Adieu to True Activism

February 22, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Abdulyassar Abdulhamid



This week reminds me of the great Japanese novelist, Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1961 novel “Diary of a Mad old Man”. This may not be unconnected with unbroken flows of information from different sources, perhaps, as Nigeria’s 2019 general elections were postponed by a week and as accusations and counter-accusations are being made by the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on why the election was postponed are shaping the minds of electorates.


The week reminds me of the novel because the title, perhaps the texture (the narrative), too, is funny and sad. It is a perfect blend of this nebular opposition. As one critic puts it, the novel is a complete depiction of, although pitiful and ridiculous, the relationship between Eros (sexual desire) and the will to live – simply put, it is a depiction of tragicomedy of human existence.


To take a sip from “Diary of a Mad Old Man”, perhaps to draw analogy between the topic under discussion, which is the decline of true activism, and the said novel, it tells of a 77-year old man of refined tastes, who falls in love with his fleshy dancer daughter-in-law. As his body decays, his libido rages on. Mind the opposing sides.


This week alone I read tens of commentaries on the 2019 elections postponement a few hours prior to its commencement. As some of those commentaries sadden, others gladden. The two things I have noticed are the parallel lines drawn by the two mega political parties. The All progressives Congress and its supporters on one hand; and the People’s Democratic Party and its supporters on the other; and in the middle is an equivocal presence of some sold-out activists, who pretend to belong to neither of the political parties; but overtly working for the downfall of this great nation.


It is true that new technologies have opened up never-thought-before ways of communicating with people from far and near. People can, with ease, send pictorial or orthographic messages. A practical example is how in some hours the news of the postponement of the elections, and uncountable reactions that greeted it, saturated the air. Theories after theories followed.


“We are swimming in information, but how much of that information moves us closer to the truth that will sustain us?” asked Patricia Hill Collins.


It gladdens me to see ideas that will move this country forward being discussed. That is why when they talk of, for example, reducing maternal and child mortality, and or localizing tomato production, creating jobs, etc; we greet the initiatives with ovation. However, one cannot hide his hatred for those who are borrowing ideas from only-God-knows where to destroy this nation, wearing the garb of activism against possible attacks.


One thing we all have to put in our minds and embrace so dear to our chests is the idea that political party or not, Nigeria exists; and this nation will weather all forms of evil machinations against it, God willing.


Sadly, some self-appointed activists take such opportunities offered by technology for granted. They utilize it. They will coat their pseudo-intellectual narratives with sugared words to deceive their naïve readers/followers as though they are speaking the truth on the contemporary issues in this country. Their plan is to eat or spend, but not from their sweat. And the only way to do so is to borrow a deceptive air of a messiah.


When names like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Arvin Kajriwal, Baba Amte, etc, are mentioned, some of those pseudo-activists conditioned their mind into believing that they are taking a clue from those historic men, not knowing, or better not minding, that those men were not money-grubbing or selfish. They ate out of their sweat and had no intention, whatsoever, of riding upon the back of their people to greatness.


What is “true activism” then? On “true activism” Bill Button wrote: “I see the word ‘activist’ used a lot these days. There are as many activists as there are causes, from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ from refugee support groups to anti-immigration crusaders. But who among us truly knows the costs and rewards of activism? I also hear a lot of about ‘civil liberties,’ but there is little said about ‘civil responsibility’”.


For example, one of the leading figures in activism was Martin Luther King Jr. – an African-American Baptist minister and activist. Despite being influential and the loudest voice then, King had to pay the utmost sacrifice. He was gunned down in 1968. This is the cost after years of shouldering civil responsibility.


To test his loyalty to the movement he led, Baba Amte, known for empowering people suffering from leprosy, had to take a bacilli injection to prove to his people that leprosy was not very contagious. Even though trained as a lawyer and leading a successful legal practice, Baba Amte died in one of the shelters meant for lepers.


I am not asking the so called activists to commit suicide; rather it is a question of how true are they to the cause. In Nigeria today what makes most of the activists, is neither ‘civil responsibility’ nor the cost; but the reward which the “activists” capitalize on. That is why, perhaps, the word ‘activist’ is used deceptively by even people with questionable characters to accumulate wealth.


In those days true activists had the audacity to tell the truth directly to the people. In contrast to today’s activism that sees fault in and considers those in the corridor of power as the only people that count, activism of the olden days bent so low as to speak to the masses. It tells them the truth.


Civil societies are assumed to have possessed several potentials for ensuring effective management of common resources, have sound relationships with the constituents they are said to be representing, and be filling the gap where the government fails to take up its responsibilities or refuses to respond to people’s demands or calls.


Alas! The assumed safe haven for the less privileged and the exploited has been hijacked by demagogues that appeal to the desires and prejudices of the ordinary people to achieve sinister political goals or accrue richness to themselves.


However, one may ask to where goes the grant those rabble-rousers receive from international organizations? And why the funding? Demagogues do not only imperil their country in the eyes of the world; but their rise poses a great danger. For instance, Northern Nigeria is gradually transforming into a fear-driven society as a result of the rise in demagogues. The impulses of declaring a war against a people perceived by those demagogues and minions is looming.


Sadly, demagogues are in the media today. They are the first to cry blue murder when their paymasters lose. They are everywhere polluting the ordinary people’s minds with their giddily plummeting popularity. What next? Until we separate “true activism” from fake ones, the younger generations will mistake it for a career.





Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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