“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” – Aristotle.
Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters – Frederick Douglass.
Today marks the first anniversary of #ENDSARS! One prayer the Muhammadu Buhari administration must have prayed is that no one remembers the anniversary! But prayers having failed, the administration, employing a servile police force utterly lacking in professionalism, pulled the stunts they are adept at – threats, intimidation, and blackmail – but that, too, apparently failed them. At the last count, the police were quoted as telling us what we all knew too well – that protests are the legitimate, fundamental, and inalienable rights of free citizens of a free country! What they failed to add is that there is an ongoing test of will – and wits – between the masters they serve on the one hand and democratic forces on the other. While the former is intent on turning the country into a banana republic, the latter are determined to frustrate the effort and hold aloft the banner of freedom and liberty. It is fight-to-finish between the forces of retrogression and the forces of progress; it is a do-or-die between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The forces of retrogression may win skirmishes and pitched battles here and there and now and again but, ultimately, they will lose the war. The triumph of good over evil is certain; which is why the rallying cry of revolutionary forces remain “A luta continua, vitoria e certa” O yes, the struggle continues; victory is certain, like Bob Nesta Marley crooned, we will not only relentlessly “fight because we find it necessary” but also because “we are confident of the victory of good over evil” – over the course of time.
That Nigerians still retain in their consciousness the memory of our gallant youths who made a stand against the most corrupt and inept government in the annals of this country; that our people can still muster the courage and find the guts to remember the fallen people’s heroes and their sacrifices; and that we are minded, indeed determined, to erect epitaphs for them in our heart and flaunt same in the eyes of a brutal dictatorship that shot at and killed defenceless and innocent youths calmly sitting down, waving the national flag and singing the national anthem, is statement enough and victory already for our gallant youths. Our youths are the victors; Buhari and cohorts are the villains.
Says Fidel Castro: The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all” Che Guevera concurs when he says: Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms”. In “Poem of the Dead Young Men of Europe” Walt Whitman has this warning for dictators: …Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves — bloody corpses of young men; the rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud…
Those corpses of young men, those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierced by the gray lead, cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality. They live in other young men, O kings! They live in brothers, again ready to defy you!”
Whitman, born on 31 May, 1819; died 26 March, 1892 saw tomorrow, like Nostradamus, and foretold events that would follow the 20th October, 2020 bloodbath at Nigeria’s Lekki toll gate: Those corpses of young men! Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierced by the gray lead, cold and motionless as they seem; live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality.
They live in other young men, O kings! They live in brothers, again ready to defy you! True, then, is the saying that the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of martyrs! True, also, are the words of the apostle Paul in Roman 8:35 – 39, which says: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. When I became a born-again Christian and came across this scripture, I marvelled as I placed it side-by-side Castro’s statement of “when men carry the same ideals in their heart” quoted above. So also does Castro’s famous, even deviant and yet prophetic allocutus at his 1953 treasonable felony trial (“Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!”) resonate with Paul’s “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Timothy 4: 7 – 8). Six years down the line, on January 1, 1959, history did absolve Castro and his 26th of July Movement as the popular revolution they led forced the dictator, Fulgencio Batista, to flee from Cuba. Castro, an atheist; Paul, an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but both espoused the same ideals even though with different ends in sight! We can also place Paul’s 2 Timothy 4: 6: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” side-by-side Che’s “Whenever death may surprise us” quoted above.
Vile dictators usually only hold temporary advantage; in the final analysis, they will be defeated. Says French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they… If I took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, I should say: As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes it off, it does still better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away…The strongest is never strong enough to be always master unless he transform strength into right, and obedience into duty”
But Frederick Douglass teaches that no oppressor gives liberty on a platter: If there is no struggle, there is no progress… This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress”
This understanding of the stirring of our youths at about this time last year was what frightened the authorities, sending cold shivers down their spine. They killed many of the youths but not their idea. Ideas are spirit; they don’t die. Growing up in my Owo, Ondo State home town in the Sixties, there was a row of shops opposite my father’s at 13, Idimisasa Street; the shops were owned by Ijesa traders dealing in textile materials; the men’s aliases were boldly printed on their sign posts. I still remember that one was “Araba”; another was “Ewe Nla”; and then there was “T’eni Be’gi L’oju…” You can complete the saying! O yes, the “trees” they cut this time last year have sprouted again! But none of those with the blood of our youths on their hands will go unpunished! Not even if they wash in the Pool of Siloam or throw themselves into the other pool at Bethesda. Neither Abana nor Pharpar, and not even river Jordan, will wash away their blood guiltiness.
Says Dele Giwa: No evil deed will go unpunished. Any evil done by man to man will be redressed, if not now, then, certainly later; if not by man, then, by God, for the victory of evil over good is temporary” Concurs Andrew Marvel: The wanton troopers riding by have shot my fawn, and it will die. Ungentle men! They cannot thrive who killed them” May the blood of the martyrs #ENDSARS continue to water our tree of liberty!