By Benjamin Bala
I choose this caption “After the Reggae Play the Blues” from a song by Nigerian artists to speak to my fellow young people in our language. For the purpose of this article, let us take the word “reggae” as a metaphor for “war” (apologies to lovers of reggae music) and “blues” for “peace”.
We have seen agitations for cessation characterized by printable and unprintable name calling. We have also seen recent ultimata in the country with 1st October, 2017 as a deadline; pending declaration of an independent republic on same date. The languages and tones of communication are also characterized by so much venom, threatening the peace and unity of this country. The reggae (war) drums are beating so loud and the only thing remaining is the corresponding reggae dance steps where dancers jump to the sounds of the beatings and within minutes sweat profusely. Reggae dance is usually very entertaining to spectators and offers business opportunities for handkerchief sellers. The youths are playing the proverbial reggae beats, what is remaining is the commencement of the dance and everyone of us in Nigeria will start sweating. And guess what, our spectators (other nations of the world will enjoy watching the dance). They are waiting with their handkerchiefs (arms in this case) then they will use a little fraction from their gain from the arms sales to buy us relief materials.
This brings to mind Bishop Kukah’s expression of disappointment at our present condition as a country in a homily at the ordination of three deacons at the Missionary society of St. Paul Seminary Gwagwalada recently, Bishop Kukah stated metaphorically; “As usual, Nigerians are doing what they do best: making themselves the laughing stock of the rest of the world, behaving like spoilt brats of a rich but irresponsible father, or like players in a game with no rules and no referee, a game in a field of moral free fall. Perhaps by way of a metaphor, that is really a summary of our condition”.
In all these reggae drum beating, I see two common denominators. The first denominator is the class of people involved in beating the reggae drums. They are the youths of the country; the energy base, the pride of the nation, the shapers and builders of the nation, whose reggae drums are predicated on regional, ethnic and religious differences. But this is not the real problem. The second denominator is the reason behind the drums breaking, namely, injustice in the distribution of the nation’s resources which has left every region under developed 56 years after independence.
Our Real Problem
Our real problem in this Country is not our geopolitical, ethnic or religious diversity. Our real problem is a failure of leadership and failed promises of some dishonest chain of cabals called politicians and elites. These cabals feed on the destiny of the youths by squandering our common national wealth. By so doing, they keep all of us perpetually impoverished for their selfish ambitions. In this state of poverty, they throw out crumbs from their tables of loots to few of the youths pretending to care about them more than their political opponents. However, their main motive for throwing the crumbs is to lubricate the youths gullible bones to do their political biddings. They simply are given the crumbs as a political trap so as to win them to their side and enforce their political base. The present anti-corruption allegations going on should be a very good eye opener to us.
Whenever they sense that we are thinking collective and heading towards discovering their antics and demand accountability from them, they employ all dubious diversionary tactics as used in the game of wrestling to blindfold us. And their commonest blindfold garments are religion, regional and ethnic differences, etc. And since we (the youths) are intoxicated by their toxic crumbs, they go out and begin bating the reggae drums. This is what the youths are doing at the moment. Again, Bishop Mathew H. Kukah describes the situation with an eloquence I dare not to alter: “A first time visitor to our country in the last few weeks would think they have crashed into a party organised by drunken criminals who, in their bouts of raucous inebriation have resorted to a serious brawl with self injuries while overturning tables and food, destroying both glasses and plates”. Surprisingly, this has been their game for years and we seem not to get it as educated as the Nigerian youths are. The normal question to ask is; what is wrong with us Nigerian Youths? Nigerian youths, our mumu never do? I bet you, if the young people do not take their destiny into their hands, even if the country breaks up, the same cabals will continue to ride on our regional, ethnic and religious sentimental dispositions to their advantage in our new countries.
Those at the Receiving End
But wait for a minute, come to think of it. Should the reggae dance (war) begin, God forbid, who is at the receiving end? I bet you, the young people, the victims of these cabals will be at the receiving end. Check it out, many of these cabals do not have their families in Nigeria. They are in the safety of Europe and America. And when the actual reggae dance begins, it is not sweat that will spill, but human blood, heads will roll and the arms market will boom. You will discover that the cabals have taken flight to unite with their families. Be sure some of them will become dealers and importers of the arms that will be used in the reggae dance. And make no mistake about it, they will surely return with their children to continue their rulership over the remnant who will survive the reggae dance.
Time to Play The Blues (Time to Turn Our Swords into Ploughshares)
Dear Nigerian youths, we have played the reggae drums enough, the kind that preceded the 1967-1970 reggae dance which brought untold hardship and the death of innocent people including women and children. We must say no to the path that leads to the repetition of an avoidable ugly history. No sane and wise person hits his leg twice on the same stone. This path will only lead us to anguish, pain and sorrow. Nigerian youths, it is time to turn your swords into ploughshares. Stop the reggae (war) drum beats and begin to play the blues (peace beats). It is time to change the melody from reggae to blues. Change the war beats to peace beats in the spirit of our common humanity, brotherhood and sisterhood.
A Common Front
After changing the drum beats from war to peace, unite together and focus on the real problem and the real enemies of Nigeria. Young people of Nigeria, try this one action with resolve and determination together. Stop the “longer-throat” and never be contented with eating the crumbs from the loot of our common patrimony. The good thing is that fate has placed many advantages on our hands. We have the number advantage, education advantage, professional advantage. All the Nigerian youths need is that synergy to form one unbroken body that will peacefully and most respectfully but resolutely and uncompromisingly face the injustice that has made us destitute in our Land so blessed with abundance. It is time for the Nigerian youths to take their destiny into their hands. All that you need is the resolution, determination and the courage to move a common front.
Golden in our hands is that our Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees us the freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression (chapter 4, Sections 39 & 40). Do you imagine the impact of Nigerian youths in a peaceful and orderly rally or procession to mount pressure on any arm of government, federal Government or State, on a legitimate demand? Do you imagine how intimidating it will be? Cast your mind back to the “Enough is Enough” 6th February, 2017 mini rallies held across few cities of the country to which the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo reacted, “We have heard you loud and clear” (Vanguard, Punch, Daily Trust, 06.02.2017). This rallies are believed to have propelled the Federal Government to Launch the ” Economic Recovery plan” in April 2017. This is the huge capacity and tool the Nigerian Youths have to change their fortunes and recover their stolen destiny from the cabals raping this country.
Most of our elected officials, especially the executives rarely travel by road and consequently have little or no experience what Nigerians suffer on our bad roads. Budgets are made, no one accounts what was spent and what was left. Our Budgets do not show brought forwards. All we hear is the taking of loans that mortgage our future making us debtors over funds borrowed in our name and scarcely used for the purpose for what they are borrowed. Most houses of assemblies have become “rubber stamp houses” for the executives at various levels. Look at the humongous salaries taken by our various executives and legislatures, look at their fleet of Escorts when they are moving, all squandering our collective resources. The youth can match peacefully to government houses and demand explanation for abandoned projects or to demand explanations for non-payment of salaries and benefits due to our aged retired parents. The youths can challenge all these evil inflicted on us by our common enemies. With this unity, we can collectively, after due consultation, challenge some of the clauses in our constitution that enforce their power to oppress us, like the age for contesting elective positions, and they will surely have no choice than to bow. This kind of unity can make it easy to recall elected officials who reasonably perform below expectations. I see great potentials in a unity of the Nigerian youths. If this unity and pressure puts our leaders to task and our economy works, doors of employment opportunities open, inclusive governance, good roads, light, Water and other amenities abound, who will cry of marginalization again? At least, whether rightly or wrongly done, and whether they will succeed or not, the unity and the attempt by the Kogi West Senatorial District youths to recall their Senator is a pointer that the Nigerian youth can take their destiny into their hands.
A social media material attributed to Prof. Wole Soyinka states; “Sad to note; All the Governors the themselves, all the past Presidents love themselves, all the Senators love themselves, all the top government officials love themselves, all the looters love themselves. Why cant you and I love ourselves? Why can’t we combine efforts and fight them? Why do we fight ourselves? Why do we allow them the freedom we don’t have?” Two notes of caution accompany this proposal. The first is to ensure that every action is carried out peacefully to avoid any casualty which the same youths will be the sufferer. It is something to be done with a passion but without aggression. The second is to resist any divisive antics of the same cabals that have kept the nation dwarfed.
Nigerian youths, drop the reggae (war) drumming and begin drumming of blues (peace). Let there be peace, let there be unity. Even if the country will eventually break up some day, let it happen peacefully in the same manner our independence was given because whether united or divided, we will surely still need each other and live in each other’s regions. We have continued to interact peacefully with the British people because the break was peaceful. By the way, Nigerians from the different regions of this country and the different faiths are living in other parts of the world peacefully. Nigerian Christians are living in many Muslim dominated countries and carrying out their lawful businesses. In like manner, Nigerian Muslims are living in some Christian dominated countries and carrying out their lawful businesses. Why then can’t we live peacefully with one another?
Nigerian youths, end the reggae (war) beats, it is time to play the blues (peace) beats. Our beloved nation has gone through the ugly experience of an avoidable three year reggae dance (war) and those who played the drums that brought about the dance regretted doing so afterwards. Why do we want the same mistake to repeat itself. Does a reasonable person ever conceive making the same mistake twice in a life time? I bet you, even mother earth is not happy about the present sounds of the drums playing. Nigerian youths, please listen to reason and beat your swords into ploughshares.