Thursday, 29 March 2012


This is part of our Nigerian-ness, the belief that he who is loudest must be right. We know this, yet we remain silent on issues that affect our well being and livelihood.

There’s a saying that “one man with a Gun/Gong is a majority”, this holds true especially in Nigeria and there is no clearer indication of this than with the Niger Delta Amnesty programme and now the olive branch being offered to the Boko Haram sect. You need to make enough noise vocally or violently…it’s the fastest way to be noticed and heard out in Nigeria. Yet, we the average Nigerian have become the silent majority while the noisy minority get all the airplay.

Noisemaking is big business in Nigeria too, many successful businesses are seldom the most effective, you know that dirty little Bukka you don’t want to be seen entering. Yes that one! Their turnover is probably higher than your local Mr Biggs. Why? I don’t know! But the way people speak about these places with such endearment makes them hard to resist e.g. Amala Shitta, Canopy, Calabar kitchen, Olobelólóko, food is ready! etc (No disrespect intended to any of our favourite kitchens!) Nigerians seldom pick the most convenient venues to have weddings and other events, we pick the most hyped up one even if we need to double park on the roads and pay local touts to watch over (and vandalise) our cars on narrow, untarred roads.

Our Government and politicians have always been louder than the people and that is why they continue to misgovern us without fear or hesitation. It is for the same reason MTN and friends give us appalling service but seldom bother to compensate us or even apologise to us. They understand our docility and how we will never struggle to speak louder than them. But they have it right, we are timid, even when we have a just cause, we back down when they speak over us.

Remember the fuel subsidy removal fiasco in January? Did you see the Blitz of SURE-P (subsidy reinvestment and empowerment programme) commercials on TV? You couldn’t escape it on National TV, The Presidents most eloquent henchmen (and women too) were out on the front lines doing a great job selling it to us… Atedo Peterside, Sanusi Lamido and our own World Bank heavyweight, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, painted the picture that Nigeria was about to go broke and bust! “We must discontinue subsidies and deregulate petrol now! Tomorrow could be too late if we were to have a future, the wealth will go round when we deregulate” bla bla…

Touché Mr President, your citizens now recognise that we are no match for you in a Media war! But who are you at war with? Us or the forces that stop us from being great? Let us help you speak against our real enemy your Excellency.
This is a ‘call-to-noise’ to all Nigerians; we need to speak up a lot more on all the little elements of daily life that don’t work. I dare say that even though our occupy Nigeria protests couldn’t crash the price of petrol back to N65, the noise we made was heard and has exposed many other critical issues that need to be addressed-Police reform, Budget & National assembly expenses, Pension reform, NNPC & fuel subsidy, some sort of National Dialogue etc.

But it doesn’t end there, why is there no collective noise on the scourge of Boko Haram? The Govt says it’s chasing faceless ghosts, Families of both regular citizens and law enforcement agents are being bereaved every day. How can we be silent and let CNN and Al Jazeera alone do the talking for us? Muslims, Christians, Civilians & Law enforcement are all targets. Why do we remain silent? The worst case scenario (which is never as far away as we think) is that citizens sincerely seeking peace willingly submit to the dictates of Boko Haram in exchange for some protection and stability, we saw this with the Taliban who coerced their own legitimacy in Afghanistan.

Just go to a bank, government office or airport and try to ask for your basic right…and by basic, I mean something as simple as being attended to politely. Ask first time, you’re likely to be ignored, second, probably a side eye but now try again: This time raise your voice, bang on a desk and then throw your hands about and possibly ask for a manager! Ah! Odds are 80-20 you’ll resolve your inquiry faster or at least get a detailed response from someone who acknowledges you exist.

We’ve become soft as a citizenry; people are always ready to take us for a ride. It was with pride I watched the Federal Government make a lot of noise and deport South Africans in retaliation. Not that I’ve not been offered yellow cards for cheap at Lagos Intl. airport, or angry that SA immigration didn’t have an immunisation point at the airport…but because of the sheer disregard and shabby treatment our green passports qualify us for. The FG made some noise, we received an apology and we’ve been promised fairer treatment. The carrot is that other countries will think twice before treating Nigerians with such disdain.

This is how to get results in Nigeria; it’s not the nicest or most honourable way, but it works! Why won’t you make a little noise today? Wherever you see something unjust, make noise about it and I mean every day, every time and everywhere. When you see NAFDAC burning fake drugs and biscuits in some giant bonfire, it’s not because they’re pyromaniacs, but what better way to get attention than to set something on fire? Today a NAFDAC registration number is internationally accepted to stand for quality. Making noise works in getting attention, attention works to inspire change.

When is the next ‘give us steady electricity’ rally? Who’s pushing the government to sit up over security? Where are the placard carriers asking the National Assembly to cut their incomes by 30%? When are we saying enough is enough to irresponsible Danfo & Okada drivers? Who will hold the major telecom players to account and remind them we pay for the services they deny us? Who will tell the snotty HR people that equal opportunity is a right & not a privilege at work?

I was privileged to be a part of the Amnesty programme for the Niger Delta and worked closely with some ex militants. Many confided in me they didn’t want to take up arms but the injustice & neglect they had experienced was just too much. MEND was effectively a military arm to express the sincere noise and groaning of the Niger Delta. The people cried and MEND was born, they made noise, the country heard them, the country helped them. This is not a call to arms or congratulations to MEND, the FG, being the louder noise-maker as previously established, will take credit for the Amnesty and optimistically, the renaissance of the Niger Delta. But the real winner is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the government and the people, Thesis VS Anithesis=Progress.

Making noise and speaking out is a step in the right direction to enforcing change. It should be every Nigerians civic duty to stand a little taller and see things done a little better. It is patriotic and not rebellious in the least, don’t be told otherwise. I promise you this in advance: dirty looks, rude comments, some embarrassment &huge criticism, but I also tell you that this is the only way to make things work in Nigeria. The cost of not making noise is too high to consider, it is a complete failure of all our efforts, dreams and aspirations.
If you’re reading this, you have heard my noise. Your turn now…