Sowore: The naivety of a revolutionary
The concept and application of the word revolution is being redefined since last week clamp down by government on the proponents of #RevolutionNow led by former presidential candidate of African Action Congress, and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested by the DSS even before the date of the protest on August 5. It does not matter our positions on the issue, the fact, and indeed, the truth, is that the word has a definite meaning, and does not change with time and circumstance. We will not be taken seriously if we are seen to be duplicitous in our positions by applying different standards and rules to similar situations – the same offence of which we accuse the government.
To begin with, I am not a supporter of this government and have never been and probably may never be as long as it lasts. Even before his election, I was vehemently and implacably opposed to his preference and the change campaign because I saw through the pretentious façade and undisguised veil, which most of the present wailers failed woefully to perceive. But it does not matter now; we all can’t be always right.
With the passage of time and the unfolding issues of governance, my opposition has been reinforced. What is probably restraining me from calling for its overthrow by any means is that it will be treasonable; and of course, my preference for democracy regardless of its many failings.
But on this #RevolutionNow, it would be pretentious to jump into the bandwagon of democracy vendors to justify the action irrespective of my opinion of this government. Sowore and his cohorts were simply naïve and provocative, and his messianic posturing, really nonsensical. There is a ‘lawfully’ elected government in power and you can’t call for a revolution against it without a consequence. Those relying on democratic rights and principles to rationalise the action are being hypocritical and their interpretation of revolution is sentimentally tendentious and after the fact. A revolution in the context of politics and political power means only one thing: violent overthrow of the government in power.
The 20th Century Chambers dictionary defines revolution as “a great upheaval; a radical change in government…” Also the Webster New World dictionary, says, revolution is “overthrow of a government or social system by those governed and usually by force”. There could be other interpretations but such are outside the context of politics and the exercise of political power and control of government. This is the fact and we should not try to change or mitigate it, as any other interpretation will be ill-conceived and prejudicial. The hallmark of intellectualism is to remain unabashedly objective even in the face of provocation.
Sowore simply, and perhaps, deliberately armed his opponents against himself. There is no democracy in the world where a threat of a revolution would be made against government without a response. Those shouting democracy and constitutionalism should give us an example. In the U.S. which is the bastion of democracy, the mere suspicion of Islamic radicalization is taken seriously as threat against national security in the war on terror; how much more a declared intention to overthrow the government, whether with bare-hands is irrelevant and immaterial. The constitution simply does not allow or permit it. Simpliciter!
Chief Obafemi Awolowo and leaders of the Action Group were sent to jailed in 1964 for much less. The civil rights movement in the U.S. would not have taken off the ground if there was the slightest hint of a government change. The Arab Spring and lately Sudan did not start as a revolution; no change in a democracy starts as a revolution. In both cases as several others, it began as a mass protest against a particular policy then, gathers momentum through government over-reaction and death of protesters, culminating eventually to demand for change of government if the protesters remained resolute. Any other way will be treasonable.
Those appealing to the constitution seem to forget that the constitution prescribes the mold of changing the government and revolution is not part of it. The constitution that gives the right to protest also explicitly abhors any other means of changing the government other than through election. Nobody should use an illegal means to achieve a legal or legitimate result; that would be un-philosophical, immoral and contradictory.
One cannot possibly spare any positive and good word for this government with a clear conscience; it is simply evil, and should be opposed by all especially those who facilitated its emergence because it is taking Nigeria to a precipice. Those who don’t know this by now are either blinded by selfish interest or simply ignorant.
However, this impression and perception of the government should not becloud our rationality and objective appreciation of reality. The conveners of #RevolutionNow made a fundamental error of judgment and may pay an unnecessary harsh price for it. Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12 presidential election, perhaps, would have been alive today if he hadn’t declared himself president. Man never seems to learn from history.
In democracies, protest is guaranteed and protected by the constitution and cannot be abridged ordinarily. A democratic government is representative and exists as a delegated sovereignty at the behest of the people. Having been put there the people loses the power to change it except in constitutionally prescribed ways. It does not matter what is our disposition toward the government; in our case, there are only two ways to change the government: election and impeachment. Revolution, like coup, is outlawed. So government is right to interpret it whichever way it deems fit, because its existence is under threat.
Candidate Muhammadu Buhari took similar action before the 2015 elections when he threatened that if he didn’t win, baboons and dogs would be soaked in blood; that was a felony. That government did nothing about it then does not make it right and permissible. The government then was weak, vulnerable and under a collective pressure of the establishment, and could not act without sparking off a political fire-storm which could have consumed it. We can protest as the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria, had been doing, to express our discontent and grouse with the government without running foul of the law.
This government is different; it is the strongest democratic government we have ever had. It is northern, cohesive and militaristic, and has the strongest part of the country as ally. It controls all the security structure of the nation and has dared all of us. While the protest was much needed, it is unfortunate that the organizers childishly played into their hands, and they now control the narrative regardless of our righteous indignations. The onus is not on government to justify their high-handedness in handling the protest; sadly, it is the duty of the organizers to prove their intention, which may be far from the coloration given it by its enemies.
Sowore: The naivety of a revolutionary