OPINION: Where are they?

“I don’t understand you Nigerians”. A close friend from a fellow African country blotted out. Giving him a querying look he continued…

“I mean, with all these hardship, the citizens can’t at least protest and tell the government “enough is enough?” I got what he meant.

He was referring to the socio-economic disorder in the country. “Where are your leaders?” he asked. “Those who would stand up for the masses, where are they?’’

I wondered. I then remembered the very early days of January 2012, when the previous administration announced the removal of fuel subsidy on the 1st of January.

By the 2nd of January, our ‘defenders of the masses’ were out on the streets in full force threatening fire and brimstone leading to mass protests in virtually all parts of the country.

Some of the organizers were ready to Occupy Nigeria until a revolution took place. The government blinked, forcing down the price of petrol to 97 naira per litre.

The leaders of the protests had won, and a moment for change gathered, culminating in the removal of a regime that was deemed as anti-people, corrupt and inept.

A new regime came in and pump price was increased to 145 naira per litre and subsidy payment, which was seen as outright robbery of our common wealth by the former government, continues to this day.

We are experiencing a dreadful socio-economic condition such as never witnessed. Our economy is in a virtual state of comatose, while the citizenry grope as one in the dark resigned to fate with no one to help.

Where is Organized Labour? Where are our activists? Where is the free press? Where are the civil society organizations? Where are the defenders of the defenseless? The voice of the voiceless? Where are they?

Their voices have suddenly become mute, and the very few that try to raise their voices do so in inaudible whispers. Where are those that will say ‘enough is enough’?

It is incomprehensible that in three and a half years, there has not been a single protest or strike by organized labour against the harsh living conditions Nigerians are living in.

Labour unions and the civil society have not gone on demonstrations protesting the punishing high cost of living with no commensurate increase in earnings.

Where is the outrage against the fact that Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world? With six Nigerians descending into the poverty drop zone every minute.

(World Poverty Clock). Where is the outrage that millions of children go to bed hungry every night? Where is the moral indignation against the fact that millions of our school aged children, almost 9 percent of our total population are out of school?

Where is the anger against the growing insecurity and senseless loss of innocent lives? Where is the anger that our youths are wasting away, with unemployment at ultra-high levels?

Where are the voices and actions of Civil Society Groups against the Presidency’s utter disregard for National Cohesion? Why is the principle of Federal character as enshrined in our constitution, torn into shreds without any resistance from our human right activists?

No protests against the fact that our purchasing power have been brought to her knees, our people barely affording the basic necessities of life, living beneath human worth, our dignity eroding before our eyes while we see our leaders living in opulence from what is meant to be our commonwealth as a nation.

No placards, no demonstrations, no press conferences by human rights activists. It is sad that there has not been the leadership provided to kick against the government’s bad handling of Nigeria.

I am sure our government leaders are making a mockery of us about our inability to stand up for our rights. We are sitting in our homes, folding our arms, moaning our misery.

Being pushed to the wall and breaking the wall to pass through (a la Wole Soyinka). It’s as if we have been drugged to inaction.

Who are those that will take up the leadership challenge on behalf of the masses? Where are they?

This piece was sent in by Faith Barewa, a political analyst and social commentator based in Kaduna. She can be followed on twitter: @Berewafaith

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