What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it—at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change. James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers”, 1963.
This quote from Baldwin’s essay holds for me an eternal truth borne out of critical thinking. One could understand that this reads like an address to teachers in an only Black school at a time of segregation in the US. Baldwin’s concern strikes every chord on the complicity of history and the conspiracy of the advantaged group or class in society to render others complacent to perpetuate the status quo. This notion foregrounds how change is achievable when individuals decide to stand for what is right and just rather than a “Siddon look” attitude that subjugates the mind. It also points to the need to curb the inherent danger that could lead to the extinction of ethical, moral, and transformative values that any society needs to improve if we decide not to fight it from maintaining the status quo.
The universality of this message speaks to the current situation in Nigeria. Since the inception of the President Buhari-led administration, any individual swimming against the tide of blind, partisan and parochial followership of the ruling party is a Wailer. A bullying crowd is always ready to defend the inane decisions of this government, muting the clamor for real change. The kind that of ineptitude we have seen so far is usually shrouded in a cloak of brazen deception and insincerity on the part of a government that was voted on the promise of integrity and change. James Baldwin’s charge is a reminder for why being a wailer is the most patriotic duty of any citizen who believes in a better Nigeria. It is our duty to take up the task of responsible citizenship with a willingness to fight and to debunk constructs that are inimical to the sustainability of a better society. Baldwin seems to be echoing a line in the University of Ibadan anthem, which says, “a mind that knows, is a mind that is truly free”. A mind that is free is a mind that thinks and questions everything. And the cost of this freedom is to fight for the life of the mind, to push boundaries and to challenge our leadership and hold it accountable for the mandate that Nigerians gave them at the polls. It is the responsibility of the individual to strive to be free from wrongful acculturation that replaces reality with fantasies. More so, to question the societal dictate of blind followership is to stir the wind of change towards social transformation. Simply put, opposition and constructive criticism are healthy for our leaders and the society at large!
This is why we wail! Why do people wail? It is because they are in mourning. A lot of Nigerians are mourning. At a time that our economy is bleeding left, right and center; should we just pray for a miracle without urging the government to do the right thing? Should we just continue to shout “Sai Baba” when Baba is not charting a clear path for the nation? Should we just blindly defend our leaders simply because we supported and voted for them? Should we be quiet at a time when they have perfected a scheme to bleed the nation dry in the name of a budget? Should we be content with non-payment of salaries and high-handedness of the political class? Should we not wail when they tell us to brace ourselves for a hard time while they apportion for themselves insane benefits to cushion the effect of their terrible economic strategy? Don’t we have a reason to wail when Boko Haram is still on the rampage, and the Chibok girls are gradually becoming a fiction in our official narrative?
Don’t we have a reason to wail when a government of change refuses to change things? Isn’t it bad enough that the corruption fight is becoming a joke and distraction from other pressing needs of Nigerians? Shouldn’t we be worried that our government threatened to deal with whosoever tries to oppose them on social media? Are we not worried that a university don is in prison for “wailing” on Facebook over the state of things in the North? Okay, can any of us point to reasons that responsible citizens shouldn’t wail? Shouldn’t we wail at the constant refusal of our government to accept responsibility for what it is doing wrong? Are we satisfied with the blame-Jonathan-for-the-past-present-and-future predicament argument? How long will it take before the Wailers have a reason to stop wailing? The government should put the Wailers to shame by doing the needful.
Nobody wants this government to fail! Right thinking Nigerians want the best for the nation. That is why it is important to wail either constructively or for the heck of it until the change we desire comes. We want things to change. That’s why we wail. And if you are a patriotic Nigerian, you should be on the wailing wagon. The more we wail, the better for the government and the society as a whole. A complacent followership will not challenge the leadership to take a concerted and decisive step that will inspire hope and a better future.
Being a leader in Nigeria is isolating, you live in a bubble, and you’re delusional about the impact you are making. You need the people to wail deafeningly to drown the voices of sycophants urging you on a path that hurts the citizenry. President Buhari and his team should embrace the Wailers rather than deride them. His media assistant, Femi Adesina, learned it the hard way. The Wailers might constitute a sizeable cross-section of the society, but the government should never underestimate the power of angry, hungry, disillusioned citizens in large numbers. The ranks of the wailing Wailers are swelling. Ardent supporters of this administration are gradually becoming wailers. The government should listen more than it is talking because those voices are the multitude of witnesses that will stand against it on the day of reckoning in 2019. There is time for redemption and the time is now.
If you are on the other side of the divide as a Buharists, the Wailers are not your enemies; they just can’t stand with Buhari on his path to ineffectual Buffoonery. How you truly show your support as a Buharist is to tell the truth lovingly without fear or favor. It is to call Baba to do what he was voted to do. Until then, the wailing will continue. If you’re a Wailer, give yourself some credit. You mean well. Support any achievement of the government but don’t stop wailing until the change we desire comes. God Bless Nigeria.