By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
The people who used to shout most about the need for a revolution to happen in Nigeria are now the blokes making many arguments against revolution.
The former activists and campaigners for radical change are now singing a new song on the need to give democracy a chance.
As almost everybody knows all over the planet, things always change only to remain the same in good old Nigeria.
These are arguably the hardest times for ordinary hardworking Nigerians throughout the history of the benighted country.
People can hardly make ends meet, and stories are being bandied about how the former regime handed over a bankrupt government to the new regime.
Even so, the new blokes of government are heavy with a budget of presidential yacht, lavish furnishings for the palaces of imperial wives, and super-duper costly legislative SUVs.
Not even the lunatic escapades of the fictions of magical realism can match the demented doings of the government of the day.
Dissent has been driven underground while lickspittles and toadies of a bloated government are all over the place asking to be given more time for things to get right.
Maybe all Nigerians would be dead before the promised Eldorado will manifest over a graveyard marked with green and white buntings.
The ready recourse for the down-and-out is suicide, either by jumping into the lagoon or drinking the poison known as Sniper.
Something needs to be done fast before a Nigerian sets himself on fire and thus puts the entire nation on fire of eternal damnation.
It did happen elsewhere because one man changed the history of the world by setting himself on fire.
The Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, was unable to find work and had to make ends meet by selling fruits at a roadside stand.
On December 17, 2010 a municipal inspector confiscated his wares, and barely an hour later, Bouazizi doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire.
His death on January 4, 2011 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system in Tunisia: the unemployed, political and human rights activists, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and many others.
Thus began the Tunisian Revolution, the uprising that led to the sacking of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, thus ending his 23 years in power.
Some 10 days after the sacking of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, protests began in Egypt on January 25, 2011 and ran for 18 days.
Beginning around midnight on January 28, the Egyptian government attempted to eliminate the nation’s internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters’ ability to organize through social media.
It was all in vain for, on February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was forced to flee from power, after being in office for about 30 years.
Then the revolution spread to Libya, the land of the then strongman Muammar Gaddafi who, to give him his due, was putting his country in fine fettle.
The Libya protests lasted till October 20, 2011 when Gaddafi met with the most gruesome of deaths.
The uprisings that swept through the Arab world were given the name: The Arab Spring.
The fear of the Arab Spring spreading to other parts of the world got on the front burner in the day and age of the social media.
Through the Internet, Facebook, Twitter etc., landmark protests could easily be organized in the twinkle of an eye.
Nigeria had a spectre of the Arab Spring when the then President Goodluck Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012.
The New Year “gift” sparked off anti-government demonstrations in many Nigerian cities the very next day, that is, on January 2.
Many Nigerian towns were on fire as many protesters marched on the streets with placards, and made bonfires.
The demonstrations brought together the unemployed, the under-employed, the employed, the poor, ill-assorted classes of people, the educated, the uneducated, the artisans, sundry workers, musicians, diverse artists, students, all kinds of activists and, yes, tribesmen.
The name that was given to the crusade was “Occupy Nigeria”, and a melting pot of the struggle was the Gani Fawehinmi Square in Ojota, Lagos.
For a week, from sunup to sundown, the many classes of Nigerians converged at the square, and the number of protesters increased steadily.
The “Occupy Nigeria” protests petered out when Jonathan announced that the government had reached an agreement with the labour unions to put petrol price at 97 Naira from the high of 141 Naira.
The leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress decided to call off the strike.
And thus was averted what would have amounted to the Nigerian Spring, or a revolution, as some of the then activists would tag it.
Let’s get to the present tense of the here and now, because fuel subsidy has again been arbitrarily removed.
The cost of fuel is beyond the ken of Nigerians, and the exchange rate of the Naira has become well-nigh unbearable.
Inflation is king, and poor Nigeria has bagged the unwanted title of the poverty capital of the world.
The pathetic aspect of the Nigerian matter is that the activists and revolutionaries who mobilized the protests in the past are now the ones making excuses on behalf of government.
The hunger that made Tunisia’s Mohammed Bouazizi to set himself on fire, thus sparking off the Arab Spring, is an everyday Nigerian nightmare now.
Anything can happen because one small misstep can lead to cataclysmic tragedy in this bad time of election rigging, judicial abracadabra and democratic dictatorship.
Given the mess the countries of the Arab Spring are in today, Nigeria should learn the lesson of being saved from anarchy.
A Nigerian must not be driven to set himself on fire because the consequences are dire, not minding the living in denial of Nigeria’s erstwhile activists and expired revolutionaries.
The fear of revolution by the people is real here.
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is the author of God of Poetry.