Many talking points in Nigeria and diaspora are increasingly focused on the undeniable necessity for a ‘proper revolution’ to happen and soon as a singular means to decisively sort out the poly-faceted corruption and misgovernance entrenched in and withering away the country beyond recognition. Talk of revolution is good for expressing various dimensions of despair. Notwithstanding, the realities of revolution are not represented in the everyday chatter of it and appear to be tacitly hiding in many brains. A thoroughgoing political revolution has a very high cost that involves mass coordination, mass murder, mass destruction and mass deception [propaganda]; are Nigerians ready for that? How possible is it?
Any country with a singular or successive leadership that has allowed their nation to decay beyond the realm of hope and remedy through even radical reform deserves the revolution it gets. Revolutions are unwittingly prepared by long and insensitive political neglect.
The big questions concerning Nigeria and revolution are (a) Who is going to lead the revolution? (b) What is the purpose of the revolution? (c) How will the revolution be carried out? (d) When is the time ripe for revolution? (e) Will it be free of ulterior motives?
Coup d’états are not necessarily revolutions since the status quo is simply replaced. Nigeria’s political history of stratocracy and government turnovers indicate that the only region that can attempt to produce a unifying revolutionary leader the federation will collectively put their trust in and rally around en masse is the North. Any coup d’état led by a non-core Northerner has never succeeded in Nigeria and perhaps never will. While the South East, South West and South-South regions may likely support a unifying Northern revolutionary leader, the Northern masses will not support a revolution led by a person from these aforementioned regions.
Religion [Islam] and culture are implicated in this political attitude of the North to whom its people support. Ironically, the North is the least likely region to produce a mainstream revolutionary leader because of the same religion and culture. Religion and ethnicity are thus stumbling blocks to the possibility of a thoroughgoing revolution in Nigeria. It appears the more homogenous society is the more realistic the chance of a successful political revolution occurring.
Is successful secession more likely than a successful revolution?
The need for Nigeria’s expected revolution does not need much restating but revolutionary leaders must be shrewd and thorough enough to effectively decimate the resistance of the system they seek to change. According to George Ayittey, most African revolutionaries play unwittingly into the hands of despots or are mere power/money seekers. Too many bold leaders in love with the idea of revolution but not its requirements, discipline, costs and unseen realities that come with it. Is a peoples revolution possible? Will these revolutionaries grant the people their inalienable freedoms? Politically, economically and socially, the nation called Nigeria is thoroughly rotten, freedom is the stuff of abstraction and imagination. The institutions of the nation that are supposed to uphold it and cause it to flourish have become necrotic and the moral cost of flouting institutions all over is near zero.
A revolution will serve Nigeria well only if it can establish vibrant enforceable institutions in all spheres of activities in society and the moral cost of flouting them is high to very high. Tragically, a nation whose citizens have come to embrace the ever-falling standards of mediocrity by which it is ruled in the name of adaptability and the denial of learned helpless cannot be easy to galvanise into revolution.
Revolutions can be successfully exacted in several ways but the adopted way has to be thoroughly thought out with much clarity and realism as well as executed with high precision and elastic resilience. Mistakes, even little ones can be costly in the waging of a revolution.
If we return to a stratocracy, we could see how the improvisational and selective method of execution of the 1966 military coup led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, related to ethnic preferences, not only resulted in failure but became the raison d’etre for a three-year bloody civil war and created near-irreversible divisions in the federation that exist to this day. If any future revolution that takes place in Nigeria fails, it is likely to in the arena of ethnic preferences.
There is no space for ‘African time’ in matters of serious revolution. The keen necessity of timing in a revolution probably exceeds the requirement of the mental and physical capacities of man. Groups can prepare untiringly for revolutions but no one will ever really know when exactly it will happen if it at all. Revolutions are Black Swan events, they cannot be predicted in advance. Most modern revolutions have happened only after a minor flashpoint rides closely on a major signal that the government can no longer exercise its powers. Be Prepared is the best timing strategy for a revolution; juggling patience and suddenness.
Political revolutions that succeed and work as intended are those led by leaders completely free of ulterior motives. To find leaders to lead a successful revolution in Nigeria who are neither venal nor power-hungry will be quite a feat. Most men and women in Nigeria today who effectively protest, challenge or lead anti-government campaigns are simply bruising for money and power; when they get it from the government they join the status quo quietly and devoutly. Money seems to have the capacity to buy revolutionaries off in the land.
The good thing is there are those, we may suppose, who can ably and effectively lead a successful political revolution, devoid of ulterior motives exist and they do not have to be famous or recognised before the revolution itself. In a collective sense, the leaders of revolutions harbour intentions that will unite peoples of the land and not marginalise any particular group except counter-revolutionaries who want their overturned powers back.
A successful revolution is one in which all people and all regions and ethnicities are equally free and empowered in every sense. If a thoroughgoing revolution does happen in Nigeria in future it may change the face of the history of the phenomenon dramatically.