Friday, February 11, 2011

Worth Dying For?

I have been following closely the recent unrest in Cairo Egypt, for several reasons. For me, it’s been a very interesting development. From Jan 25th, a national holiday to commemorate the police forces, Egyptians have taken to the streets in large numbers, to protest against poverty, unemployment, government corruption and the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for three decades. A few hours ago, the President resigned from office and handed over to the military. The will of the people of Egypt has prevailed! In 18 days, one of the greatest tyrants in recent times was sent packing from his office, by the sheer will of the oppressed people. After about 300 deaths, and over a thousand injuries, Egypt is finally free. The celebrations in Cairo and other major cities will no doubt go on for weeks. What liberation!

It is interesting to note that the unrest in Egypt was a ripple effect of the one that happened in Tunisia, weeks earlier, which led to the ouster of President Ben Ali, who has ruled that country for over 2 decades. What is more important to note is that the revolution in Tunisia started with a seemingly minor event that became a catalyst for a wave of events. It all began with a young man, a fruit vendor, whose death might have changed the Arab world forever!

Twenty-six-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, living in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, had a university degree (this is being debated, as another report says he dropped out of school) but no work. To earn some money he took to selling fruit and vegetables in the street without a license. When the authorities stopped him and confiscated his produce, he was so angry that he set himself on fire. Amazing! While I am not advocating for people to burn themselves to drive home a point, I have a question that I want to pose to my readers – What price are you willing to pay to effect a change in your life? In your family? And in your world? Selah!

This takes me back to 1955, where a woman, by her sheer determination, changed the course of history for all black Americans! It was at this time, that a new law was imposed on racial segregation in the city’s (Montgomery, Alabama) public transport system. The underlying resentment of this law soon came to the fore, when Rosa Parks, an African American woman refused to give up her seat for a white passenger, in a bus in Montgomery, and soon after, was arrested for violating the law. As a consequence of this incident, the public transit system of Montgomery was boycotted by the Montgomery Improvement Association, formed by activists against racism led by Martin Luther King, Jr. This boycott lasted for over a year, and the situation worsened to the point where Martin Luther's house was bombed, and he himself, arrested. This was however, not without success, as by the end of the court ruling, in December 1956, racial segregation in the buses of Montgomery was abolished.
Make sure the thing you’re living for is worth dying for. - Charles Mayes
Is Nigeria worth dying for? Now, don’t just take that literally. I am not advocating that people should set themselves ablaze in order to start a revolution. I am not advising that we should do what Bouazizi did in Tunusia. What I am asking is this. To what extent are you willing to go in order to improve the standard of living in the country, today, tomorrow and many years to come, thus helping the people and the country in general become more responsible? Are you totally committed to a better Nigeria….if not for your sake, for the sake of your children?

As we journey towards another election period, the prognosis is not very encouraging. Many youths remain jobless while 70 percent or our population, mostly in the rural areas, lives in abject poverty. Twenty-six years ago, the late Sonny Okosuns in one of his hit songs asked rhetorically– “Which Way Nigeria?” Apparently perplexed by slow pace of the country’s development efforts, the music maestro expressed his worry over the myriad of socio-economic, religious and political problems stopping Nigeria from reaching the promised land. Okosuns’ pertinent question is still valid. Which way is Nigeria going with its socio-political, economic, and infrastructural development? What concrete actions have Nigerian leaders taken to actualize Vision 2020 which will make Nigeria an El Dorado? Why is the country unable to find lasting solutions to its problems despite its huge human and natural resources? Why is it that at 50, the country is still struggling to provide its citizens with the basic necessities of life? There is inadequate infrastructure and social amenities are practically non-existent because the economy is comatose. Consequently, our political future is still very uncertain.

We have a chance to stop this rot. We have a chance to speak out. We have a chance to help restore the pride and dignity of our nation. Even if you don’t burn yourself to make a point like Buozizi, you can cast your vote for the right persons. Even if you are not prepared to spend 18 days in Eagle Square protesting against this government, you can insist that your vote counts. You can stand to be counted. You can make a commitment to be involved in installing the next set of credible leaders.
Don’t just fold your hands. Don’t just complain all day. Don’t just lament and curse. May I challenge you to do something? Bouzizi led Tunisians to do something. The Egyptians did the same about their own issue and now they’ve got victory. What are you doing?

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