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    Posted May 11, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:

    Tomorrow’s Sit-in Protest and Relevance of Protest Culture in the North

    A coalition of youth groups, The National Consensus Movement (NCM), is calling for a sit-in protest for tomorrow (May 12th 2014) throughout Northern Nigeria. It is a peaceful one day protest against what it described as “the gross insensitivity of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the protection of the rights of the citizens of the northern states to life and security.”

    This idea will sound in a generally conservative region where youths are assigned the backseat in expressing approval or dissent over societal matters. The legitimate power of expression belongs to elders, leaders and politicians. When youths attempt to play that role, they are often ignored or, at best, dismissed as naïve or sponsored.

    When the elders, leaders and politicians in the region were patriotic and selfless, the old tradition worked well and there was little reason for youths to speak out. That era lasted until the mid-eighties when corruption became the guiding principle of governance and wealth the strongest determinant of motivation, status, and respect. Successive governments were not only corrupt but systematically corrupting. Transparency was declared a threat, accountability an enemy. Gradually, leaders turned into dealers. It is with such merchants that the deal of shifting power to the south was struck, sealed and delivered.

    The prolonged years of northern presidency masked the need for the emergence of an opposition civil voice because it was presumed that the President, as it were, would do anything to undermine the region. But things took a turn when northerners realized that marginalization of their region became one of the primary objectives of the Obasanjo administration. The dealers, of course, kept silent and the atmosphere of dissatisfaction here became thicker by the day. That was what gave rise to the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF.

    ACF has since been remarkably playing a guardian role to the region despite its limited resources and the continuous attempts by government to undermine the base of the organization by playing “divide and rule” politics in the region. But it will continue to be handicapped by its all-elders composition which prevents it from serving as a rallying ground for mass movement. Revolutionary ideas are hardly the pursuits of the old because they require defying established norms and enormous energy to mobilize people and channel their efforts in the direction of a new order.

    Thus, a number of civil rights groups have emerged in the region. They serve as new platforms for the expression of dissent against the deteriorating conditions of living and governance in the country. Apart from serving their traditional role as civil society groups, filling in the gap between family and government, the state of insecurity has burdened them with the responsibility of calling the government to order where it has shown a glaring failure to protect its citizens. And many were the times when such failures became manifest.

    The portrait of the present administration in the eyes of the average northerner is not one to behold at all. It has failed to take the requisite steps necessary to end the Boko Haram crisis that has plagued to the region. It has failed to protect informants and community leaders that availed it with the support it needs to defeat the insurgents. As a result, many community leaders, ulama and youths were killed right at the initial stage of the conflict. This has sent a lasting and chilling message down the nerves of every prominent person in the region.

    Thousands of lives including women and children have been lost, both in the hands of the terrorists and the military; property worth billions razed down in towns and villages; and humans are subjected to a regime of massacres, torture and abandon, many of which are not even acknowledged by government, like the recent massacre in Gomborou.

    Today, one can declare without any fear of contradiction that the resultant human tragedy has passed the threshold that the civilized world can tolerate. The ineptitude of the Nigerian government has been acknowledged in every commentary of the international media while even Al-Qaida has found Boko Haram methods inhuman.

    As the Nigerian government is subtly coerced into allowing foreign intervention, patriotic citizens of this country are expected to further pressure the government into doing what is right. We Nigerians believe in the might of our military that has performed gallantly in various parts of the world but have a very low estimation of politicians who give it command. If the military will truly be given the leadership and resources it needs to fight successfully, Boko Haram, as many soldiers have attested, can be cleared within days. So those politicians like the C-in-C, must be placed under continuous pressure and one way of doing it is through public protest.

    It is in the light of this that I wholeheartedly support the call by National Consensus Movement for Nigerians in this part of the country to remain at home tomorrow. It is our own little sacrifice to register our disapproval of how government has handled the Boko Haram crises so far. Let us remember that many people, including women and children, have played the role of paying the ultimate price. Right now, sad to mention, hundreds of women, in addition to the known 274 girls, are also paying the price of being Nigerians with their pride of womanhood. Staying at home for a day or protesting on the street cannot be compared to any of these.
    The culture of protest needs to grow and blossom in this part of the country as it has done in the southern part since 1960s. The precept of depending on leaders has been supplanted by constitutional provision on fundamental human rights. With those rights enshrined, youths must be ready to take their destiny into their own hands and stop grumbling that “our leaders have cheated us.”

    But cultures are not grown in a day. Even protests do not succeed at first instance. The Egyptians were conservative too but, nevertheless, they seized the opportunity offered by social media and mobilized their people to dismiss Mubarak. The famous Tahrir Square protest of January 2012 was itself preceded by many low scale protests that opened the eyes of Egyptian youths to the possibility of a mass protest like that of Tunisia. Tomorrow’s protest in the North may just be the beginning of ours as those that preceded Tahrir.

    It is my hope that while we give our unreserved support to mass protests here in the North, the organizers will take the time required to cultivate the ground well enough to ensure the success of each. Protests, if intended to succeed, require intelligent planning, extensive legwork and mass mobilization of various spheres and strata of society. Once that is done, I have no doubt that Northern Nigeria will be able to pressure government into doing the right thing to end our present state of insecurity.

    Spread the message as far as you can.


    Aliyu U. Tilde
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