NIGERIA is possibly the country with the greatest appellations and accolades in the world. Nigeria is called the giant of Africa, the world’s most populous Black nation, the nation with the highest number of malaria victims , etc. What about Nigerians? Some people have their own way of describing certain other persons. One of the most recent ones I have heard is the expression that ‘Nigerians are docile’! I think this is highly debatable, not to say annoyingly nauseating. An expression of this magnitude of indictment has its root in the perception that Nigerians remain calm often in the face of clear case of misrule or uncomfortable policy or some other unprintable happenings. Against this backdrop, it pays to peep into semantics and epistemology. Semantically, to be docile is to be ‘quiet, not aggressive and easily controlled’. This is certainly helpful to arrive at my own viewpoint that Nigerians are resilient father than docile. A writer Thomas Carlyle defines genius as the infinite capacity for taking pains; that is, limitless ability for perseverance and capacity for endurance. I think seriously that tolerance, seemingly limitless capacity of Nigerians to endure pains and yet remaining hopeful against all clear signs of lack of hope in sight, all things being (un)equal are marks of ingenuity rather than docility. Since it is the relationship between the governed and the government that generated the assertion about docility, a politics – based example should not be out of place or off-tune here.
Since Nigerian political independence in 1960, governance or rulership has oscillated between military and civil rules sharing almost equal number of years until 1999 when a 16–year-at-a-stretch civil rule began. In Nigeria’s political history, no government, whether loved or hated, military or civil, imposed or voted legitimately has spent more than nine years, being also the maximum spent by the General Yakubu Gowon-led administration, by far the most economically comfortable, though arguably. At least, the civil servants who got Udoji award would think about economic buoyancy even if academics would consider the same event as an (un)economically misdirected prodigality.
Anyone who has got his ears close to the political realm should have heard, seen or read how in spite of nationally-acclaimed dribbling skills of a military ruler was fought to a stands till by a combined civil forces of the then very virile Nigerian Labour Congress and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with patriotic collaboration of the press, including the defunct clandestine and nocturnal Kudirat Radio, among others. The campaign or huge public relations gimmick by the militarised economists at promoting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agenda branded Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was deflated by home-grown economists, although the reality was that eventually the dictator rammed the imperial and colonial agenda down the throat of Nigeria. This was achieved against armoured tank rolled on the street to crush oppositions. This couldn’t have been docility. It must have been hard core patriotism and legitimate desperateness to break loose from the shackles of dictatorship and imperialism.
History reminds us that the Late General Sani Abacha frantically attempted to metamorphosed into a ‘bloody’ civilian president, but the scheme only enriched some sycophants and ‘economic parasite cum cankerworm’, while the schemer himself was consumed or he hastily existed from the stage before the curtain was drawn. Somewhat, he had to pay for his dictatorship with his life. Regardless of the five-million-man match in support of General Abacha’s status-translation or transformation agenda, the wish of the over 100 million other Nigerians then prevailed. The saying that the pen was mightier than the sword was very famous and popular then.
The will of the people became more forceful and fruitful than the brutal force of the armoured personnel carrier or armoured tank. This must be very far from docility; it must have been resilience.
In spite of the epochal military-civilian power shift anchored by General-turned-Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979, he could not scale through the hurdle of attempted manipulative third-terrorism. His appeared to be a case exemplifying the Yoruba aphorism that the man who is being chased by a masquerade should persevere, because just as masquerades get weary so do humans. The masquerade of Owu ran fast, far and wide but he was wearied by the resilience of a people who could draw the line between emotion and reason. There are African countries where their presidents have held on to power for three decades at a stretch. In fact, Africa is blessed with the world’s oldest and longest serving president at age 92. Third term bid was cleverly manipulated in Burundi (the world’s saddest nation going by a 2015, University of Columbia Survey) by Pierre Nkuruziza, who is still tenaciously hanging on regardless of more than 400 needless deaths.
I do think that our resilience, love for life, peace and sanctity of human life as a people (excluding of course pockets of bloodless terrorists and cold-blooded murderers) make it look like we are docile, but I think seriously we are not a docile people. If you still have doubts, listen to radio station, dissect comments, you need no further conviction that Nigerians are not docile (stupidly quiet). Find out the response of Nigerians to government policy, you soon find out that Nigerians are not easily pushed around for long. At least the Maradonas of Nigerian politics or military know this. Many dribbles have come to abrupt and dead ends sooner than planned.
If Nigerians are easily controlled at all, it must have been the level of functional education of the elites most of who dominate the class of commentators and reactors to governance and government policies. Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave, asserts Henry Peter Brougham. I think this is the case with Nigerians, who are resilient but not docile in my opinion. What do you think? Are you a docile or resilient Nigerian?
Mr. Jimo, a public affairs analyst, writes from [email protected]