So called democratically elected leaders in sub saharan Africa are still taunting their hard pressed subjects after pushing them to the wall.

Arab Spring: Will it move south?

By Abdulrazaq Magaji,

Abuja, Nigeria.

Never underestimate children. I don’t. And that was why I felt a bit unsettled by a rather simple  question from a nine year old African girl recently. The girl wanted to know whether all she had been watching on Aljazeera could happen in her home country, Nigeria. I knew what she was talking about especially since she made reference to what she had been watching on Aljazeera. Yes, the first anniversary of the Arab Spring, a spring that has forced many Arabs, young and old, man and woman onto the streets, was celebrated recently. At the time she asked the question, the Egyptians were on the move again, this time, to demand an end to military rule and an accelerated move toward participatory democracy.

 I wanted to know whether my young interrogator was concerned with how policemen relived a real police state by the way they pounced on unarmed protesters as we all watched on television or was my interrogator more concerned with those death defying young and not too young people who trooped out in their thousands to hold their government to account. I think she realized I was buying time or feigning ignorance. ‘Both’, she shot back impatiently. ‘Well’, I started off, unsure where to begin from. ‘If you are talking about police brutality, it happens everywhere and anywhere.’ She nodded in what I took to be an acceptance of my position. She  even went on to say she watched, again on Aljazeera, American policemen spraying pepper on students at one American university campus.

Now to the second and, seemingly trickish part of the question: can people in her home country, Nigeria, feel the need to defy death and take to the streets to hold their leaders to account! What manner of answer do you give a nine year old on this controversial question? Especially if that nine year old turns out to be your normally inquisitive daughter? I realized there was need for moderation. ‘Well’, I started off again. ‘Forget it because the chances are rather slim.’ From the expression on her face, it was clear she did not believe me; I saw from her expression that she was going to protest. And though I was interested in her topic, I did not feel the need to show undue enthusiasm. The next question was natural: What makes the chances slim here? This time, I was prepared. ‘Because Black Africans, especially Nigerians, do not see the need to die for a cause they believe in. They may murmur and insinuate and complain but at the end of the day, you are not likely going to see them on the streets to protest bad government policies.’

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