Greatest Nigerian youth! Ever-resolute Nigerian comrades! Greatest Nigerian people!
Over the past few weeks we have made history in this potentially great country of ours, our much beloved but mindlessly betrayed Nigeria. In their organization, sense of purpose, energy and passion, the protests of these last few weeks have been unprecedented in the history of our Nigeria. Millions of youth, joined by older allies, took to the streets as well as social media to demand accountability from public officials and governments that have done nothing to shape a positive present and future for the young people of this country.
In a historic moment, Nigerians, mostly but not exclusively young, stood up to say enough is enough. You rose to fearlessly demand to take back your country. You stood stoutly and proudly to insist on your collective human rights. You raised stalwart voices to declare that Nigeria belongs to all of us, its citizens, not to the grubbing coterie often described as “stakeholders.”
Indeed, Nigeria is not the property of that thieving, visionless clique with fancy cars, private jets, and choice property in the country and elsewhere in the world. Nigeria does not belong to the self-aggrandizing ones who occupy the cozy spaces of Aso Rock, the National Assembly, or state houses. Nigeria is for Nigerians—for all Nigerians!
The clear signal from the events of the last few weeks is that the time for the Nigerian revolution is NOW close at hand.
The masses, workers and youths of Nigeria are the country’s most dynamic asset. Despite the abject failures of those who govern the country at state and federal levels, the Nigerian people have endured and survived. At great cost, they have worked to keep the ship of the Nigerian state from sinking. And now they have served notice, to their misleaders as well as the world, that the time for the Nigerian revolution has come.
General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and political leaders at the state level had a choice. They could have recognized the opportunity of this historical moment. They could have embraced the magnificent energies and vision demonstrated by the Nigerian youth as they made peaceful demands for change. They might have learned something from the protesters’ ability to organize effectively and in a truly democratic, non-hierarchical fashion. Instead, Mr. Buhari’s authoritarian government, in collaboration with various state governors, displayed their disdain for the vast majority of Nigerians. They demonstrated that Nigeria is far from a democracy, but rather a veritable military dictatorship clothed in civilian garb. The Nigerian state has shown its contempt for its much-abused citizenry, its intolerance for the exercise of democratic rights—especially the right of citizens to demand transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights. We are not—and we will not be—deterred.
We condemn the outrageous bloody clamp down on peaceful, unarmed protesters. We decry the unleashing of carnage on Nigerian citizens who were exercising their right to make demands for pro-people policies. To compound its criminality, the government has orchestrated a massive cover up of its gruesome assaults on law-abiding citizens.
Mr. Buhari’s decision not to recognize the rights of the peaceful protesters led to the breakdown of law and order. That decision ultimately resulted in needless loss of lives, serious injuries at the Lekki Toll Gate, and widespread destruction of property.
We assure the Nigerian regime that we are determined to identify and name each and every victim felled by its brutal tactics as well as the perpetrators of the crimes of murder, torture and inhuman treatments of our compatriots at these barricades! We will demand justice for each one! We will neither forget nor accept the atrocity of Nigerian streets overflowing with the blood of the Nigerian people.
We do not struggle in isolation. We have learned from our brothers and sisters in the Sudan, Senegal and the United States that we must not relent in our struggle for our rights. Backing down is not an option. The time to organize and mobilize anew is now!
The time has come to expand the mass-based movement for change. Nigerians have shown their preparedness to disavow ethnic, religious or other forms of division. Instead, we are seizing the moment to work together across a variety of lines in order to build a movement that is truly pan-Nigerian in character and scope, fueled by demands for justice and social change, energized by the vision for a country that is for everyone, not for the parasitic few.
We must engage in mass political education. Nigerians must know their rights. Those who serve as police officers as well as in other uniformed services must realize that the era of rampant brutalization of citizens is gone. Part of the revolutionary impetus is that citizens must grasp the political, economic and social systems that govern their lives.
There is no question that the political parties have failed Nigerians, and that they are beyond redemption. It is clear that new alternatives are needed. Nigerians ought to collectively strategize and mobilize to take power and restore it to the Nigerian people. This is the time to reclaim Nigeria!
I urge all Nigerians not to be discouraged. Let us not relent. Our common enemies have acted like the bullies they are, but they have also acted out of deep anxiety. The exploitative system that has enabled them to oppress and dispossess Nigerians has been shaken—and is on the verge of collapse.
The time has come for Nigerians to retrieve their country from the hands of the greedy elite. There is no excuse for any Nigerian citizen to go without food, shelter, education and dignified work. The Nigerian military must return to their barracks and cease treating Nigerian people as enemy combatants. The Nigerian police are ripe for fundamental retraining and re-orientation to focus on the task of combating crimes rather than wreaking havoc on Nigerian citizens.
The moment is here. It is time for Nigerians to join hands and be animated by the same purpose: to fight for our lives and envision a better future. The time for the Nigerian revolution is NOW!
** Omoyele “Yele” Sowore is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, former presidential candidate, and founder of an online news agency Sahara Reporters. **