I encourage you to read her article and so I will not elaborate further on what she said therein.
THE IDES of JANUARY
However the 15th of January is the anniversary of the coup which in 1966 set in train the events that quite literarily brought Nigeria to where it is today through pogroms, coups, countercoups and civil war as well as a long period of ham fisted and totalitarian military misrule.
If the coup maker chose the Ides of January, the 15th day of the month according to the Roman calendar, deliberately for his coup in 1966, we might perhaps allow ourselves the opportunity to marvel at his sense of classical history or perhaps even laugh at his comic genius. For we know from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' that the Ides of March was the terrible day on which the emperor, Caesar was murdered by the closest associates, whom he trusted. Ever since the 15 day of the month, the Ides, has assumed an image of a day filled with foreboding of something terrible, much like Friday the 13th!.
As we recall the day, 47 years ago, which according to Professor Biodun Jeyifo marked the 'starting shot' in a long series of ominous events affecting Nigeria, one is compelled to look at the Nigerian Revolution and evaluate even if in a superficial way and see what has transpired since the revolution and its impact on our national prospects.
I will attempt in part two to conclude but will foreshadow what is to come by saying 'we are Nigerians, so no revolution please!'
One risks so many charges including being a reactionary and cowardice amongst others in asserting that we are Nigerians so let's simply junk all the talk of revolution and find other means of moving the nation forward. But how do we define revolution:
- A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.
- The class struggle that is expected to lead to political change and the triumph of communism.
- fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time
However we define revolution it is clear that we are not referring to a the time taken by the earth to go round the sun! In Nigeria we had our own home made revolution. It is not hard to fathom why I said in the title that we do not do revolution in Nigeria. It does not suit our national psyche and does not sit with us. The 15 January 1966 coup is too well known to all and sundry to require a rehearsal of the facts as we all know it. But whereas all Nigerians unanimously agreed that the corrupt political elite had to go and be replaced by a new order, the very manner of their going and indeed their very going divided Nigerians; and that division was along ethnic lines.
If there is one reason why the whirlwind of revolution is an ill wind to us Nigerians, it is the ethnic factor. The coup was initially welcomed until someone saw in it a displacement of the ruling Hausa-Fulani Muslim oligarchy and its replacement by force. That would not do and even though the coup makers were inclusive of all the ethnicities in Nigeria its leadership corresponding to the most numerous officer cadre in the Nigerian Army at the time was mainly Igbo hence it quickly became an Igbo coup and for that Igbo would pay a high price .....in blood, to avenge the leaders especially northern leaders murdered on that fateful day.
The pogroms of 29 May 1966 would not satisfy honour, nor indeed the 29 July 1966 coup which the conquering Lt Col Yakubu Gowon assured the nation was an act whereby God had restored the throne of governance to another northerner!
It is idle to speculate but we must consider what might have been had the coup of 15 January 1966 not taken place? The so called alliance between Chief SL Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello would have had to test its genuine popularity at the next election. But we would never know for if the NNDP, Chief Akintola's party had been able to secure Yorubaland for the Nigerian National Alliance, then there was no doubt that the north under Bello's firm grip would have delivered a working majority for the NNA. But Akintola was a shrewd tactician. He knew how tenuous his grip on Yorubaland was and all we have now is rumour that SLA sought Bello's help to unleash the army on Yorubaland as had been done without much success in TIVLAND and so prepare the ground for widespread harassment and incarceration of his political opponents preparatory to that anticipated electoral clean sweep. I could not nor can you verify these suppositions. What we know is that SLA visited Bello in Kaduna upon his return from the holy pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and returned to Ibadan in high spirits on 13 January 1966. If the coup maker of 15 January knew that something was in the offing did the coup plotters move faster than the NNA?
These questions have lent weight to the idea that the coup was an UPGA coup or how else can one characterise the immunity from harm of the NCNC and AG politicians with the notable exception of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the finance minister? But rather than accept that plausible logic it was entirely Nigerian to invest the events of 15 January 1966 with an ethnic toga in order to provide convenient excuse as though one were needed for the real intention of ethnic hegemony to assail.
In other climes revolutions have taken place where the issues have been to address the suffering of the masses. It is questionable if these revolutions have been a success but what we read is that in France(1789), Russia (1917 & 1918), Cuba (1959) and indeed many other places these revolutions were class and ideology driven. I am not suggesting that these revolutions were therefore successful. Indeed in China and in Russia so many people died from the revolutions that it was probably a case of the peasant classes being cowed rather than any real belief in the stated ideals of the revolution. As an aside both China and Russia are both post revolutionary societies with functioning market economies, no matter how inefficient those markets might be.
But the peculiarity of Nigeria is that everything is organised along ethnic lines hence in some parts of our country, it is acceptable to have an incompetent son or daughter of the soil rather than a more suited 'foreigner' do a particular job. It was the then governor of the Borno State, Mohammed Goni who appointed Peter Olowolaiyemo as Secretary to the state government after the 1979 election. On a state visit to Borno, the then President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari had to persuade his then minister of agriculture, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma to extend a courtesy of greeting their host. But as reported in the papers, Alhaji Adamu would not budge saying that Goni had brought 'foreigners' to 'our' state. Many who recall this incident may have been surprised, others perhaps may have been shocked especially to realise that Alhaji Adamu, much touted as a Nigerian senior elder statesman went to university in Yorubaland and has amongst his wives, a Yoruba. In an interview with the 'Daily Sun' of 12 January 2013, the erudite journalist did not ask nor was this singular issue raised, which may be testament to the high quality of our journalism! but could also be how blasé we are about such issues now. At any rate Alhaji Adamu with an honours degree in history, and a background in public administration went on to head the nation's apex bank, all before this interesting incident with Governor Goni took place.
Such is the depth of ethnic cleavage in Nigeria that our suffering masses would sacrifice their best interests to the ethnic ideal even if it did not suit them; revolution in Nigeria is a wasted exercise!
I have no doubt myself that Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was driven more by the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the colonels of the Egyptian Army who overthrew General Naguib as well as the rapid modernisation that Kemal Ataturk had been able to bring to Turkey as the last vestige of a reactionary Ottoman Empire. As for the other coup maker, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, I will defer volunteering an opinion on the colourful and charismatic Vancouver Commonwealth Games Gold medalist but I deny that the man was driven by tribalism. Yet that was the judgement of the northern oligarchy and that was the version Nigerians were persuaded to adopt as it suited the national fabric.
In conclusion, it may just be in us that Nigeria is fated to kill that which is brightest and best. It was Professor Tekena Tamuno who on 17 November 1979 upon his stepping down as VC of the University of Ibadan, made the assertion, 'All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, Nigeria kills them all'. Was the distinguished historian echoing the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 13: 33 - 35? 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (KJV).