Sunday, 28 August 2011
Lessons from Libya
Early on Sunday morning August 21, I was glued to my tv set watching with mixed feelings the unfolding war in Tripoli, which brought a climax to the 5-months conflict to oust Col. Gaddafi after 42 years in power. I have followed the Libyan conflict that started as a protest as part of what we now know as the Arab spring which started in Tunisia. On one hand part of me was happy for the Libyan people achieving their quest for freedom and on the other hand sad to see killings of people and destruction of their country.
I drew some contrasts between what was happening in Libya and what Nigeria needs. Nigeria is similar to Libya in some respects. Libya has been ruled by a dictator for over 4 decades, while Nigeria has been ruled by different dictators for the best part of 30 years since independence. Libya and Nigeria are multi-tribal like there are in many African countries. Both countries have oil in abundance but both have only succeeded in using it to enrich a few. Both countries have fought a civil war; whilst Nigeria's civil war was based on perceived injustice by one section of the country, Libya's ideology was based on removing one man and his family from the power of political and economic oppression.
Freedom comes at a cost and sadly human cost is a huge price they are paying to 'liberate' their people from the shackles of dictatorship. However, most of the country, judging by the events of the last few weeks seem to have kept their tribal differences aside to fight what they see as a common cause. Interestingly, this is where the similarities between both countries end. Whilst I accept we have our fair share of tribal differences but our biggest enemy is corruption perpetrated by the ruling class over the years. The perpetrators cuts across all tribes in Nigeria and you wonder why we have yet to galvanise into a potent force to fight this common enemy. I'm not advocating for people taking up arms and killing innocent people like we have witnessed with the wicked bombing of the UN building in Abuja by the Boko Haram group and similar atrocities committed recently.
What I advocate is a popular peoples' uprising similar to the Arab spring, demanding an end to corruption, respect for the rule of law, job creation and massive infrastructural development that our country lacks. Hanna Azare, the Indian anti-corruption campaigner recently drew lots of nationwide support and in the process drew the world's attention to the endemic corruption in that country. Where is Nigeria's Hanna Azare? When will our Arab spring moment arrive? Maybe I'm being naive or just living in my little bubble but I believe the road to Nigeria's future is littered with great danger as long these questions remain unanswered.
I worry for Nigeria, I really do, with the senseless killings and the lack of leadership response that is expected in times of crisis. Yes, people will say talk is cheap especially when I'm writing this in the comfort of my living room in the west. But let us not forget the power of social media that is increasingly becoming a driving force for change. Let us not forget people power that is driving changes we see around the world. That drive needs to start in earnest in Nigeria unless future generations are doomed to a life of poverty and hopelessness in the midst of plenty.
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