Journalism in the service of society

2023 and the Nigerian progressives

“Progressives are persons who subscribe to egalitarian ideologies.  They’re thinkers who put their ideas into action to move the society forward. Where the progressives are dormant or muscled into silence or chucked out, the society doesn’t progress. That such is the case with Nigeria is evident in our regression to a primitive state of anarchy and bestiality.”

RECENTLY I published a piece with a similar title for the Nigerian youth. In it, I assured the youth that the Progressives were with them and will solidly remain with them. I didn’t put it the other way around—i.e., that the youth should be with the Progressives—because the Progressives have never acted as a united force before, in the way the youth did with the EndSARS movement of October, 2020. That the Progressives have not come together in this way, is, perhaps, because we have never teetered on the precipice of political anarchy and total collapse as we are today; inches away from a failed state. Now, they have every reason to do that.

Talking about Progressives in Nigeria can be quite misleading.  Let me therefore distinguish between ‘Progressives’ and persons who call themselves “Progressive” by merely describing their political party as such.  In reality, even within conservative parties, there are Progressives (though they may be few), and there could be many conservatives in a progressive party. The bulk of the real Progressives exist freely in society, and these are people who think, concurrently, about the present and future progress of their societies while devising strategies that will ensure a chain-relationship between the present and the future. Progressives are persons who subscribe to egalitarian ideologies.  They’re thinkers who put their ideas into action to move the society forward. Where the progressives are dormant or muscled into silence or chucked out, the society doesn’t progress. That such is the case with Nigeria is evident in our regression to a primitive state of anarchy and bestiality.

Every society has its progressives, but since political systems are often corrupt, they don’t like the progressives. This is why progressives usually operate outside of political parties. It is also the reason why progressive political parties run or populated by real progressives such as Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Gambo Sawaba, Michael Imoudu, Balarabe Musa, S. G. Ikoku, Eskor Toyo, Lateef Jakande, Paul Bassi, Raji Abdallah and a host of others would not go far in a corrupt society like ours. Nigeria has a surfeit of progressives most of who operate outside of political parties. These are the people I’m addressing in this writeup and I proudly count myself as one. We have them in the forces, in the business sector, and in the civil service. They abound in the media, the creative industry, the academia and at all levels of the education industry. 

We, the progressives, are a formidable force. If we don’t have the numbers, we have the intellectual wherewithal – the reach and the power to influence, convince and mobilize the youth and adults around us. The question is: What should we do that has not been done in the past? Why haven’t we had a good, stable and widely accepted government since the demise of the first republic? The reasons were (and are) well known, but those who should have done what was needed did not do so. What is needed now is the coming together of the real progressives to speak with one voice and act in one accord. WE NEED TO SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE AND ACT IN ONE ACCORD!

One of the reasons why Nigeria hasn’t had a good government is because we have always had weak political parties that have no ideological basis for existing. Unfortunately, it is to these clueless parties and their clueless operators that we have given our allegiance. Thus, whether the candidate was good or not, whether they possessed leadership quality or not, whether they had the level of education needed to run a modern state, with an understanding of the intricacies and intrigues of international politics and economics or not, was not our concern. We have therefore continued to suffer the twin evil of parties without ideology and power grabbers without a clue as to how to run governments. 

The second reason arises from this twin evil; for, what the combined force does is to ensure deliberate exclusion and isolation of the Progressives, or frustrating them into compromising their positions and ideals. The result is that the Progressives choose to stay out and take no action. But we all know now, that this state of affairs can no longer be accepted unless we are all ready to go down with the sinking ship! It is said that if you fight with a mad man, you would be considered mad since no one would know the difference between you two. I believe the same thing would happen if you were seen wining and dining with a mad man, or a thief.

Nigerians have been taken for a ride for too long; on a very rough and long ride. The ship of state is rotten and falling apart, and if we do nothing, we are all going down with it.  I’m not a prophet of doom. I love this country too much to wish it anything but progress. But it will be foolhardy to sit by, look the other way and believe that 2023 is going to blow us any good wind. We will be in for the rudest shock; for the roughest ride. The regular and well known political charlatans, crooks and fortune seekers are all out there, spending billions that have been stolen from our common wealth. They will throw those monies around and win the poor, the gullible and weak-minded voters if we sit by and watch. Stand up and do something wherever you are. Talk. Act. Vote. Make sure that your vote counts.  Make sure that the votes of those you mobilize count. I know the question that is on your minds: Who do we TALK, ACT, and VOTE for?

As I have said to the youth, we should not act in a hurry.  First, we must hope for a good dark horse to emerge. And there just might be one. An individual in an unknown party. Or even someone well known but who has not been soiled by the mud of the swindler-parties. We cannot expect an angel from Mars or Venus. It has to be a Nigerian, and out of the hundreds galivanting all over the place, there would be a sane soul who speaks love of country and the egalitarian language of progress, of a movement out of the mess characterized by anarchy, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and a totally dysfunctional education system. There will be one sane sole voice that will speak the language of a modern society without forgetting its roots, its culture, as well as the language of international politics and economics that is needed to return us to the path of life, and connect us to the path of our future progress. IT IS THAT SANE SOLE SOUL THAT WE MUST TALK, ACT, AND VOTE FOR.

Prof Johnson is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State

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