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Of Activists, Activism and Sainthood

The downside of Activism?

By Benjamin Ugbana ….

After Super Eagles got the entire country lit with great happiness by securing Nigeria’s qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a win over Zambia last weekend, Twitter users, unlike those of other social platforms, went gaga.

Trends upon trends were popping up as Nigeria became the first African nation to book their spot in Russia. And for a moment it felt like an opportunity for the people to ease off tension from the countless corruption cases that had filled the air prior to the game until I saw Reno Omokri’s tweet on my timeline.

“We’re going to Russia! We’re a nation that wins together when we are 100% behind a team. Nigerians aren’t ‘criminals’. Nigerians are winners,” the former Presidential aide wrote.

It actually struck me that amid such aura of celebration, Reno could still not spare president Buhari and his government that smiling moment. His next tweet was more like an uppercut: “PMB, please embrace 100% of Nigerians. Don’t reject anybody, not even the 5%! See how a 5 percenter, @alexiwobi, made 100% of us proud!”

Quite funny though. Men like Reno have become viable mediums through which average Nigerians are becoming more politically aware by the day, and their consistence in speaking out keeps the government of the day on its toes. But sometimes, you won’t be wrong to call Reno a diehard hater of the President.

The art of addressing a social, political or environmental challenge – which we know as activism – can be very rewarding when agitations bring about improvements in society, but activists are more often than none too consumed by their disconcertment that every normal or abnormal human activity is seen through the lens of their opinion.

This is why it’s quite easy to tell that a person is pushing for one societal reform or the other by merely being with them for few minutes. Irrespective of the subject of conversation with an activist, they just never stop talking against that social or political belief or act they resolutely consider an anomaly in the society.

Just like Reno cannot go a full day without attacking the ruling party, renowned author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cannot do as much as deliver a University commencement speech without promoting gender equality. Well, you’ve said you don’t think graduating students need such information for life after school, but that’s your opinion; Chimamanda strongly believes they do, and she knows just how to submerge the subject into her masterly addresses.

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That’s how Chimamanda benumbed some folks when she publicly inferred that the embattled former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, would not be harshly judged if she was a man. For while most Nigerians were condemning the alleged looting and grave act of corruption by a public officer, Chimamanda could only see and condemn gender inequality. It is rightly so for every activist. With ‘straight line’ thinking, their opinion seems to be the only valid lens through which every matter must be viewed.

However, just so we don’t get it twisted, activism is a beautiful thing, and rightly so when the activist is for real. A true activist evinces as the direct opposite of an hypocrite. The world would definitely be a better place if more people can be known for what they stand for.

But the beauty of activism is sometimes evil spoken of because of some unrefined agitators, self-acclaimed activists, who don’t respect others and their freedom to make their own choices. For instance, some of the comments that trailed award-winning singer, Tiwa Savage and her “a man is the head of the house” statement last week were very disgusting. And some of those hate comments came from known pro-gender equality folks.

In her book “Dear Ijeawele,” Dr. Adichie, writing to a friend who just birthed a baby and wanted to know how the child could be raised a feminist, wrote, “Teach her that difference is the reality of our world. She must know and understand that people walk different paths in this world, and that as long as those paths do no harm to others, they are valid paths that she must respect.”

Truly, the way we go about activism in this part of the world is disastrous. The use of verbal violence and encroaching on fundamental human rights of others seem to always accompany our every agitations – tribalism, separatism, sexism, atheism alike.

It doesn’t end there. Doctrinal activism, which has clouded religion’s atmosphere in recent times, has become the highway to breeding enemies, as some go as far as using their pulpits to spew so much hate, creating division among brethren who supposedly are members of one body.

In our schools, in marketplaces, in various offices, men appear ever ready and willing to impose their individual philosophies on others without minding the cost.

We certainly do not know and cannot know everything about life, and so it’s unrealistic to universalise our own standards or experiences. Our respective standards are for ourselves alone and not necessarily for other people. And by humbly accepting this variety of human thoughts, beliefs and convictions, we stand the greater chance of making peace in our world.

Finally, tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all. English musician, Ray Davies said this and I love it!

 

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