Letters — Nigeria Ascending: What Next After #EndSARS
There is a point where resilience breaks, and logic gives way to survival. When that happens, people are bound to fight back.
The events of the past days have taken a toll on me, as I’m sure it has on you too. But I woke up this morning with a renewed vigour, a renewed hope, and energy that I didn’t think was possible.
Where to start from?
I usually avoid writing about Nigeria, it ends up messing up my emotions. Remember the last time I wrote to you about Nigeria? It seems like it only got worse from thereon. I would never have imagined that we would experience the events of the past two days. It is a reminiscence of the stories our parents told us years back, of the military juntas and their excesses. But this was no military regime, this was a democracy. Notwithstanding the pain, however, I’ve learned an important life lesson, whatever is worth doing, will always get worse until it gets better; and as a nation, we are at that threshold.
Nigeria has a way of draining its citizens. We get knocked down, time and time again, and we still keep getting back up. It is the Naija spirit: we have learned to be resilient and creative, not because it is a virtue, but as a way to adapt to the ever-increasing hardship placed on us by our leaders. But there is a point where resilience breaks and logic gives way to survival. When that happens, people are bound to fight back.
I have never been more proud to be a Nigerian like I was in the past two weeks. There aren’t many things that can pull us together for a single cause, perhaps BB Naija and football are the exceptions, but this is so much more. There have never been anything that has brought Nigerians together like this before, — irrespective of tribe, religion, and language. Maybe the June 12 elections but I wouldn’t know, I was barely a toddler then.
We have achieved more unity and progress in two weeks than we have in 60 years.
When was the last time you saw scenes of “Christians surrounding Muslims while they observe their prayers? Or people donating their time, money, and expertise to the wellbeing of others, or lost belongings being returned to their owners? I found myself calling lawyers I’ve never met to help secure the release of remanded protesters I did not know.
In all this, I have come to realize that Nigerians are not bad people, we are just oppressed. You see that with people in the diaspora — hardworking, creative, nice, and caring. But when you’re oppressed, these traits fly out the window, and you lose your humanity. Gladly, it seems like we are beginning to find it back.
To leave or not to leave?
Since after the last few days, a lot of people have strengthened their resolve to leave the country, and frankly, I don’t blame them. When a so-called “reformed democrat” orders the summary execution of unarmed innocent civilians and went ahead to issue a threat on National Television, there is little else you can think of.
So if you are considering Operation Japa (that is what they are calling emigrating from Nigeria, I like how it sounds), don’t feel bad, and don’t let anyone guilt-trip you either.
Get your certificates ready. Take the IELTS or the necessary exams. Apply for Canada PR (or indeed any country of your choice). Not every one of us has to be in Nigeria to turn it around. Did you see the amount of support for the #EndSARS protests from the diaspora? We need all the help we can get for the next steps, and if going to Canada or wherever can help you contribute your quota towards a better Nigeria, then, by all means, do it.
However, for those who cannot leave, or don’t want to, well, there is still a lot of work to do. Things might not get better immediately, it probably will take time, but at least we can start by getting our PVCs, getting involved in “grassroots” politics. I know of a set of people who have taken it upon themselves to share flyers, educating the public on good governance, the hope for a better Nigeria, and what needs to be done — see, I told you there are silver linings.
There is a segment of the population we cannot do without, and that’s the grassroots. They are the ones who win elections. We do not have to wait until 2023, like a friend of mine said to me last night, “even if it’s to do a GoFundMe to buy the rice or whatever, we will do it….. in the end, we are our own saviours.”
Prayer, Protest, Politics, or All of the Above?
A protege mentioned to me that prayer is the Master Key. I agree.
However, the door — Nigeria — has so complex a security system that you need more than one key to open it. Some are more comfortable with praying, others are more inclined to a less spiritual approach. If Mordecai and Esther were not in the king’s courts, Haman would have had his way, notwithstanding the prayers of the Jews.
My point is this, you need people at the courts as much as you need people at the altar. I find it rather juvenile that some people argue over which is more effective.
The excellency of wisdom doesn’t make money any less a defense, so also the divinity of prayers does not make politics any less effective. They are not mutually exclusive. Pray. Protest. Get involved in politics. Do what you are comfortable with, what matters is that we get results.
I know you are hurt. I know you are heartbroken and despondent. But do not forget the strides we made towards birthing the Nigeria of our dreams. What started out as a Twitter hashtag, has morphed into a well-oiled movement that provided medical, legal, and technical support to protesters — Ordo ab Chao — out of this chaos, we found order.
So let us rise. We are not done yet.
We owe it to Jimoh Isiaq, Anthony Onome, the victims of the Lekki Massacre, and other fallen heroes, to see this through to the end. We owe it to them to build a Nigeria that works for us and the generation to come, where we would not be ashamed of the colour of our passport; a nation where we can apply for the best jobs, and would not be rejected because we have no senator-godfather.
For a long time, this is what we have prayed for, but it will not happen unless we play our part — albeit how little. I have never believed that one person holds 100% of the solution. It is more like each of us has 1% of the solution, and so it becomes necessary that everyone does his part in achieving the goal of making Nigeria great again.
I hope that day comes soon, the day when all we fight for now becomes a reality, the day when we will live in a Nigeria we can be proud of. When that day comes, I’ll like to look back and smile, knowing I played a part in it. I hope it’s the same for you.
No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is far too much work to do.
Talk to you soon.