By Gbenga Olorunpomi
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller – Pastor and Activist.
Two days ago, as I made it to the bus station to catch a BRT bus on my way to an appointment, I witnessed an incident that made me recognize that we, Nigerians, are still a long way from understanding the concept of people being governed by rules and not emotions.
A branded bus was less than 20 meters away from a traffic cop – already slowing down actually – when a young girl of about 17 years, carrying a bag of plantains on her head, jumped in front of the bus and was knocked down and fell to the ground. Since she was already out of the way and fearing there could be cars behind him, the driver kept going, since he would have to stop in front anyway. One guy, desperate to play the hero, ran after the bus, screaming his head off.
The bus stopped and “Superman” began calling the driver all the bad names he could squeeze into ten seconds without his head exploding. The girl was being dragged off the floor in different directions by two men while a third one began to fan her like corn on hot coals. Bruises apart, she seemed OK. But the crowd wasn’t. They wanted blood; only this time, the driver’s.
One elderly man was already suggesting that the students among the small crowd should jump on the driver and beat him to death. Another guy made ready to skin the ‘offender’ alive. ‘Superman’ looked like his eyes were going to laser the driver into ashes. I had seen the entire drama and couldn’t take the B***S*** any longer.
“Why are you all shouting at the driver?” I exclaimed, in my best “Agbero” voice. “Did he push the girl in front of his bus? Did she look properly before crossing the road? Was she hit while on the sidewalk? Leave the guy alone, he has done nothing wrong!”
One other guy joined me and that seemed to calm things down. The driver looked at us with so much gratitude in his eyes. You’d think we were his Jesus Christ on earth, apologies to Evans Bipi. We probably saved him from being lynched by the blood thirsty crowd. Funny enough, the police controlling traffic had vanished by this time.
As I rode in that bus, I allowed my mind to wander and I asked myself what would have happened if I had walked away from that scene. The poor guy would most probably have been beaten or even murdered and his offense won’t be that he knocked down a girl. No. It would be that he had the effrontery to be driving a bus while the majority slapped the pavement. The gang up on the dude would have been one of ‘Have Vs Have-Nots’. Period.
I’m always stupefied by how easy and readily we are prepared to ignore the rules that govern us; ignore the collective pains we share as people; ignore the human instincts that kept us at the top of the animal kingdom and just go off on each other over issues that can easily be resolved with a little decorum and sacrifice. We find it so effortless to put the other guy in his place, whether it’s in traffic or at the work place.
Yet, when we are called to protest against a government policy or action, we easily manufacture reasons why it shouldn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t happen. In fact, we hate the guts of those who have the courage to question the authority and some go ahead, without any proof, to say activists are only in it for the money. It’s like we just can’t take it that there are some people who are can’t ignore injustice and actually want change in their society.
Lately, the drama between the Seven Renegade PDP Governors and the Presidency-backed Bamanga Tukur faction of the party reached some insane heights. It seems even the kitchen sink is not being spared as the GEJ Camp is throwing everything at the G7. It has been a galore of intimidation, threats, withdrawal of security, verbal attacks and, total disregard for the laws of the land, lockouts and manhandling.
A sitting governor has had his ADC and CSO withdrawn. A governor was denied access to his own lodge because of his association. Five governors were held hostage by a DPO because of “orders from above.” While this has happened, what have we all done as a people? Yep! We are siddon-looking!
I have a few questions, though. If Mr. President is using all his powers to make life hell for his opponents within his party, what will deter him from doing much worse to those in the opposition? If the man, who doesn’t hesitate to trumpet his credentials of having conducted the ‘best election in Nigeria’, cannot accept the result of an election involving only 35 individuals, will he willingly leave power if the voters go against him in the next election?
Are we so happy to see the PDP implode that we are prepared to collectively ignore the crass, barely-concealed atrocities being committed against elected officials and free men by people who swore to protect the constitution? If a Police DPO have grown so bold as to order people who enjoy immunity under the law to remain sitting, who’s to stop him from giving the rest of us mortals a hard time when he feels like it?
I am glad that the Progressive Governors Forum have stuck their necks out for their stricken colleagues and released a powerful statement in their defense. Yes, it could all be politics but not even the most cynical can deny the logic. This exert is the best part of that statement for me -“Particularly disturbing and worthy of note is that if seven Nigerian governors, all of whom are constitutionally guaranteed immunity from prosecution, can be manhandled in such a brutal manner, what would be the fate of ordinary citizens who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of association?”
If this question makes you uncomfortable, “siddon-looking” just stopped being an option. Else, when the oppressor comes for you, you may have no one to speak for you.
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