by Uche Briggs
Doing something is an antidote to learned helplessness. It is far better than watching and waiting in existential dread.
– Nze Sylva Ifedigbo
One would think that for a passionate Nigerian, it is easier to rant and kick against the inanity that characterises the nature of our policy and polity. Perhaps it would be likened to a fire shot up in our bones urging us to comment and topple the tyranny of power. This is far from the truth. It takes a certain level of persistence, commitment, doggedness, bravery and madness to grapple with Nigeria’s problems. When the initial surge of adrenalin wanes, when the bandwagon effect subsides and it ceases to be cool to be angry, it is then left to love and commitment for a people for one to continue asking and seeking the answers.
The real and immediate threat is indifference and cynicism – a cocktail that sees one detached from Nigeria’s woes. One then finds self in what Elie Wiesel describes as the strange and unnatural state where the lines blur between light and darkness; cruelty and compassion; good and evil. So when an Omojuwa, Ekekee or Dupe Killa continue to ask questions, one’s mind must shift from thoughts of self-aggrandizement to respect. Respect for the peace of mind which they sacrifice for Nigeria’s solutions.
Many young people have developed coping mechanisms to deal with the problems of Nigeria with many taking to advocacy and activism. It is easy to recognise the cynicism that pervades our chatter. It is easy to get frustrated, break down, and shield self from looming inevitability of helplessness. So when Nigerians took to the streets last week to gather support to protect the girl child, I recognised it as one of the many outlets for the catharsis we desperately needed.
It has however been insinuated that those who canvassed for petitions did so erroneously and that S29(4)b did not cast any shadow on the age for marriage. The Children of Anger have once again been labelled as rash, impervious and egocentric. How interesting. It is only fitting that one states two inalienable facts for the consumption of them who are afflicted with intellectual chauvinism:
- S29(4)b, while not necessarily legalising child marriage, casts ambiguities on the age of adulthood and as long as those ambiguities exist, the law would continue to aid and abet the likes of Sani Yerima.
- Underage marriage and its attendant social malaise is a real threat in Nigeria. Paedophilia, rape and female marginalisation continues to find a resting place in a society such as ours where the girl child is to be seen and not heard. As long as these persist, the discourse must continue. The consciousness of Nigerians must be aware of the inanities that happen under the guise of society. We must negotiate our existence and it would happen by a continuous social exchange.
Indeed many of us did not arm ourselves with an understanding of the constitution enough and this nearly jeopardized the cause, but truth remains that we have secured a victory for many children who cannot be heard. Civil society’s desire for a new Nigeria would not be perfected in one day. We will make mistakes but if our hearts are set on the right goals, we can learn from them and forge a more formidable alliance.
So God bless everyone who participated and engaged people in getting signatures. When next we are called upon to stand for our rights, we will be better equipped.
Two key things stood out for me as lessons from this entire campaign. One took vital lessons on 1. The character of the presidency; 2. The nature of the opposition. While the discussion raged on, it was only natural that people reached to those they respected for answers. Here are two responses that stood out:
The important part to note about Reno’s response is that a spokesperson for an institution cannot rise above the quality of the institution he serves. So when you have a presidency that is characterised by petty politics, brazen cowardice and mediocre results, one shouldn’t be too surprised by this.
When you need the president to lend his voice and office to key issues, he deftly evades. The trio of Abati, Reno and Okupe, adroit only in writing rejoinders, suddenly appear to be on casual leave. When Nigerians recoiled at the inhumanity of child marriage, what was GEJ doing: commissioning houses in Lagos. What a sorry excuse for a man. GEJ would be remembered as the man who refused to rise above the pettiness of Nigerian politics, a man without the understanding of Nigeria’s needs in a leader. If he continues at this rate, history would say: he loved himself more than he loved the country.
El-Rufai is one who has a form of godliness but denies the power thereof. He continually postures as an upright man, incapable of wrongdoing. His partisan inclinations betray him. No matter how intelligent a man is, if he can play politics in a matter as sensitive as this, he is not fit to lead. We may think of him as half bread compared to our president. Alas, he isn’t. He has continuously displayed insincerity of purpose. El-Rufai is no half bread; he is no bread at all.
Let them that have ears listen.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @UcheBriggs