Opinion

Enimil Ashon: Water! Nigeria’s beard is on fire

I am writing this column on Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

International news reports late in the night have warned of “escalating violence” in Nigeria against the #EndSars protest movement.

Shots have rang out, fired by people described by the international news networks as armed thugs. From where I sit, and from what I know about African governments, these murderers are not “armed thugs”.

From the history of protests in Africa, I can bet my bottom cedi that those murderers were ‘dogs’ released on the protesters by government, forgetting the history of the Arab Spring; forgetting that as far back as 1789, the “almighty” Napoleon Bonaparte, faced with the anger of the French people, succumbed to the inevitable realization that he could not kill every French citizen and continue to rule.

The citizens had marched to the seat of government, unarmed, declaring that “We are here by the will of the people, and we shall not depart unless at the point of the bayonet.” They stayed put, enduring the bullets. That was the beginning of the French Revolution. The people won.

My prayer is that President Buhari will be endowed with wisdom from above to desist from strong-arm tactics.

I am surprised the Nigerian police are accusing people of “posing” as protesters to loot weapons, and torching police buildings. What else did they expect? For heaven’s sake, this not a tea party; it is a revolution by civilian citizens. Protest movements have a life of their own, especially in the era of social media.

If the Nigerian situation has any value, it should open some eyes in Ghana. Our elders have advised that when your neighbour’s beard is on fire, you get close to a water source.

Remember, the Sars unit was formed during military rule. For 36 years, since its formation 1984, the people had been protesting against its brutal methods. No-one listened.

Today, Nigerians are pouring out against years of oppression and misrule by politicians whose only reason for seeking power has been to loot oil wealth and create a club of powerful looters.

Thanks to social media, the Nigerian protests have since snowballed into calls for wider reforms with protesters now also using the hashtags #EndBadGovernance, #BetterNigeria and #FixNigeriaNow and have been backed by global celebrities such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, US rapper Kanye West, footballers Mesut Ozil and Marcus Rashford as well as Nigerian superstars Davido and Wizkid.

There is no lone voice anywhere in the world. We saw it play out in the Arab Spring; we saw it recently in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in USA. The voice of the people is the voice of God.

In Ghana, we saw how social media brought people together into the Occupy Ghana movement. Without arms, they have succeeded in obtaining redress for a number of issues. We are particularly blessed in Ghana that these pockets of protests have not escalated into bloody scenes. Occupy Ghana has, for example, resorted to brain and legal-power.

Using the legal brains of their own members, and with their own financial contributions, they went to court to obtain a ruling that compelled the John Mahama Government to take action in the case of the Bus Branding. Another resort to the Supreme Court led to the ruling which consolidated the Auditor General’s powers to surcharge and disallow expenditures which are contrary to law.

But good fortune may not smile on us every time. Protest movements have a way of exporting themselves. That is why the ruling class in Ghana cannot pretend not to have noticed the signs on the wall. For a while; indeed, even for a long while, they may use their power to get their way in all things, especially fat salaries and allowances.

The latest is the issue of bodyguards for 200 MPs, an exercise that will balloon into 800 police bodyguards for MPs while insecurity threatens the ordinary Ghanaian.

Remember the protests in Kenya against such fat allowances and salaries for MPs that gave birth to #OccupyPlayground, and #OccupyParliament.

While at it, I call government attention to our borders. Apart from Nigeria, trouble is brewing in La Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso. When it spills over, it will pour into Ghana. As we did out of fear of Covid 19 border crossing, we should be sending troops reinforcements

Back to the Nigerian situation, I cannot predict what the situation would be like when you read this paper on Friday. All I can do now is join the world to pray for wisdom for Buhari, and for the wise counsel of fellow ECOWAS Heads of State to him.