In general terms, Sociology refers to the scientific understanding and interpretation of social actions. With this in mind, that the Nigerian society consists of very poor people, both in material and spiritual essence is no longer news! Arising from the above, that poverty of ideas has generated the culture and ideas of poverty may also not be too far from the truth! What that means is that, in the struggle for survival, democracy of the stomach plays a very important role. To put it mildly, it is the culture of ‘what we shall eat first’ that takes pre-eminence whilst development no longer has any tangible meaning. With poverty of ideas at work, jaundiced interpretations are given to sound judgments and mob interference is pointlessly instigated. Caution is thrown to the wind and the peace of the society takes flight! But who’s to blame? After all, survival is priority; and this cuts across the nooks and crannies of the society.
Ideally, social changes in any society are always gradual, so unhurried and so piecemeal that, unless someone is a keen observer, many things will pass unnoticed. For instance, when tuition fees in Nigeria’s universities and other tertiary institutions were raised, only few students and few schools were out on the streets protesting against the hike. Society generally behaved as if it was a non-issue! When the price of pepper and other agricultural products were raised, people pretended not to notice! When the cost of living generally outstripped the income or revenue accruable to individuals, people resorted to self-help! When the people started noticing a breakdown in the norms and values of the society; especially, when the absurd strutted with frightening ease, the sum total was a degraded society. Unfortunately, those in authority were never made to face the music. So, they remained unrepentant ‘till Thy kingdom come!’
Sad that even the gains of our founding fathers in this regard have been eroded due to successive bad governments! For instance, the finesse that existed in the 1960s is no longer there. In the 1970s, the elite believed in – and adopted - the lower, middle and upper class dichotomy, which led to a healthy struggle to aspire to the next comfortable zone in the social strata. Unfortunately, that, too, no longer exists, simply because the military brought its bad interventions to bear; and subsequent bad political leadership couldn’t but truncate whatever remained of the finesse of the 1960s. As a matter of fact, this throwback has affected other sectors because it’s a societal, not standalone thing. It moves through human beings, to all other sectors. Is it any wonder that institutions have been badly affected while the continued survival of the public and private sectors are dimly doubtful? Such was the situation in parts of Osun State on January 27, 2023, following the ruling of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal. Safe for the timely intervention of a life-saver, yours sincerely would most probably have been senselessly lynched at the Orita Olaiya intersection in Osogbo, the state capital.
Recall that the Ademola Adeleke-led government also alleged that political appointees of the former administration took away the vehicles that belonged to the state. Well, it’s laughable that it was announced in the first place! In saner climes, it’d have been a question of writing, officially, to the alleged defaulters, demanding the return of those vehicles, failing which legal actions would be taken. After all, there were records of the state-owned vehicles, and to whom they were allocated. If the alleged defaulters’ action was not backed by law, the administrative process alone would have taken care of the punishment meted out to all because of the alleged sin of a few. Even, in the days of Obafemi Awolowo, salaries of public servants, not to speak of those who were never given even bicycles, would not have been withheld; which has been the situation in Osun till date; which, again, amounts to an abuse of power! And, this is 2023!
Let’s also talk about the declining influence of the activists. Without doubt, antecedents of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the review of those antecedents have shown that most of them are experts at making noise until they are thrown up and recognised only to fall by the wayside due to pollution by political contaminants and the inducement of pelf. Needless to repeat that such NGOs that once held successive governments accountable are no longer in the book of reckoning. The comrades of yesteryears are now the best friends of the bourgeois class; and Union leaders can no longer be trusted because they have compromised standards.
Well, to begin to rebuild the society, we need a new orientation that cuts across the board; and it has to be a deliberate attempt, not a half-hearted medication. Since we are not a society of barbarians, the political will must be there to carry it through. Let not the government or the society deceive itself: until the mass of unemployed people are engaged, there won’t be an end to youth restiveness. Ignoring them will also be at the society’s peril.
For the society to be functional, we also need the interventions of the activists and the NGOs that will speak truth to power so that they can act as checks and balances. But, once they are compromised at that level, then, trouble looms! Society becomes endangered when there is a possibility of the Rule of Law being relegated. There and then, its safety is in jeopardy and its sustenance becomes doubtful. That’s exactly what the supporters of the ruling party did on that fateful Friday. Had the other side decided to follow the flow, what would have become the fate of the law-abiding residents?
Now that former Governor Gboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have secured a legal victory at the Tribunal, let them not engage in what can be described Pyrrhic victory. That the society should also remain calm is a general appeal. Yes, Oyetola has won and it’s acknowledged everywhere. Even sound legal minds have repeatedly stated that it would be difficult to impeach the judgment at the Appellate Court. Nonetheless, let the winners allow the law to run its course even as they must advise their followers and sympathisers against misbehaving or saying things that are capable of heating up the polity and/or provoking the other side further into lawlessness. The legal system will keep working while the police will continue to keep the peace. And, if the current governor thinks that power has actually slipped off him, all he needs to do is throw in the towel and save the state further hassle.
In the final analysis, there must be concerted efforts to rebuild the society so that when politicians are campaigning, let us watch out for those who want to rebuild the society and those who want power for the sake of power. Wole Soyinka once suggested that Nigeria’s universities should be shut for at least 3 years while efforts were made to think through the kind of university system that would be suitable for Nigeria. Unfortunately, Soyinka’s suggestion was not only unpopular at the time but also fell on deaf ears. Only last year, the same universities were shut for the better part of one year. As fate would have it, ‘Kongi’ is now either too old to comment or the Nobel Laureate is fed up with the whole thing!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!
*Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ( [email protected] )