Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria.

The Danger Of Egypt’s Revolution To Nigeria – Kayode Fayemi

July 9, 2013

Last week, I offered part one of my impressionistic bird’s eye view of the condition of life in Cairo, a year after the first revolution.

At the time I wrote my travelogue—for that was essentially what I was trying to do, rather than a political analysis of post-revolution Egypt—I had no way of knowing that another revolutionary tsunami was on the way.

From my report, you could feel the gathering storm in the sense the literary avatar, Chinua Achebe, adroitly discerned the signs of the times and captured them in his prophetic book, Man of the People, which ultimately presaged the 1966 coup. But not having Achebe’s great literary insight or depth, I was unable to put my fingers on the spot. In a sense, in the first part of my travelogue, I probably got carried away by my reportorial trivia and missed the thunder!

On Wednesday, I was in Ekiti State Governor’s office while the government of Mohammed Morsi was unraveling to the mob psychology of over 20 million Egyptians demanding his ouster. It was the first time I saw in recent times, a fledgling democracy asking for a military takeover.

For me, this is always an abomination. It is not just that a military government is an aberration in modern times, it is that by the nature of military system, they are not structured for long term development of any nation. The military governor serves at the pleasure of his superiors and because he lacks security of tenure—since his position is merely a military posting—he can’t make long-term plans for the state and usually leaves things in a state of flux.

The intervention of the Egyptian military in the ousting of a democratically elected Morsi then, for me in that perspective, represents a dangerous signal which I pray do not give funny ideas to military adventurists in other African countries, especially Nigeria.

Naturally, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, a radical intellectual who had earned his pips in anti-military struggles during June 12 struggle when he ran the highly subversive Radio Kudirat, became a veritable sounding board, to analyse the implication of the Egyptian revolution on the survival of democracy in a place like Nigeria where politicians are running wild in corruption, incompetence and abuse of office, seemingly deaf to the cries of the people.

Fayemi’s perspective was so incisive that I decided to throw it up to the readers this week, rather than the promised part 2 of my Cairo travelogue which can continue later:

“The Egypt situation is something I am very worried about. I am very worried about Egypt, I am very worried about the notion that the way to get the deepening of democracy is via the rupturing of the whole political system. Of course, if one is attracted to mob psychology, you will be very excited about what is going on there in Egypt. And even what has transpired in Brazil in the previous week, and you begin to wonder what this portends for democracy around the world.

“But the reality also is that there is nothing really surprising about Egypt. Democratisation has always been a journey, not a destination and in that journey, you are always going to be confronted with reversals, with progress, with stasis, and the challenge is to have more of progress than reversals. But the very nature of the rupturing of the Egyptian democracy if you can call it that, if you can call what Egypt had before as democracy—at least it was electoralism.

The former president, (Hosni Mubarak) even though he got there via the coup, after Anwar Sadat, became a born again democrat, and the party started winning elections on paper at least. But everybody knows that it was a sham democracy even as things were not as bad as you would imagine in Egypt as much as they were in other African countries at the time. But since the “revolution” of the last 18 months, things never really settled in Egypt.

The Islamic Brotherhood is not necessarily given to democratic tenets than by its religious fervor. It has done very well in mobilizing the people. In terms of populism masquerading as democratization, the odds were in its favour. And all of the people who worked with them to get power had felt left out, particularly the civil society. But that is usually the way it happens.

In Nigeria in 1999, the people who really fought for democracy were not the immediate beneficiaries of the post-military era. For them it was the notion, the principle that they were fighting for, not power. So when power was actually lying on the streets, ironically, it was the pro-Abacha tendencies that actually grabbed it and ran away. OK, there were few like the Asiwajus of this world who managed to buck the trend, but essentially, it was a reconfiguration of the terrain rather than a root and branch transformation of our politics and we are still grappling with that even till now.

So, there is a sense in which we could draw parallel. And one of the more essential parallel which we could draw, and which we saw in the January last year fuel subsidy Occupy Nigeria Campaign, was whether the dissatisfaction that is generally in the air with politics (in Nigeria) can reach a point where popular outpouring of disgust with this democracy will halt the democracy. And whether the military which of course has had its own role in Nigeria’s political development just like they did in Egypt before coming back now, will see that as sufficient fillip to come back.

And there are worrisome developments even along these lines. We seem to be involving the military more and more in civilian matters and the more you involve the military into civil authority, the more you are sending the signal that you cannot take care of yourself again and you need a helper in the military. And that is what we are seeing with Plateau State, with North East and even all over the country.

There is hardly any state you get to now that you don’t see some military presence including peaceful Ekiti—I am sure when you were driving into Ekiti you saw military checkpoints; we were the last to put soldiers on the road in the 36 states of the federation. That is worrisome, but what is the alternative?

In that sense, there is a clear parallel but you know, history never repeats itself in exactly the same fashion. I wouldn’t be too quick to draw a parallel because there are also conditions here that would not make for the kind of concerted resistance you see in Egypt. There is the spirit of Egypt.

There is an idea of Egypt. Every country is an imagined nation and you first have to imagine it and then you start working towards the nation building process. I am no longer sure—I may be wrong—whether there is a Nigerian spirit that ties us together so much that we can stay out there for 30 days consecutively.

We nearly came to that during June 12, but also see the way we bucked the train. Opportunism also got in the way.”

That is Dr. Kayode’s profound take on the situation, but should we draw a sigh of relief from that? Should we weep or laugh over our situation in Nigeria? So many questions hanging in the air begging for answers which I don’t have. Let’s just be praying!”


By Dimgba Igwe

This article was first published in The Sun

Last modified: July 9, 2013

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