By Oladapo Okeowo

It has been an eventful new year. We have flitted from one incident to the other and have barely had time to process a thing before another takes its place.

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This absence of a time lag between germane occurrences has created a discourse environment that is quick to comment without due recourse to a ruminative treatment of topics. Of course, the ease of communication and the multiplicity of platforms mean there is a proliferation of voices. Therefore, ‘first to talk’ can have pride of place.

Now that that is said, to the reason for this.

I read Mr Godwin Ohimai’s “Tuface Idibia, Buhari And The Limits Of Activism” article on the Sahara Reporters’ website, his take on the proposed protest by the multiple award-winning artiste, Innocent “2face” Idibia, and I just had to reply.

Yes, had to because it hit me hard enough to get me out of my naturally apathetic state as few things get me to.

To do justice to this, a delineation so I can provide context:

  • I voted for this president.
  • I, like Mr Ohimai, I’m a huge fan of 2face Idibia. Elite mentality, mental strength, evergreen music that cuts across all walks of life and ages make that easy. He really deserves the Baba after the 2.
  • The politics of emergency activism, I believe, is not to be disregarded. It has its place in the movement towards creating a polity that allows its best to grow and its poor, flourish.

Mr Ohimai, in his piece, said “With all the noble intentions and sheer goodwill that engineered the campaign (speaking of the ‘Vote not Fight’ campaign) for peaceful elections, there are many who argue that the cry for peaceful elections may not have been as critical as the need to call attention to the danger of the emergence of a Buhari presidency or in more diplomatic terms, empowering citizens with the knowledge and information to make wiser choices.”

Much as hindsight is 20/20, care must be taken to avoid revisionism.

Going back to 2015, the polity was heated and the country was divided along tribal, religious and ideological lines – three things that easily trigger violence in any nation. Knowing this, I think it is an understatement to describe the efforts of Mr Idibia as “sheer goodwill”. He did not endorse either side but spoke to the man who will vote and asked that he keep the peace which is, by many standards, a bigger overarching issue.

The narrative of the dangers of the current presidency was left to you and those who felt that was the message they wanted to disseminate.

“People simply want to identify any cause, as long as it is a cause, throw their weight behind it for whatever reasons, as long as it has the potential to either launch them into the public limelight or in the case of those already in the limelight, keep them at the center of public conversations.”

This is playing to the gallery. While you make a good point generally, it does not apply to the situation. The questions have to be asked: Is 2face irrelevant? Does he need this protest for “public limelight”? Does he want to be the “centre of public conversation”? He already has these things in spades. In addition, to actually beam the light on an issue is to demand to be the centre of public conversation. Demand. In any case, does 2face need to be the centre of public conversation?

Mr Ohimai, the message and the messenger are both right in this case.

As you acknowledge, the protest comes at a critical phase of our nation’s history when the dominant words on the street are hunger and anger amid palpable discontent over the hopeless incompetence of the Buhari administration.There is, therefore, no need to use the ‘ignore the messenger but accept the message’ analogy.

Mr Ohimai also said, “Another lesson that must not be lost in the cacophony of today’s clash of opinions is understanding the true essence of social activism beyond protests and rallies. We must look back into history and learn why for instance, the Occupy Nigeria movement is best remembered today as a farce. We must learn from the legacies of icons like Nelson Mandela, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Martin Luther King Jnr. who put in painstaking, time-tested and unwavering commitment into advancing the values they believed in. There are no short-cuts!”

I am looking back into history at the success of Madiba, Abami Eda, Ghandhi, et al, how did it all start? Peaceful protests. Shining the light on injustice. Constantly repeating their messages associated with their campaign.

In my opinion, 2face ticks all these boxes. This protest, amidst the backlash from the very people for or with which it is done, is a painstaking effort towards showing this time-tested unwavering commitment you speak of.

Where I particularly disagree, Mr Ohimai, is the insinuation that they succeeded because they were unwaveringly committed. No, that is not why. They succeeded because those suffering their plight joined with them and when they, who were in the forefront stumbled or fell, they helped them back up and gave them the support to keep going.

It is also highly presumptuous of you, and quite frankly, disrespectful, that you would ignore the fact (yes,it is a fact) that more than half of the electorates decided that the incumbent is who they want to lead this country.

You can accuse my generation of having voted from a place of incomplete knowledge as we were either kids or unborn in 1983 but the generation before us voted for him too.

Are you saying we are collectively dumb/stupid? Are you saying the decision was made for us because “he was repackaged and presented to Nigerians as the ‘messiah’ that would ‘kill corruption’ and lead Nigeria to El Dorado.”? Many, apparently, felt any option was a better option, but that is a separate debate.

We each had one vote and we, who voted, voted for who we wanted. “Ti ogiri o ba lanu, alangba o le wo ogiri”. If the outgone president had not created the weaknesses ruthlessly exploited by the opposition party, he probably would be president still. Key to this point is the fact that many people, who pitched overwhelmingly for the former president in 2011, decided to go with his opponent in 2015, young and old alike. We do need to move away from this matter of “see yourself. Shebi we told you that year but you didn’t listen”. It is an over-flogged narrative.

According to Mr Ohimai, “There are many Nigerians who are happy that the likes of Tuface have ‘seen the light’ and are taking a step to atone for their in-actions that led Nigeria into this current mess. The planned protest is a good start, but an apology from Tuface to Nigerians for sitting on the fence when his voice was badly needed, would be welcomed.”

Can I get an lol?

Tuface did not just see the light (much as PHCN might have tried to stop this). He always has used his voice and walked the talk. He has used his tool – the music you claim to like (the One Voice concert, “E be Like Say”)- to spread the word. You might need to go back and listen. What then is there to atone for? Why does he owe Nigerians an apology? For crying out loud, the man STOOD on the fence. He saw the bigger issue of election violence and spoke to and of it. He left the politicking to us mortals.

Length won’t allow a continuation of the deconstruction of your piece Mr Ohimai. We are the 140-character generation after all.

So, to close things, stop shifting the goalpost. If it is okay for D’banj to endorse ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, it is okay for people to vote Buhari and still be disappointed in how things currently are. It is also okay for Tuface to protest. Geese, gander and sauce, Mr Ohimai.

Secondly, personal opinion should not be projected using the non-singular pronoun “We” except of course you are royalty or the government. Mr Innocent “Tuface” Idibia has decided to crow, to speak. He is not a chicken. He is a rooster. If you feel Tuface owes you an apology, ask for a personal one or mention the people who make up the ‘we’ that want it because, as Jimi Agbaje said, I am not one of them.