Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A Tribute To Citizen Power!

In view of yesterday’s unanimous decision by the National Assembly declaring Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President, this piece comes as a salute to the courage of the many Nigerians who took to the streets in Abuja and Lagos under the aegis of the Save Nigeria Group. I am proud to say I was one of them. On the 12th January I arrived Abuja aboard the first Aero flight. I didn’t know what to expect, as I made my way to the Transcorp Hilton, Hotel, to join Pastor Tunde Bakare and a few others before starting off on a march asking the National Assembly to do the right thing constitutionally. On the flight I met a very good friend who counselled extreme caution understandably in view of the reputation of the Nigerian police for violently quelling anti-government protests. In all honesty, I didn’t need much counsel, I personally know women who had been tear gassed for demonstrating in favour of Aviation safety after the Sosoliso plane crash of December 2005 that killed a generation of young children returning from the Loyola College in Abuja. If for that they could be tear gassed, what about confronting the cabal at the heart of the first civilian heist of political power? I was clearly apprehensive, not knowing what the mood of the police would be. My apprehension was not helped by the heavy police presence I noticed on the route into Abuja from the airport. But here I was and there was no going back. I thought if Tunde Bakare was here, then I could do no less.

The march turned out to be one of the most peaceful expressions of true democracy in action. As we made our way from the Unity Fountain, by Trancorp Hilton Hotel to the National Assembly we even passed a truckload of mobile policemen who hailed us as they drove. Never a better omen I saw! Looking back from the front of the march I could see the large crowd snaking all the way down the long boulevard. It looked to me as though we had in the region of 4,000 people made up of professionals, students, workers etc. Certainly a varied group of responsible Nigerians all seeking to be heard as they showed genuine and legitimate concern concerning the drift in national affairs due to the uncertainty of the ailing President’s true condition and the reluctance of the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council to do the right thing. So we marched and soon made our arrival at the National Assembly.

Two notable events struck me at the National Assembly. The first was the note sent to the leaders of our march by the Senate leadership (who had earlier promised to address the President’s absence in their session that day) but who now said that due to a subsisting court action seeking to compel transfer of power to the Vice President it would be sub judice for them to do anything. This seemed to me like cowardice. The second thing that struck me was when the Speaker of the House of Representatives sought to address the crowd he was refused by a resounding and deafening shout of NO! These two events were seminal in their eloquent testimony first of the disconnect between the Nigerian political elite and the yearnings of the average Nigerian and second that the average Nigerian was beginning to see beyond the veneer of office and recognise that power truly rests in their hands.

In the words of Wole Soyinka “we finally woke up from our deep harmattan sleep" and the world noticed. Even the cabal noticed because there was the now famous telephone interview on BBC which became the "letter" the Senate was looking for in order to act. All things truly work together for good. It was as though something in us finally gave way. For many of us it was the sudden realisation that we could take our destiny in our own hands and steer ourselves in the direction of a more responsible future. Tunde Bakare put it succinctly when he said, “as long as the best of us stay on the sidelines, the worst of us take centre stage and the rest of us suffer.”

This I believe is the beginning of an irreversible process. A process in which we now choose to be part of the system of governance. We must not rest on our oars as we have in the past only to see the process hijacked by those who have practised and in many cases perfected the art of power manipulation. There is a potent power we are discovering. It is our willingness to show that we count. A presidential system of government recognises 3 tiers of government – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. This pre-supposes that the system is fundamentally upheld by the will of the majority of the populace. That would be a naïve assumption to make in a nascent democracy like ours at this time. What I believe we are seeing is the final awakening of citizen power! True democracy is slowly but surely coming alive.

Kemela Okara

Victoria Garden City, Lagos

Wednesday, 10th February 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article, I must say. Change has to start from individuals and then, its spreads like ripples.

    I have been getting increasingly interested in the planet, being a christian and seeing so many alignments between events like solar flares, tsunamis, pollution and how they correlate with prophecy.

    I am writing about these on my blog at

    I used to be atheist and I am still sceptical. I will go to a church (denominational) service with my thinking cap on – BUT maybe its apophenia or maybe I’m just a looney, but I really think things are winding down for our green planet.

    I’d be really honoured if you come by and drop your thoughts – and rants on my blog at:

    Thanks for your time