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The Thin Line Between Activism and Anarchism by Gbenga Olorunpomi

I have never understood activism as practiced in Nigeria. I understand and support fighting for your right and and pursuing just causes. What I don’t understand and will never accept is the immovable stance some of our activists take on certain issues and their attitude of “I am right, the government and all who support them should burn at the stakes.”

In my short time on this earth, I have worked closely with some of the people who fought the military junta and triumphed. These men were beaten, tortured, locked up. Some had their families harassed and even lost people close to them. But, because they fought their battles with wit and intelligence – properties they still retain – they are some of the most humorous and content people in the world. What I don’t get is how they are so different from other Jaguda activists, who just want to make a name by being non-conformists. Which kaaki did these ones make their safari suits from?

Everyday, I use my Twitter and Facebook page to push ideals and individuals I believe are virtuous. I also use it to campaign against those I believe are not. The current president is the most mentioned name in my tweets and not for good reasons. I’m on his case a lot. That doesn’t mean I don’t engage in banters and lose arguments on certain issues around him. He is human, with good and bad sides. However, I can’t say the same for some of our activists.

I saw the video of what transpired on the night of tributes for the late Gani fawehinmi and I think it was nothing less than shameful. That those people chose a special night as that to unleash their bitterness on another fellow is disgraceful.

Kayode Opeifa, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, is not everyone’s cup of tea. The problem is, he needn’t be. Jesus wasn’t. Prophet Mohammed wasn’t. Even God isn’t. But, the same rain that blesses the sugar cane freshens up bitter leaves. Why those activists believe they have earned the right to be judge, jury and executioner is truly beyond me.

This article is not in defense of Mr. Opeifa, but in defense of his fundamental human right. Yes, the same rights Gani Fawehinmi fought until he breathed his last.

Granted, they reserve every right to eject someone they hadn’t invited for their event. It was a private occasion anyway. But things crossed the line of discipline when someone hauled water at the man. It didn’t stop there. People, sorry, ADULTS, took a break from what was a sober event and began singing insults at another man. Like whiny children!! What an embarrassment!! I can just imagine what went home and told their kids. “Hey, kids. I was big man today. I sang and insulted a commissioner. While I was drinking! Is your dad a great man or what?”

I expect some of the people I respect to take offense with this article and that’s ok. They will accuse me of siding with a government official or that I been bought. However, I am of the firm view that being the oppressed doesn’t make you righteous and neither does being poor make you a better person than the wealthy. Folklore and movies have sold this idea to us that having money automatically makes you an ass. Well, that is just not true. Job never lost his humility and love for God to wealth. Neither has many people I know. Money does make it harder to do a lot of things but it is not evil in itself. The love of it is, though.

The recent spate of jungle justice is an indication of the short fuse Nigerians now have. They are inpatient with our judicial system, or simply just ignore its existence, and just go on to punish the offenders. It is the animalistic nature of these attacks that scares me. The rage displayed on these offenders are wild and excessive. Almost as if they blame them for everything wrong in their lives. Even though the activists did not burn a tyre on Opeifa’s neck, this same collective manic rage was evident on their faces.

I have a few questions to ask these activists and I hope someone answers them in the many responses coming my way:

1. Were they trying to prove that they lay more claim to the Late Sage than Opeifa?
2. Are they claiming Opeifa broke laws in the course of doing his job and so they were justified in embarrassing him?
3. If Opeifa takes them to court for the assault and wins, will they see it as justice done?
4. Were they proud of their achievement after they were done?

As I trolling through Twitter while writing this piece, I decided to search for Opeifa. I just wanted to see people’s reaction to the video. It was gleeful all over. Everyone enjoys a “Rich Also Cry” story, so I get that. But then, someone said this to another “If na Bode Gorge, you go happy.” I thought long and hard about this and I said to myself, “Yes!” If Bode George was given that treatment, I would have been in support, even if I do not participate. Because Bode Gorge is a convict who has paraded himself shamelessly and arrogantly insists he did no wrong when the law said he has. He has shown no comportment since he left prison.

Opeifa hasn’t been found guilty of any crime and for the activists to treat him like they did is shameful and criminal. They give activism a bad name and displayed a terrible example of how decent people should behave. What they did should be roundly condemned and I hope they are lawfully punished for it. They may have fought for my right to say whatever I want without soldiers chasing me, but they crossed a line when they assaulted a fellow, defenseless human being. Shame on them!

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