THE Latin words in the title of this piece means “through difficulties to honours.” It is a classical precursor to “no pains, no gains,” and captures the essence of human sojourn on earth; simply summarised – from the Hobbesian state of nature in which he found himself to “Man, the wise” – Homo sapiens.
Nothing is freely given from the beginning other than our freed hands, our enlarged brains and the abundance of nature; every other accomplishment of humans throughout the ages has been the outcome of hard labour and struggles – struggles with wild nature and with fellow men who made exploitation and oppression profitable enterprise; the ultimate destination being the creation of a free, just and prosperous society of “human beings.”
We are, however, still far from that historical destiny with an overwhelming population of subhuman beings and inhuman beings without a single shred of honour, a world dominated by “man, the unwise.” The difficulties persist, as does the ultimate status of man – honourable and excellent – words so abused today, ad nausea, in qualifying certain people in Nigeria. That is not the focus here; it is a topic for another day.
The focus of this piece is “struggle”; from difficulties to honour in the social arena. It is a sad thing to see, today, that men have largely abandoned struggle, chivalry and honour, world over, with Nigeria and Nigerians leading the pack. An ex-convict who was supposed to be a leader of his people shamelessly claimed that a part of his loot was expended in funding the election of a presidential candidate of his party!
More shameful is the capitulation of the people in the face of clarion calls to struggle against errors, injustice and inhumanity. It is the unfortunate “nature of human beings” that once a new level of humanism is attained in society, they simply enjoy the latest status and forget that the status they are enjoying is the result of pervious bitter struggles; and that the journey to excellence, if perfection cannot be attained on earth, is still on. Let us just take two examples from abroad and home.
In America, black people could not vote until after the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, five years even after Nigeria’s independence despite the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868 granting African-Americans rights to American Citizenship! Similarly, Apartheid in South Africa was backed by Law and defended by the highest court in the land until the freedom of Mandela in February 1990.
In Nigeria from mid-nineteenth century, the British were in control of all aspects of social, economic and political activities through direct and “indirect” rule until October 1, 1960 Independence; and that was after hundreds of years of slavery. What changed the above status in America, South Africa, as well as in Nigeria was hard and bitter struggles in which many men of courage, wisdom and honour made huge sacrifices, some paying the supreme price.
Racial segregation, gender discrimination, slavery, apartheid, colonialism, much like today’s exploitations, injustices and oppressions in Nigeria, were all backed by law and defended by the highest courts in the land, then. So, the fact that the highest courts in any land back an issue does not make their pronouncements right or just! Again, that is an issue for another day.
Nigerians as a people, patriots and champions of civil societies especially, must “rediscover the fervour that scatters the mist,” and re-embrace struggle against injustice and errors, as the road to the future of a just, peaceful, free, united and prosperous society that they earnestly yearn for. Individualism and self help through various illegitimate, dishonourable and violent crimes against their fellow citizens does not affect those who created their misery and sufferings in the first place but merely deepen the tribulation of the society.
Democracy interestingly offers unlimited avenue for concerted actions by patriots and honourable citizens, more than under dictatorship. It is amazing and pathetic that Nigerians acted more in furtherance of their redemption under dictatorship than under democratic rule! It is not too late to “rethink, to reflect, and to act.”