By Bayo Oluwasanmi
Femi Adesina, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity described the #RevolutionNow protests that took place last week in different parts of the country as mere child’s play and an irritation.
“Well, was it really a protest? By my estimation, it just seemed like a child’s play because protests by their very nature are spontaneous things, mass things, “…What happened yesterday, would you call it a revolution? It was just an irritation…” says Adesina. Adesina doesn’t know what protest is. A protest is an event or action where people come together to publicly express their opinions about socioeconomic and political issues in the society.
It is not the size of a protest that matters, but the substance of the message of the protesters. Research by economists from Harvard University and Stockholm University finds that “Protest does not work because big crowds send a signal to policy-makers – rather, it’s because protests get people politically activated.” Throughout history, small groups that are loosely connected but united by a shared purpose and vision have led to transformational change. Protests have played important roles in these small groups. Protests amplify the ability of ordinary citizens to make their objections and disapproval known loud and clear to a dictator like General Buhari.
Adesina goofed on purpose and power of protests. Women’s suffrage and civil rights in the US, Indian independence, the colour revolutions in Eastern Europe, and the Arab Spring to mention but few, are examples of “irritants” banding together and overthrowing the powerful. Contrary to Adesina’s belief, it is not a pre-requisite that 200 million Nigerians must take part in a protest before it is called a purposeful protest, or a revolution. Rather, as we have been informed by history of protests, “A protest has power insofar as it signals the underlying capacity of the forces it represents.”
As George Orwell queried: “Why do otherwise rational people embrace irrational or even contradictory beliefs about politics?” Why would Adesina denigrate protesters and deride the #RevolutionNow protest? The purpose and power of protests cannot and should not be trivialized. Protests influence public opinion, draw attention to and share information about a perceived injustice, gain a wide audience for the cause, push public policy, or legislation forward.
#RevolutionNow protests have raised awareness about the evils of General Buhari’s tyrannical regime. The protests have fundamentally altered the way Nigerians see Buhari and the way Nigerians think. Indeed, overwhelming Nigerians now believe Buhari’s government is despotic, corrupt, wicked, insensitive, nepotistic, and clueless. The overarching purpose of protests is to demand change. To this extent, #RevolutionNow has been a success.
Adesina fails to realise that protest is a thesaurus of change and a gold mine of revolution. I cannot stress it enough that it will be wiser for Adesina to learn more from those he disagrees with than from those he agrees with. The revolution is just getting started!