Noel A. Ihebuzor
Activism is now one of the fastest growing buzz and fancy words. It has style and appeal. It has class. Quite a number of persons on social media would immediately lay claims to be engaging in this highly rated practice either as a hobby or as a full time professional pursuit. But like all buzz words, the word activism “contains” a lot of fuzz. The fuzz arises because “activism” is gradually becoming a label that has been hijacked and is now being used to describe the activities of a variety of persons from genuine crusaders for social justice through to paid political party agents to social media demagogues. Confusion clearly abounds and an important step in wading through this confusion is to try to come up with a simple scheme that would enable a citizen to distinguish between genuine activism and fake activism. I call fake activism confused activism just to recognise that not all manifestations of it are intentional since some clearly result from situations where unbridled zeal and exuberance have outrun sense, self-restraint, competence and capacity. Here are some signs of confused activism I have gleaned from social media.
- The display of selective moral outrage
- The abandonment of reason
- The embrace of illogicality and the descent to inconsistency
- The rejoicing over any government misfortune
- Refusing to see the very obvious
- Denying or rejecting clear evidences of government successes
- Trivialising landmark events and changes brought about by government policies
- Magnifying government mistakes out of proportion
- Maintaining total silence on opposition gaffes
- Defending glaring flaws in persons in the opposition
- Enforcing total silence on the crimes of members of the opposition
- Demonizing the government but beatifying anyone opposed to it.
- Blanking out the unsavoury pasts of newly turned “progressives”
- Revising and photo-shopping the past to fit the present
- Purveying inaccuracies and merchandising distortions
- Becoming salespersons and champions of exaggerations
- Looking before leaping; tweeting before thinking
- Commenting on things without any full understanding of them
- Consistently condemning government and commending the opposition
- Charging into battle like a Don Quixote & engaging in non-evidence/non-fact based utterances
The incidence of confused activism can be reduced if we all begin today to turn our backs to behaviours such as I have listed above and start to embrace a culture of more balanced, evidence based and socially constructive engagements which are the hallmarks of genuine activism.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
Our legislators are among the best paid in the world. If you look at their salaries and emoluments relative to either the mean, median and modal wages in Nigeria, then you are forced to take back that statement and to correctly say that they are among the “worst” paid in the world since their salaries are totally out of sync with the socio-economic realities of their environment. The Economist report has it that the basic salary of a legislator is about 116 times Nigeria’s GDP per person. Now if this claim is accurate, such a salary is not just bad, it is sinful. Our legislators ought to, in every responsibility, advocate for an immediate downward review of their salaries and allowances. I will be among the first to support a petition by the electorate for the immediate downward review of the salaries and allowances of these people.
Our history on demonstrations is not the best in the world. We appear to be totally unable to come up with demonstrations with peaceful endings. The fault is at two levels. The first is with the demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators act with immaturity and are prone to demonstrating the worst forms of self- restraint during demonstrations. The second is with the agents of law and order who are not always “lawful nor orderly” in their conduct and who are not very skilled in handling demonstrations/marches and in crowd control. The combination of an immature group of persons and law enforcement agents who are not too skilled in the management of crowds during demonstrations usually spells disaster. Disaster arrives even faster when mischievous element, anxious to make either political capital or quick financial gains from demonstrations, join this mix. The descent from a peaceful assembly and parade to confusion, mayhem, anarchy, tire burning, road blocks, extortion and other forms of disorderly conduct is rapid and the consequences can be very painful, wasteful and socially divisive.
I hear a march to protest NASS salaries is planned for 26th September, 2013. Details are still sketchy as to the locations, route, how and the form of this march. But it is important for the march organisers to recognise upfront the realities of demonstrations in Nigeria and to take steps to ensure that the planned march is peaceful and that their ranks are not infiltrated by elements with other intentions. They must also ensure that the march is not hijacked by persons or groups with party political motives and ambitions. It is important that clearance(s) for the march or marches (if they are planned for several locations) are obtained from the relevant authorities and that designated venues and routes are kept to. The organisers must therefore organise a responsible march and ensure that marchers march with responsibility and keep within the limits of the law. The law enforcement agencies, on their part, also must keep away from provoking the demonstrators. Their roles must focus on ensuring public order and peace and on protecting the lives and safety of Nigerians, including the marchers who they must see as simply exercising their democratic rights. The crowds must be handled with great sensitivity and tough tactics should only be deployed when breaches of the peace are clear and obvious. When this happens, response should swift, targeted and commensurate with the perceived risk and nothing more. We saw such swift and targeted responses in the police handling of the last riots in the UK.
I do not want to be alarmist but I am just calling attention to a planned event that could provoke clashes which then have the potential of snowballing out of control. Clashes can be avoided if clear commitments are made before the march and adhered to by the marchers and law enforcement agents also agree to abide and actually abide by agreed principles of crowd control during the march. Incidentally, the planned march can still be headed off now (and valuable man hours and agro saved and possible disasters/hard feeling averted) if significant persons representing all the political parties from both houses of the National Assembly were to step forward now and assure the electorate that the NASS would be engaging in discussions with the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in the very near future with a view to a downward and realistic review of the salaries and allowances of their members.
A slow onset but protracted emergency and social time bomb! Cry, the beloved country!