Egyptian Revolution: the lessons for Nigeria

In the past few weeks at Harvard University, the discussion has been on the revolution in Egypt. Many African students have discussed the possibilities of an Egyptian-type revolution happening anywhere else in Africa. Nigeria was at the center of the discussion and the question was: Can the kind of revolution we have seen unfolding in Egypt happen in Nigeria?
I do not do sequels. Otherwise a discussion like this would warrant a follow-up because there are so many aspects to it. But as a matter of principle; I will cram it all into one article which will discuss the lessons of the Egyptian revolution.
But first, Egyptians have proved that even in today’s world, revolutions remain the only universal language used by oppressed people to correct the ills of their society. The second lesson rests in the words of John F. Kennedy when he said that “those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolutions inevitable.”
The Egyptian revolution has been peaceful and purposeful – peaceful in the sense that the number of deaths has been very minimal, considering the number of people marching in the streets of Egypt for change. As a Nigerian, it is shameful to me that in less than a week, in one local area of Jos, 200 people were killed in a mere riot. In the Egyptian revolution, looting has also been very minimal. This is one of the few times an African nation has proved to the rest of the world that we could be as civilized in demanding our rights as the West.
The Egyptian revolution has also been very purposeful both from an organizational perspective and from a demand perspective. From an organizational perspective, I was shocked that a country like Egypt would provide for a mobile triage clinic even in the midst of a revolution. I don’t know about you, but for me this is clear evidence that Nigeria has sunk well below many other African countries, even more than it seems on the surface. From a demand perspective, the Egyptian people have shown that they know what they want – the resignation of President Mubarak and for democracy to be restored in Egypt.
The Egyptian people have not resolved to make willy-nilly demands that will turn the revolution into a mob action. Groups making all kinds of unreasonable demands of the government have not emerged. This is one of the few times we should be proud to be Africans. What makes this precedence set by Egyptians more remarkable is that the apparent peace in the midst of a revolution comes from a religion that has been called a violent religion by many – Islam. This is clear evidence that those who kill in Nigeria do so not in the name of Islam, but in the name of whoever sent them.
As happy as I am about the mentioned lessons of the Egyptian revolution, yet they are not the most important lessons to be learned. To determine the rest of the lessons, context is very important. So let’s draw some contrasts between Egypt and Nigeria.
Egypt is a homogenous country: Nigeria is a mosaic, an amalgam of people that have been forced together for the convenience of imperial domination. The model revolution we are witnessing in Egypt is the kind of revolution that can only be organized and sustained in a monolithic society. In establishing Nigeria even the British realized that it would not be easy for Nigerians to come together for the purpose of a revolution. This was what sustained British imperialism in Nigeria.
Like Nigeria, Egypt is also a third world nation faced with the problems of hunger, poverty and disease, just like many other third world countries.
Is this commonalty between Egypt and Nigeria enough to trigger a revolution like Egypt’s in Nigeria?
The more I put together the pieces of the Egyptian revolution, the more I lose hope about the possibility of a Nigerian revolution. In the past, I have argued strongly that a Nigerian revolution is possible and imminent. However, I have come to believe that the most essential element that leads to revolutions is missing in the context of Nigeria. For a revolution to materialize, the people do not necessarily have to be brave. They only have to be agitated enough against a few individuals. Many have argued that the reason why there will not be a Nigerian revolution is that Nigerians are cowards. Nigerians are not cowards; Nigerian leaders are exploiting the same aspect of our country that the British exploited – the fact that Nigeria is not a homogenous society. This is the secondary reason why the Nigerian revolution is delayed.
The primary reason why the Nigerian revolution is delayed is that Nigerian leaders have added another element that makes any expectations of a Nigerian revolution unrealistic. It is not that they have instilled fear into the Nigerian people; it is that they have been rotating the looting of Nigeria among a group of people.
In “democracies” like Nigeria, revolutions are primarily caused by demagogic looting of wealth. However, when the looting of people’s common wealth is rotated among a cabal; the chance of revolution becomes slim. The people’s wrath comes more quickly against a tyrannical and one-man government, just like the one Egypt has seen under President Mubarak.
What Mubarak is to Egypt, Obasanjo would have been to Nigeria: Obasanjo would have liked to remain in power for as long as he breathes, just like Mubarak. Obasanjo would have liked to hand over Nigeria to one of his sons after a long tyrannical regime, just like Mubarak wanted to do. In effect, what I am saying is that Obasanjo would have been the only man who could have brought the Nigerian revolution closer. In hindsight, those who stopped him in his tracks did not help the cause of a Nigerian revolution. They stopped him without knowing what the effect of their action would be on the possibility of a Nigerian revolution; their reason for stopping him was to take part in the looting of Nigeria.
As long as the looting of Nigeria keeps being rotated, the Queen of England is more susceptible to be overthrown in a revolution than the cabals who rule Nigeria. In all these, the greatest lesson of the Egyptian revolution is that revolutions need not be bloody in order to change the trajectory of a nation.

(This article has been published on Vanguard Viewpoint. Join the rest of the discussion on African
Hamilton Odunze
African Analyst

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