Not angry enough to challenge the oppressor?

The ppressive system – politics, religion, and economy

The thesis of this essay arises from a cryptic Facebook message – Nigerians are not yet sufficiently angry to change their political and economic fortunes; not even the youths – which I posted 3rd of October and received 132 shares by evening of 4th of October, and 174 shares by 15th of October!

It got me thinking. Was this a subject that needed deep interrogation? Why was this post so popular?

Why were readers not satisfied with clicking the ‘like’ button and moving on? Why were there 229 likes, and 122 comments? In other words, why was this interrogation of our complacency so well received even by the very group I targeted for subtle criticism?

Later that day I tweeted on handle @heghagha1: Until they are angry enough they cannot challenge things; until they challenge things, things can’t change; until things change they cannot achieve their full potentials.

It was later that I realised that an earlier late night conversation I had with a youth struck something deep, something outrageous inside me. At three in the morning the youth in question could not sleep.

He was up ‘fighting with mosquitoes and fanning himself’ because for four days there had been no power supply in his part of Lagos.

Where else is this a norm for a young person? How does this contribute to wastage of life and time and opportunities? Why is the situation not disturbing enough to stimulate resistance or a wide and persistent call for action, particularly in an election year?

Perhaps we should start by interrogating ‘anger’ as a propellant for social reaction. Some critics believe that anger being an emotive aspect of man cannot provide the basis for positive action.

If it produces any action they argue it will not be positive because it will not be guided by reason.

It could result in negative actions, that is. However, anger as a propellant to action is applied in the sense of intense dissatisfaction and frustration with a situation, a problem, a process that could then propel an individual or individuals into challenging an oppressive system – political, religious, and economic.

It is in this sense that the English playwright John Osborne uses anger in his seminal play Look Back in Anger.

In normal social conditions, when the people have not been cowed through official fear; when they have not been compromised by long association with evil or oppression; when they have not accepted their lot as ‘given’, frustration could lead to intense anger and a spontaneous reaction.

For example, if there is scarcity of food citizens could just manage to get by and hope that things will improve.

But an incident in a day, not planned could trigger off mass reaction. At such a boiling point anything could happen; as it happened in the so-called Arab Spring.

Nigerians may be said to be the happiest people on earth. But right now they are not happy. They are not happy with poor economic conditions.

They are not happy with their mortgaged future. They are not happy with the level of insecurity in the land.

They are not happy with politicians generally; with unethical defections. They are not happy with the educational system. They are not happy with the abysmal power supply situation.

They are not happy with the state of the roads. They are not happy that Nigeria does not have a positive international image.

They are not happy with the level of inflation. They are not happy with the state of health services.

They are not happy with leaders who go abroad to seek treatment and leave our health facilities in a shambolic state. They are not happy with the conduct of elections.

They are not happy that their kids cannot get good education. They are not happy that their kids who are university graduates cannot find jobs.

They are not happy that the Minister in charge of health has said that not all doctors should practice medicine.

They are not happy! They are not happy! They are not happy!!! But are they angry? Are they sufficiently provoked to change the process and the therefore the system?

Some of the responses to the post were interesting and instructive too. Let me give a few that illustrate the different strands of the arguments.

Michael Effiong replied: ‘Youths? Do they still exist? May be in the virtual world. In the real world they are nowhere to be found’.

Anunne Kingsley gave another dimension: ‘Our leaders need to suffocate us enough to extract any resistance.

Very sad.’ Achilleus Uchegbu replied: ‘Very sad reality. Nigerian youths are still primitive in hero-worship…yet they pushed for not-too-young-to-run’.

It is Victor Jike, a professor who summed up the situation in these words: ‘‘Anger in itself does not lead to change.

There must be a general consciousness around the conditions which produce this anger and most importantly there must be a determined effort (struggle) to provoke a change (social action) in the desirable direction.

Anger is a private emotion. Change is a public emotion. Change is a public alteration of some aspects of the structure of society.

Youths require a lot of awareness-raising in order to make this transition from idealism to concrete social action.’’

Upon further reflection on the capacity of the exploited, the marginalised and the dispossessed to bring real change about, I remembered the proles in George Orwell’s highly political novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where Winston Smith the rebel writes: ‘‘The proles are where hope
lies…if there was hope it MUST lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.

The Party could not be overthrown from within.’’ The attempt by Winston to think outside the box ends in disaster for him.

Fortunately, he is not ‘vaporised’, like what the Saudis presumably have done to arch critic Jamal Khashoggi.

The Party seizes Winston and makes a new man of him so that he could fall in love with Big Brother!

All the parties in Nigeria stand for the same thing- they promote the same narrative.

There is no ideological commitment to radically transforming interethnic relations or the economy or the health sector or youth unemployment.

The difference is only in the individuals. But if these individuals represent the same goals what hope is there that the real change will come from them?

Can a common process that produced people of like minds be the stimulant to change?

So the proles in our situation have to emerge and take the day through a carefully thought-out and organised political process.

Whether our own proles can rise to the occasion at this time of intense disenchantment is a different kettle of fish!

In this article:
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