FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeThursday, August 15, 2013
eoeke@aol.com


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THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
AND THE POISONS OF ETHNICITY AND RELIGION

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t the beginning of what was later called the Arab spring, many commentators argued that Mummar Gadhafi, Hosni Mubarak, Assad and some sub-Saharan dictators were at risk. For some reasons, all the Arab predictions have come true and not a single country in south Saharan African has experience Arab style revolution. This may suggest that the attitude, temperament and perception of tyranny in sub-Saharan Africans are different from Arabs, or that the level of tyranny in sub-Saharan Africa has not reached boiling point. In any case, the fact is that in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria have risen up against their tyrant and oppressive and corrupt governments, while sub-Saharan African countries are yet to find their voices. Whether this is a good thing or not, I do not know and I am unable to offer a coherent reason why this is the case. As I said at the beginning of the Arab spring, I am not excited, as I do not believe in violent revolution for the simple reason that it often over promises and under delivers and sows the seed of its destruction at its inception. It often ends up an illusion and gives people the false hope that complex human problems can be solved by magical revolutionary thinking. The events in Libya and Egypt seem to support this hypothesis.

Just within one year of electing a democratic government, so called progressive Egyptians have colluded with army to oust a democratically elected government and hope to build stability on illegality. It would seem that the Egyptian military has precipitated a worse internal strife which may be the beginning of a slow slide into intractable sectarian conflict, where the liberty of Egyptians will be further curtailed to maintain peace and contain Muslim extremism. It would seem that their intervention in the nascent and evolving Egyptian democracy is a catastrophic mistake if the development in Egypt in the last few weeks is anything to go by. The crackdown by the army on the Muslim brotherhood, whose party was in power and the murder of many of its members who were protesting against the intervention of the army, may have opened a golf in the Egyptian society which may take many years to heal.

Egypt may have just begun its journey down an Afghanistan like conflict between moderates and Islamic extremist. This intervention may not deliver the stability Egyptians need to grow their economy as it would seem a death nail to tourism, which is a significant sector of the Egyptian economy. Egypt may end up with a further militarised democracy with increased military spending and role for the military in the politics of Egypt. Egyptians by opting for the short cut of military intervention to rectify the anomaly in its democracy may have cut their noses to spite their faces.

The development in Egypt should be a serious lesson to those who because of their religious convictions believe that there is a place for religion in politics, or that using political power to enforce religious morality delivers a better society. It should also be an object lesson to all who look up to revolution or self-determination as means of emancipation and the danger of mixing religion with politics. President Morsi was leader of an Islamic party who was beginning to use his political power to transform Egypt into an Islamic state; the same thing northern governors have done in north Nigeria. the military intervened because they realised that there cannot be one Egypt when one group is bent on imposing its values on the rest, something Nigerian leaders and military are yet to grasp; that there can never be one Nigeria when the north is an Islamic republic.

Morsi failed because he was not dissociated in his religious beliefs and does not seem to understand that religion and politics are strange fellows which should be kept apart. He was minded to mix religion with politics and sort to use political power to advance religious objectives. His style divided the country along religious fault lines which was very dangerous for the future of Egypt as a united country. It is the same problem that may lead to the fall of Turkey’s government if not the implosion of the country. The same attitude is destroying Iraq, Iran, Syria and many other countries in the Middle East where religious convictions have no room for tolerance and respect for individual liberty. Nigeria has the same disease in form of an Islamic north drunk on Islam and focused on its ethnic identity and those who think religion has a future in Nigerian politics, should study what is happening in Egypt carefully.

Can an Arab spring style revolution happen in Nigeria? Very unlikely. Not because Nigerians are too poor to fight for justice, good government and their dignity; but because Nigerian corruption is very pervasive in a way that benefits the military chiefs. The politicians, military chiefs and police chiefs are in cahoot against the will of the people for an accountable democracy and establishment of strong independent institutions that would hold leaders to account. The president and governors share their security votes with army and police chiefs. Nigerian corruption is institutionalised, entrenched and systematic. Therefore, even if the people are able to muster the will to demand an Arab spring type revolution, the Nigeria Military are more likely to treat Nigerians the way the Egyptian military is treating Morsi supporters.

The lack of transparency in the way the government spends millions of Naira of tax payers’ money is the real problem why, the Nigerian security forces will easily kill Nigerians if they rise up against the current criminal class in power. The Nigerian police and army can be ordered by the president who has them in his pocket to shoot civilians. Just look at the way the army treats ordinary Nigerians and the way the police violates peoples’ fundamental human rights and, imagine what will happen; if the government order them to shoot at sight. Therefore, what is more likely in Nigeria, if the current criminal class make peaceful change impossible, is the Syrian suicide, where a country will descend into civil war with different group claiming to be fighting the same enemy but unable to unite. Moreover, ethnicity and religion play such determinant roles in Nigerian politics that it will be impossible for Nigerians to agree on any issue or principle because of ethnic and religious factors. In a way, religion and ethnicity are the poisons in the Nigeria polity and unless their role is reduced or neutralised, Nigeria has no future. People vote on ethnic or religious lines and not on values, policies or character of the politicians. These two constructs will finally bring about the demise of Nigeria, unless concerted effort is made towards value based politics.

Nigerians only choice is to learn from Egypt and remove ethnicity and religion from our politics and embrace inclusive politics of values, and principles which focuses on the welfare of the people, development of the country and ensures accountability. This can only be possible through the participation of patriotic Nigerians in politics and formation of non-ethnic and non-religious ideological political parties.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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