Collins Uma: Like That Of France, Here Comes Nigerian Revolution!
It has often been said that if you fail to learn from history then history is bound to repeat itself. I have looked at some recent occurrences within the polity in Nigeria and have attempted to draw parallel with other occurrences in history. And it shocks me to infer that we are heading down a really dangerous slope at the moment. Dangerous because this is de ja vu. History has seen this trend before. All the elements that led to the famous French Revolution are present in today’s Nigeria. Are we then going to have a revolution in Nigeria reminiscent of that?
It was a bloody revolution.
Though they had their fair share of economic challenges, 18th Century France was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe. The monarchy, aristocracy and the rest of the nobility lived really large but they had however depended on the peasant population for far too long to sustain their expensive lifestyles. Added to this, the citizenry had started getting some thoughts, ideas, and education from the American Revolution which had also happened towards the end of the 18th Century and in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire and become the United States of America after having rejected the prevalent oligarchies and aristocracies in Europe at the time. Scholars and philosophers such as Voltaire and Denis Diderot who had studied the causes and effects of the American Revolution contributed in no small measure to educate the people on such concepts as ‘Equality’ and ‘Freedom of the individual’.
It will suffice here to list some of the factors scholars have identified as precursors and harbingers of the revolution and allow you to be the judge and say if these factors are at play at the moment in Nigeria.
As stated above, the people had become better exposed to other ideas especially after the American Revolution, in the same way as Nigerians witnessed the Arab Spring. They now knew they could demand for more from the monarchy, like better accountability and an adjustment of their gluttonous lifestyles.
The monarchy had racked up so much debt to the extent that France had become effectively bankrupt due to the international loans taken out with very high interest rates and budgeted on extravagant expenditures on luxuries by Louis XVI in spite of the huge debts he had inherited from his predecessor, Louis XV. Even though the nation has been groaning under the enormous weight of international loans, President Goodluck Jonathan has not seen as expedient the need to cut down on the mind –boggling amounts appropriated for frivolous expenditures in the Presidential villa and the size of his entourage when he travels. These contribute to drain the nation’s meagre resources in ways we cannot even begin to describe here, especially coming from a man who said Nigeria will go under unless there is a total removal of subsidy on petroleum products. Subsidy paid to his friends, cronies and acolytes, none of whom has been convicted yet.
Failure of reforms
Several reforms were put in place by Louis XVI to cut down the lavish expenditures but, because there was little or no moral or political will to back these up, they all failed. Most of the ministers were non-nobles and the policies they recommended were going to work against the pecuniary desires of the nobles and the monarchy. These ministers were soon succeeded by others who favoured lavish spending. You can ask President Jonathan what has happened to the reports of the several committees we have seen inaugurated since the government came into power. Enough said.
In 1788, there was a series of crop failures which caused a shortage of grains leading to a rise in the price of bread, which was a staple for poor peasants. In 1789 alone, the price of bread rose by 67%. A family of four needed about two loaves a day to survive. Many who came to rely on charity to survive became increasingly motivated by their hunger. This led to the first riots. It is on record that Dr Jonathan said the January Occupy Nigeria demonstrations were stage-managed and the protesters paid to protest. He, obviously, has no idea the level of disaffection in the land today. God help us.
While all these were going on, the clergy did not speak out and take a stand against the King. They were comfortable with the status quo which guaranteed tenth of the peasants’ income or produce (the tithe). It is a pitiable situation when the members of the clergy who are always supposed to stand in the gap on behalf of the people who they minister to begin to lose their voices in the face of adversity occasioned by misrule. Silence at such perilous times can only mean acquiescence.
The cloud is gathering. The PDP umbrella is in tatters at the moment. Anyone depending on that for shelter will only have himself to blame at the end of the day. Jonathan has said Nigerians will praise him as from 2013. This tacitly implies an acceptance of the fact that should the present trend continue, 2015 might just be a mirage. We may not get there.