By Steve Ogah
Those who think nothing of the public good never get to live blissfully on the pages of history. This is the humbling fact that some bewildered minds are yet to come to terms with. So, trying to concoct vanishing magical acts for Omoyele Sowore, Mubarak Bala, and kindred activists-cum politicians, will only result in nothingness and puzzlement for some sections of the uncultured world and their diehard multitudes. This is a great lesson from history. And there are references that one can point to.
The saturating version of young politicians and sound minds fascinating, and at the same time; dizzying Nigeria’s dogmatic institutions and ruling houses, mark my word, “ruling houses,” not truly democratic governing bodies, is an undying incarnate of a certain fabled chronic activist who will never vanish from the endless landscapes of memory and pages of academic history. It matters not if some authorities decide to expunge formal history from what is written on learning slates, a determined citizenry often finds its way to learn history, informally and otherwise. That is the reason many of Nigeria’s honest politicians and activists have now assumed political sainthood and social significance to the shock and shame of their erstwhile tormentors.
Each state-orchestrated disappearance or passing of an activist or mass welfare agitator, has only resulted in the emergence of a newer, stronger strain that roots itself for socio-political eternity. Political history will absorb Nigeria’s current crop of agitators, watchdogs and some of our dogged historical journalers, just as the litany of political saints now includes distinguished light-bearers such as Gani Fawehinmi, Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and kindred agitators who have gone on to eternal glory, but continue to present nightmares to institutions and personalities, due to the prophetic nature of their pronouncements, and the stinging tastes of their unambiguous declarations.
Due to his humanistic and socio-political relevance, environmental activists have gone on to appropriate Ken Saro-Wiwa in their agitations, just as legal upstarts find Gani Fawehinmi irresistible in their references. In the same manner, Fela Kuti is the inspiration for newer musical deliveries from Nigeria’s present crop of hip-hop artistes who find Fela’s afrobeats genre too complex to deconstruct, but have only allowed him to guide their hit songs through his horns, costumes and satirical lyrics which find expressions in pop tunes of the present generation.
It was the courageous writer and environmental activists, Ken Saro-Wiwa, standing before Abacha’s hangman at Port Harcourt Prisons, who is reckoned to have proclaimed to the man with the noose: “You can kill the messenger, but you can’t kill the message.” That was on 10th November, 1995. Decades after, the world remembers the messenger and his message which calls for political and economic sympathies for the Ogonis and other endangered peoples of the Niger Delta, whose farming lands and rivers now shine glossy with oil spillages, and their flora has since darkened with some of the most lethal gases known to pollution scientists.
Activists live forever while traitors are always abhorred by the haloed pages of a history, which seeks to remember those who spoke up when evil ran roughshod through the length and breadth of the land. A sporty excursion through our history, will reveal that no man or woman who has trampled on the rights and privileges of commoners, while pampering elites and their interests has ever enjoyed earthly beatification; a tragedy which makes it almost certain that heavenly acknowledgement will also elude such a callous individual.
To stand with the people, and speak truth to power, will always ensure that such individuals will have monuments erected for them; which will stand all human hurricanes of defacement and destruction. This explains why the statues must fall movements, which took roots in South Africa after the collapse of Apartheid, avoided and respected monuments erected to uphold the memories of all those who stood against the evils of white supremacists.
It is almost impossible to have any one throw defilements at the statues of Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela anywhere in the world, whereas; it is quite effortless to imagine that Mobutu Sese Seko and other looters of their country’s wealth, will sit in the same pantheon of infamy with Sanni Abacha, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and related butchers of a people’s commonwealth. Those courageous people who fought to resist the eroding power of their draconian laws will always be cast in glowing colors. Historians, activists, and journalists have always written of the struggles of activists and the beauty of their mass visions, side by side the evils of the few entrenched ones within the corridors of power. Writers of the truth are also activists who will luxuriate on the good side of history.
Investigative journalists will therefore sit as our renowned activist-journalists whose enduring legacy will be the bravery with which they have been able to agitate with their pens, using profoundly inquiring writing methods to dazzling successes time and time again. History already has a place for men of this ilk and intellect. Repeatedly, their pens have proven too menacing for those who wish to impoverish the larger society, such that one begins to wonder when will the ruling houses and their occupants venture into the real and outside world, and be illuminated by the truth that a tyrant is not loved beyond his lair and accomplices.
Because history will always remember activists in a robustly pleasant way, tyrants are forever seeking ways to erase them from among us, using some of the most vicious means available on earth. But these methods have proven ineffectual in themselves. This is reflected in the continued remembrance of both dead and missing activists. Omoyele Sowore, Mubarak Bala and other lesser known people will never go out of circulation. History is a generous friend of activists and the dread of despots and anti-people usurpers of liberty.
Which man or woman worth his political study and social learning, doesn’t know of Pius Adesanmi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Kuti, Isaac Adaka-Boro, Margaret Ekpo, Beko Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Chima Ubani, Ayo Obe, Dele Giwa, Mary Slessor and other like minds who make up that inexhaustible scroll of revered and saintly activists? These are activists who will live for eternity, just as the likes of Sanni Abacha, Mobutu Sese Seko, Kamuzu Banda,Paul Biya, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Idi Amin and his kith and kin will forever be remembered with a certain sense of dread that borders on the horrific. The kind pages of history will never endorse them. How does one remember a tyrannical ruler other than with the word: evil?
Steve Ogah is a Public Affairs Analyst.