When the Peoples Democratic University graduated 170 million Nigerians on March 29, 2015, my mind was riveted to a debate we had in those good old days of childhood. It had to do with which of these birds—eagle, vulture and dove—was the strongest, or persevering, and or most beautiful. It was a debate that we enjoyed and one which stirred our little innocent minds to serious philosophical discourse. It dithered from (a) what would happen if, by an act of nature, the winds mysteriously stilled to (b) what would happen if suddenly the sky dimmed and the colours of the rainbow lost their luster and brilliance.
In many ways, March 29th was a watershed and a landmark depending on how one contemplated its significance or otherwise. The largest university in Africa graduated 170 million students who had undergone 16 years of rigorous academic sojourn. Some bagged the Bachelor’s degrees (Science, Technology, Arts and Management ) with honours, others Master’s, while yet others with PhDs and specializing in different fields including Survival, Perseverance, Corruption, Cluelessness, Urban and Rural Mola (begging), Scientific Ignorance, Heartlessness and Arrogance. Other fields of specialization included Bigotry, Ethnology, Premeditated Death, Poverty Syndrome Activation and Scientific Lying. The core and most important course was Poverty Syndrome Activation which all students were taught the art of street begging in rural and urban areas and survival tactics through rationing of meals per day. Students also learnt how to manage malnourishment to avoid Kwashiorkor, Measles, Typhoid, Diarrhea and dysentery, among others.
March 29th, Nigerians had the guts to tell the representatives of the ruling classes in government that time was up for them; that they, Nigerians, had had enough; that they were also human beings—God’s creation, seeking a place under the sun to survive. They had the audacity to demand a change, not to continue existing in some amorphous conundrum. They wanted a change; one that would activate their humanity; one that elevated them from slavery and hardship to freedom, peace, and happiness. They wanted out of the cocoon of their depravity, social lunacy and castration; they wanted to see eagles, vultures and doves in their freedom and glory; they wanted to see the glorious colours of the rainbow, feel the soothing ….. of the winds and wear and brandish beautiful faces at each other. They wanted to see the brilliance of the sun and feel its soothing effect on the bodies, and luxuriate in the luminance of stars and moon-rays.
Other people have done that at one time or the other. The Chinese, Cubans, Vietnamese, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Zimbabweans and South Africans did the same some time ago. Others, such as Angolans, Mozambicans, and Burkinabe also did same at one time or other. Nigerians joined in the match toward renewal and respect among the comity of nations and imprinting their names on the board of human history. But Nigerians did it in a different way. They did not shed blood; they did it through the magic of the ballot box. They called off the bluff, heartlessness and arrogance of their “leaders” and said “enough is enough”.
Before March 29th, the ruling classes had arrogantly insinuated that Nigerians cannot make the ultimate sacrifice that would catalyse in changing the status quo. Their calculation was that Nigerians were still in the iron grip of prebendal politics characterized by tribal and or ethnic sentiments as well as religious bigotry and as such could not organize to free themselves. But the impulse for change was activated; it was real. They restated the dialectical reality of man’s social existence. They re-enacted another historical reality: men make history. Sometimes men make their history in circumstances and situations sometimes determined by them, but in others outside their powers or influence, or even out of their control. It was the Nigerian man in his element expressing himself in harmony with his fellow country-men and women. By so doing, Nigerians participated willfully and willingly in the process of their social transformation; that is the process of change.
This process of the struggle for change did not come about because Nigerians wished for change, or hoped for it; they participated in the process of causing a change in their lives. They were change agents in a struggle to free themselves from the tyrannical clutches of oppression and servitude; from a life of vagrancy, vegetativeness, hopelessness and desperation to possibly a meaningful, glorious, loving, peaceful and fulfilling life.
From Calabar to Sokoto; Badagry to Maiduguri; Benin to Gashua and from Dutse to Yenegoa, Nigerians of all walks of life, professing different religions and speaking country languages were not only united in their quest to wrest themselves free from a tyrannical cabal, but went to the polls despite the inconvenience and difficulties and voted it out of power. They made it. They made history, stirred its warm cockles and titillated its membrane. They communed with passion to leap out of the cauldron of servitude and hopelessness.
The Nigerians that graduated from PDP University were witnesses to these momentous developments. Whether as student of lecturer, Nigerians participated in the March 29th and April 11th process of change and regeneration consciously. They had been riveted by the force of the consciousness of reality and the need to effect change. Their graduate status conferred on them a consciousness of the reality of their social existence.
The consciousness of the 170 million Nigerians that graduated last year was slow in coming; it wandered and meandered through rough, tortuous and difficult terrain. Before their studies, they had lived, or existed each to his or her self and or life. Each of them had contrived their dreams and visions for a hard long winding life rich and momentous. They had lived through different experiences. But since men sometime make their history, sometimes dreams and visions converge in a melting pot of national purpose or cause. Somehow, the poverty stricken Yoruba man in Ikare discovered that his status of vagrant and chattel in his fatherland was the same with the Tiv, Gbagyi, Igbo, Hausa, Kanuri, Ibibio, Fulani and Ijaw r men in other parts of the country. Somehow, and in their own way, they interpreted their status the same way; understood change in the same tone and understanding and decided that they had something in common. Hence, the need to identify with the war cry, CHANGE! It was a consciousness midwifed by denial, disappointment, frustration, pain, hunger and anger and failed, calibrated or stalled dreams and visions in the last 16 years of studies. It was a consciousness that subsumed into a need to change their unenviable status, and oppressive situation or condition. It was a refreshing consciousness of the need for a vanguard for moulding or re-moulding a common destiny for one people.
The process of acquiring that reality started in 1999; about their daily lives; that is, what and who they were before and after 1999. That is, how they were forced into servitude as chattels used and disposed of as cheaply as possible; slaves used for the generation or creation of wealth for the ruling classes; civil servants for the maintenance of the wheels of state machinery; judges and the security services for the maintenance of law and order to maintain the status quo and courts and prisons to incarcerate “trouble makers” and agitators. That is, citizens whose lives were not secured and people who lived more in fear and desperation than in happiness, peace and security; and citizens who did not enjoy the benefits of citizenship but counted only as numbers and who only existed on the margins of society and condemned to spectatorship.
March 29th and April brought an end to an order that had debased and assaulted the humanity of Nigerians. It brought to end impunity, arrogant impunity; man’s wickedness against man, repression and oppression, long cold nights of brawling hunger and want; cruel pangs of systematic denial and abuse and degrading assault on the dignity of over-exploited and dominated Nigerians. Those days put an end to the consistent virulent attack on the innocence and helplessness of weakened Nigerians by the PDP which forced all Nigerians to enroll in their tertiary institution as students of survival.
The 16-year education programme numbed and cracked the resilience of life Nigerians. The PDP and their allies in the academia, business, traditional and religious institutions joined forces in the ruination project that not only damaged the image of the country, but also earned us ridicule in the comity of nation. Together, the enunciated the courses that would ensure their smooth operations in their quest for self gratification and pitched the ruling classes against the dominated majority of Nigerians were not carded carrying members of the PDP. One of the core courses, which was euphemistically tagged Transformation Agenda, was formulated in a way to dehumanize, brutalise and traumatize Nigerians physically and spiritually.
The consciousness of Nigerians who studied at the PDP University was riveted by the reality that majority of Nigerians were wallowing in the stygian pool of poverty, hopelessness, desperation and depression. These Nigerians were witnesses to the tragedy, hatred, anger and hunger that were systematically forced on them. They could see the vehemence and crudity of the plunder and wickedness of the senior members of the ruling party; and they could as well feel the severity of the depravity and poverty willfully imposed on them. The senior members of the PDP overturned normal human happiness, peace, love, innocence, decency and spirit of empathy into tragedy, pain, depression and nightmares.
For a majority of Nigerians, 1999—2015 was a dark and longest night of turbulence and uncertainty. Nigerians were furl in the storms of life. They were also hauled unto a ship of uncertain fate and destiny. As the ship wobbled and fumbled, they were always tormented by the haunting whispers of naked aggression and transgression and felt the tremors of suppression and oppression. Everything was fresh in their memories as they studied hard to earn good grades in their pursuit of survival. They were conscious of the veracity of the architecture and structure their miserable economic life and the socio-political depravity and domination which were characterized by hopelessness, frustration and desperation in the endless nights of parlous existence. And helplessly, too, they could only hope that their spirits would hold them together to survive the rolling and roiling tenacity of the oppression and exploitation by their fellow countrymen and women. Surprisingly, they were hailed and supported by the clergy and traditional rulers who blessed them and also offered prayers to the Almighty for the forgiveness of their transgressions and possible remission of their sins.
The 170 million Nigerians that graduated on March 29th and April 11th had the “privilege” of acquiring fundamental knowledge and understanding of human nature, psychology, economics and politics. They discovered that the OBJ-GEJ era deepened the menace of oppression, domination and abuse of ordinary Nigerians by the ruling elites: oil and other cabals, top business men and women, “traditional” and “opinion” leaders, academia and chieftains of the PDP. They also discovered that the Nigerian ruling elites were parasites: they did not produce or engage in any productive activity but reaped abundantly from contractocracy (government patronage through contract awards to cronies), commissions and fleecing. They were urged on by Euro-American godfathers and benefactors of so-called western liberalism to continue to hold down Nigerians as they raped the economy. The so-called experts in these administrations provided the platform and environment for the massive corruption, exploitation and plunder of Nigerians’ common wealth through tax breaks and other leakages, illegal transfers and capital flight.
Now, putting behind them the tragic misfortunes which characterized the last 16 years of their existence, Nigerians have mixed feelings about the future. They have had the hard choice of learning with difficulty and indignity forced on them by the Board of Trustees of the PDP University. They had the misfortune of studying courses they would otherwise have not chosen or preferred. Now as graduates and specialists in survival, they have to employ this knowledge to carry on in the next phase of living and or existing.
Like during my childhood, they have before them a hot debate. The last 16 years of their existence have been characterized by the resourcefulness, guile, greed, audacity, strength, aggression, beauty and resilience of the eagle, the vulture and the dove. They have to decide—between the virtues of the eagle, the vulture or the dove. True, amongst Nigerians there are some of the most resourceful human beings on earth; there are also the strong as well as the audacious, aggressive and the resilient amongst us. There are those who combine one, two or three of these attributes which explains the sturdiness and doggedness of the Nigerian spirit. What remains, and is the determining factor, is how we are able to cultivate the positives—audacity, strength, guile, aggression, resilience and unmatched beauty.
The beauty of the present era of change is that we have a new and beautiful day before us. As a people, our 16 year academic sojourn for survival, have taught us that we must seek out our destiny; understand it; nurture it; place it on the trajectory of REAL change; direct it on the path of liberty, peace, justice, love, peaceful co-existence and prosperity. We must prepare for the jolts and potholes as we match out of the valley of poverty, domination, arrogance, heartlessness, frustration and oppression to the mountaintop of power, glory, innocence, respect, dignity and prosperity.
While the party of the past dispensation lasted, the vultures—always dressed in the best flowery agbada and babbanriga—scoured the entire Nigerian landscape seeking one prey-ground and victims or the other, often stealing, embezzling and destroying. Today, fortunately, the vultures have been vanquished; their irremediable lust and destructive tendency for exploitation, wickedness, avarice and domination have been capsized into the abyss of time.
The eagles—ever so creative and persevering—have survived all the evil machinations and manipulation of the vultures and it is on their wings that the destiny and future of this potentially great country lay on.
Then, of course, there are the doves now flapping their graceful wings in the firmament: strong, resolute, resourceful and beautiful.
The vultures, eagles and doves—in spite of their differences and penchant—are in different ways involved in the Nigerian project. They are soaring through the skies with joy and very hopeful and confident seeking the comfort of the sun and the flatulence of the moon. They are aiming for the colours of the rainbow; and the colours are at their brilliant and clearest best.
Nigerians—their minds set for glory and happy days ahead—like the eagle and the dove, are floating on the wings of strong winds of change. We are floating from somewhere in the east, west and south to anywhere in the central, eastern, western, northern and southern part of Nigeria. Some day the eagle and the dove will land and we’ll all have cause to rise in unison and sing the Talakawa hymn, “enough is enough; thank God almighty, enough is enough!”
Fadason a former editor of New Nigerian Weekly wrote from Kaduna