Some days ago, I was collating data for a client from newspaper opinion columns. The client needed to write a review of the debates on President Donald Trump’s fascism status and so he needed to know exactly the reasons behind the negative branding. As I was reading through opinions and noting down perspectives of different writers and columnists, I couldn’t help laughing at some of them. But then, I had to call myself to order when I discovered that I was actually the one that needs to be laughed at. The truth is that I was comparing the actions that incited these debates with what is happening in Nigeria.
My people will say that “ife ojoo gbaa afo, o buru omenala”, meaning that anomalies become norms when they are allowed to linger. Nigeria claims to practice democracy but we are practicing a system of government that does not have a name yet. No, Nigeria is not a fascist nation and our leaders are not particularly fascists. But what they are is yet to be defined.
Now, back to the survey of people’s opinion, I realised that most of the things Americans complained about Trump is what we have accepted and adopted in our country. People like me felt they were being dramatic because what appals them is entertaining to us. Things they condemned are what we have approved. It was as if we were moving in the opposite direction; yet we claim to practice democracy.
In case you want to ask, the five major events that made Americans scream about Trump are his dispersal of peaceful protesters with teargas and rubber bullets; his statement that he might come for third term and his hint that he will not accept election result if it doesn’t favour him; his claim that he is the best president America can ever have; his verbal attacks on his political opponents; and his sending the military into the cities. Now, compare these factors with Nigerian ones and tell me what you think. Do you still blame me for laughing?
Let’s look at how Nigerian leaders handle protests, peaceful or not. Have you ever heard of any protest that the police and the military have not brutalised the demonstrators? Is there any protest in this country where people were not shot dead? Are demonstrations even allowed to be held in this country? Let’s be honest with ourselves, our leaders are actually suppressing us. We are being intimidated and subjected into accepting whatever that is thrown at us. We are free and still in bondage. I just pray that this changes.
The next thing that touched me about the above mentioned events is the attack on political opponents. Do you know why I laughed here? I guess you will rightfully say that in Nigeria, political opponents do not face verbal attacks; theirs is settled between the DSS detention camp, EFCC cells and the prisons. I know most of them have skeletons in their cupboards but those in the right camp also have smelly skeletons. But they are moving about freely. This attitude is also displayed on protesters, journalists, religious leaders, and anybody considered a “threat” to the government. Yes, we have democracy, but we are not free.
What about the accusation that Trump may not accept the election result? Apart from Goodluck Jonathan, which other politician in Nigeria gladly conceded to defeat? The normal thing here is that you lose at the polling unit and then go to the court to revert it. Well, what do I know?
The abnormality in our system is like an ulcer that has spread to other sectors. And like a cancer, it is eating us up and shutting us down. People are afraid to talk. People are afraid to act. The only way to call the government’s attention to people’s grievances, which is peaceful demonstration, has been turned into the military and police shooting practice ground. Right now, we are doing siddon look, wondering what next will be thrown at us. But from all I can see, we are definitely not practising democracy in Nigeria.