Why Silence is Not Golden: Questioning Power to Forge a Better Nigeria
By Ahmad H. Ahmad, Dept. of Sociology,
Nigeria, our dear and beloved nation, stands once again at a crossroads. Since the return to democracy in 1999, we’ve grappled with an insidious disease; endemic corruption that has rode through successive administrations, leaving many wondering, “Is this all there is?” As an academic, entrusted with the power of knowledge and the voice to articulate it, I refuse to accept this bleak reality. To truly break free from the shackles of injustice, we must reclaim our inherent right, nay, our natural responsibility to question.
As Claude Ake poignantly noted in his seminal work, “Political Economy of Nigeria,” it is sheer stupidity for a people to passively accept infringements on their liberty and well-being. Our silence and apathy, becomes fertile ground for the seeds of corruption and other infractions to flourish. We cannot be bystanders and mere spectators in the play of power, where our livelihoods and futures hang in the balance. Our history echoes with the voices of those who dared to ask important national questions not minding consequences: Mallam Aminu Kano, Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Fela Kuti, Yusuf Bala Usman, and of course Attahiru Jega (still standing). These were giants who stood tall against tyranny and demanded accountability. Today, their mantle falls upon us, the ordinary citizens, the academics; the accidental and the authentic alike.
Silence empowers the oppressor. It shields the corrupt from scrutiny, leaving them free to plunder our national patrimony with impunity. But remember, as Karl Marx so aptly stated, we are the masters of our fate and the architects of our own destiny. Our collective voice, wielded through thoughtful questions and relentless pursuit of answers, can be the chisel that carves a new path for Nigeria. In the words of Late Chief Bola Ige “the ineptitudes and ostentatious life of the political class is an invitation to violence that must be put to scrutiny. Let us question the opulence flaunted by officials while many wake and sleep hungry, when our hospitals lack basic supplies. Let us question the opaque contracts that siphon away resources meant for education and infrastructure. Let us question the convenient amnesia of those who promised change but presided over a system they once condemned.
Dear Nigerians, questioning authority might seem daunting, but remember, ignorance is not bliss. It is, in fact, the accomplice of corruption. Equipping ourselves with knowledge, understanding the intricate web of power dynamics, and analyzing government policies with a critical eye are essential steps. Social media platforms, public forums, and community dialogues can amplify our voices, creating a symphony of dissent that cannot be easily ignored.
Whenever I have the opportunity, I always acknowledge the existence of “accidental academics,” those who hold the title but not the spirit of inquiry. Their silence might be deafening, but it should not deter us. Let their inaction be a stark reminder of the responsibility we must shoulder as the torchbearers of knowledge. The road ahead will be challenging. There will be attempts to silence us, to discredit our questions, and to paint us as troublemakers. But we must persevere, for the sake of our children, for the future of our nation. Remember, freedom is not a gift; it is a conquest. Let us raise our voices, ask the tough questions, and demand answers. Let us be the architects of a Nigeria where silence is not tolerated, where corruption trembles under the spotlight of our collective inquiry. Only then can we truly claim to be a people free, a nation liberated.
As an academic, I put forth this piece not with pronouncements of absolute truth, but with a call to action. We must reclaim our voices, our right to question, to scrutinize, and to demand better. We must break the shackles of silence and build a society where dissent is not ostracized, but celebrated as the cornerstone of progress. This is not just a call to action; it is a call to conscience. Let us rise, together, and write a new chapter in the Nigerian story, a chapter where the ink is the power of our questions, and the paper, the foundation of a just and equitable society.
The time for voracious silence is over. The time for voracious questioning is now.