FOR independence, we never lifted a finger ÔÇô at least not in the manner that others had to fight and die for freedom and nationhood. Instead, Nigerians had a seemingly independent Nigeria handed them on a platter with all the dubious strings attached to it by former colonial overlords, who for reasons best known to them favored some of our compatriots over some others.
The effect was that the people reportedly described by a girlfriend of Frederick Lugard as the people of the "Niger-Area" were never truly independent; Nigerians were more shackled to an internal colonialism puppeteered by Britain. Where others fought and died and bled for true independence, a number of persons from the various mini-nations that constitute the Nigerian state negotiated [with minimal bloodshed] what they saw as independence without popular input, and every attempt at re-negotiation has either been ignored or later suppressed with brute force after same attempts at negotiations turned into attempts at secession.
In the end, whether anyone likes it or not, the only one group, or people, who have ever gone out for an all-out war for freedom amongst the Nigerian peoples are the south-easterners, who bled and died and now live to fight another day, should it ever come to that. No, the south-easterners did not simply resort to begging the military to help them escape the shackles of oppression around them; the heart and soul of each and every one of the sons and daughters was for Biafra, so much so, hardly would you find a family who didn't have a son on the field of battle while it lasted, fighting for a cause which they so fervently believed.
Not so for the rest of Nigeria. And although there may be a strong argument for seeking gradual civil negotiations than launching into an ill-prepared war [if indeed it was a case of bad preparation], it stills says something of a deluded mindset to ask, yet again, after all we have been through in their hands, for the Nigerian military to take over the affairs of Nigeria one more time.
That is what is cropping up in a few places around the blogosphere. One would ordinarily dismiss such suggestions for what it is, except that it is important that history and the damage that such ideas have done to Nigeria's progress demand that the suggestion be forcefully quashed before it gains any traction. Nigerians had always taken the short route of inviting the military to do its job. Where popular insurrection should bring down perfidious governments, the military is often called-in to come remove the despoilers from power. Later, the military not only indulges in its own perfidy, but seeks to hold on to power indefinitely, alienating the very people who once welcomed it as their savior.
Today's crossroads may not be as dramatic as some of the ones Nigeria had crossed in her 51 years of existence, but something of a violence-free, popular protest seen elsewhere across the world in recent times appear to be in progress in Nigeria. It is important that Nigerians reject any attempt by others to hijack this moment. The current protests against oil subsidy are riding on waves of popular anger against a government that took Nigerians for granted by unleashing a policy without prior extensive consultations and palliatives to cushion the effect same policy. What more, the government announced the policy overnight, even when its officials hinted that it won't come into effect before April.
The fervor of the ongoing protests across Nigeria is noteworthy; the absence of anarchy and wanton destruction is unusual for the size and zeal of the ongoing protests witnessed everywhere from Kano to Kaduna and Lagos, and Ibadan to Akure and Benin. So far, the protests have simply maintained a toga of civil disobedience: massive crowds gathering to show their strong disapproval of the Nigerian government and its policies. This is hardly the moment for calling the military to come in to take the country back by another 13 years from the last military bus top; this is the time for the people to stand-up, peacefully but in a no-holds-barred defiance against disrespect from the ruling elite.
An opportunity like this may not come for a long time. It is time Nigerians use this as a teachable moment ÔÇô a moment unlike non other to show that their destiny or the progress lies not in the hands of the Nigerian military, but in the hands of every Nigerian man, woman and child. It may ring like a clich├ę at this point, but it still remains true for the case at hand: only mad persons do the same thing again and again expecting a different result. Nigerians don't need the military to make the kind of far-reaching statement that Nigerians need make so that they would never be taken for granted anymore by man or institution; all that Nigerians need is a unified voice to reject the rot and opportunism that has pervaded leadership in Nigeria for far too long.
Let the military continue to learn from Nigerians, not the other way round, where the military used to lead the way. Let Nigerians help the military to be better at its role of defending Nigerians as Nigerians go about their business of running Nigeria's affairs. The solution at this point is not one where the military is needed; let the solution be a people-led one ÔÇô a solution by the people, for the people and of the people. Better that, than calling for the military to seize power again. At best, such suggestion is shallow. At worst, the suggestion it is idiotic. And the sooner we jettison the very idea of yet another session of military leadership in Nigeria, the better it will be for the pride and esteem of every Nigerian.