Nelson Mandela said the above instructive words, the title he chose for his September 1991 book. His words are backed by the phrase made popular by the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that “power is not served a la carte.” There are several local sayings in many Nigerian languages that buttress the point made but let us restrict ourselves to just one, a Yoruba saying, “eni to ba ma je oyin inu apata, ko gbodo w’enu aake,” literarily translated, “whosoever seeks to lick honey from the rock must not mind the eventual look of his/her axe’s sharp edge.”
Why is Striker beating its iron on this one single spot? To contribute in a small measure in making Nigerians rethink their messianic complex. There is no Messiah anywhere that will come and solve the problems of nationhood for us and neither will dividing it into a hundred separate countries deliver any good so long as we are unyieldingly beholden to a negative mentality that refuses to recognise that it is struggles and sacrifices by the majority that build nations. Individualism amidst “suffering and smiling,” irrational actions, blind anger and atomistic fervour will certainly not.
Mental laziness, quick fix, fire-brigade and short-cut mentality will not allow us to study the stories of the nations that have broken up into smaller entities and to find out how they are really faring, nor will it allow us to study the stories of great and prospering nations that are not only multi-ethnic but multi-racial; some smaller than us, others bigger than us in multiples, and then find the answer to the question, “why?” All we want is to reach the “Promised Land” without any journey, much else an Israelite one.
Ours is repeated stories of misdirected anger and fights in recent decades, as if it is not in this same country that citizens rose (doesn’t need to be every single citizen), organised and fought the military juntas to an inglorious exit that gave us today’s democracy. Democracy seems to have taken away from us the spirit that nurtures democracy itself: constant popular participation and positive engagement of the government to secure the will of the people. A Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Tai Solarin, Gani Fawehinmi, Balarabe Musa, Aminu Kano, Chima Ubani – all lived in this very country: fearless, outspoken to power, committed to a just and free Republic, the betterment of the condition of the masses (masses from every tribe), and fought against any and every enemy of such.
Call today for a protest against hike in petrol pump price and electricity tariff, as was indeed recently done, hardly would a dozen Nigerians come out for a peaceful march of less than 1 kilometre, on what is a clear issue that adversely affects 160 million Nigerians out of 200 million! However, raise the alarm that “other tribes are oppressing us,” “other religion are oppressing us,” “other political parties are the enemy,” and so on, you are guaranteed to generate so much heat, so much tension, and build a self-serving, anarchical army that invariably prosecute a “war” in which not a dozen poor Nigerian masses can claim to have benefitted but thousands suffer irreparable loses – witness all the groups involved in sectional agitation from 1999 till date, King of them all, Boko Haram.
“There is no easy walk to Freedom” does not paint the picture of physical battles and exertions alone but mental acumen and organisational capacity in which the majority are involved, which is where it derives its justification and legitimacy. “Power is not served a la carte” does not paint the picture of taking power through a coup or political brigandage but letting you simply know it will not be given on a platter of gold. Therefore, strategic thinking, political sagacity, bridge-building, fence-mending, personal sacrifices and mass mobilisation will be needed to take power for a popular cause.
In his musical classics “Sorrow, Tears and Blood”, Fela opined on why we “fear” so much to do the right thing in struggling sensibly and correctly against oppression and injustice instead preferring “dubious battles” and ending up “suffering and smiling.” He said, “dem always get reason to fear – I no wan die, I no wan quench, Papa dey for house, Mama dey for house, I wan build house, I wan enjoy…” As we are being pushed by self-centred forces to the brink of catastrophe today on account of dubious, senseless battles, it is time clear-minded patriots abandoned lethargy and self. It is time to show that there still are thousands of clear-headed Nigerians who can walk freedom road.
It is no shortcut, it is no quick fix and it is not sectional. Indeed, it is an all Africa inclusive walk, needing more sense than sweat and blood in this 21st Century; unless, in shameful surrender, we have conceded that there is no such political wizardry, mental acumen and organisational capacity in the land anymore despite all the ideological rendezvous of the 70s and 80s.