Vox populi, vox Dei?

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Vox populi, vox Dei?
Bolanle Bolawole

By BOLANLE BOLAWOLE

 

“There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself. Every time I appoint someone to a vacant position, I make a hundred unhappy and one ungrateful. I am the state” – France’s King Louis XIV.

France’s Bourbons king, Louis XIV (Born: 5 September, 1638; Died: 1 September, 1715), also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, ascended to the throne in 1643 and reigned until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is said to be the longest of any French sovereign (he began to reign at the age of five). The statement “L’etat, c’est moi” literally meaning, “the State, it is me” credited to this king demonstrated that he and the other Bourbons kings ruled with absolute power and iron hand and saw the French nation as their personal property with everything and everyone at their beck and call.

Which was why, despite that the objective conditions for the French revolution of 1789 had long been noticed, and Louis the Great was warned, he spurned the warnings. It will hold during my time, he was quoted as saying, let my successors take care of themselves! He was both right and wrong! Louis XV (Born: 15 February 1710; Died: 10 May, 1774; reigned from 1 September, 1715 until his death) took care of himself but not so his own successor, Louis XVI!

On whose side is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu: On the people’s or their oppressors’? The same audacity that Tinubu displayed on the way to the presidency is needed now.

Although called “Louis the beloved” Louis XV died an unpopular king; discontentment and the signs of a revolution were thick in the air throughout his reign. Regardless, this king and his wife, Marie, had 10 children in 10 years (1727 – 1737). He was reputed to have consummated his marriage to his wife seven times on their wedding night! Who was there doing the counting, if I may ask!

Fate, sometimes, is cruel even as Maximilien Robespierre (‘the Incorruptible’), who presided over France’s Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794), has said that “Pity is treason”! Louis XVI, who was minded to accept some of the reforms proposed by the leaders of the French revolution, was the one who got consumed by the revolution. He was guillotined on 21 January, 1793 “in the 39th year of his age, at 22 minutes after 10 o’clock in the forenoon.”

When situations have got so bad, any leader who appears on the scene must make up his mind which side of the divide he wants to pitch his tent – whether on the side of the people or against them. And if on the side of the people, he must act fast, and decisively, too. No sitting on the fence! No half measures! Drum this into Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ears!

Another example that teaches this truth very clearly is Mikhail Gorbachev, the last effective leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Gorbachev bid his time as he climbed up the ladder. Once in the saddle, he announced his twin-policy of “glasnost” and “perestroika”. He wanted to make the Soviet society a little bit more open. He sought to give the people some liberty. But as he opened the door a little, a rush that he could not control swept him off his feet!

Revolutionary France will happen upon Nigeria if care is not taken! The objective conditions for a revolution are everywhere prevalent in Nigeria. Only the subjective conditions remain to be seen. And in the last few weeks we have seen food protests in Nigeria, which were similar to what happened in France when the peasants thronged the streets in their numbers chanting: “We are hungry, give us bread!”

On December 30 last year, Lagosians pelted Tinubu with cries of “Ebi n pa wa”. We are hungry, they chanted as the president’s long motorcade waltz its way through the crowd in downtown Lagos. An arrogant Queen Marie-Antoinette had mocked the French peasants, saying: “Let them eat cake”! The starving people that could not afford cheap bread were the ones the queen teased with expensive cake!

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Compare Marie-Antoinette’s obliviousness to the abject conditions and daily life of deprivation and penury of the French masses to the Nigerian Senate President, Godswill Akpabio’s insensitive and irresponsible “Let them breathe” response to the cry of Nigerians to their presumed representatives to take notice of the suffering in the land and act accordingly!

Ongoing food protests – were they spontaneous or sponsored? Even if they were sponsored, the prevailing conditions made that possible. No one can deny that the situation of things in the country has become unbearable, even for the middle class Nigerians, not to talk of the poor and the multidimensionally or desperately poor. If, on the other hand, the protests are spontaneous, then, it means Nigerians, ever so docile, are now stirring. And that is a warning signal for the government to act fast.

The mistake many are making is to think the problem is that of the president alone; it is not! State governors, local government chairpersons and the National Assembly members are all in the net together. There is no way an injury to the president will not affect these other fellows across the board. Even past presidents and governors; past National Assembly members, party leaders past and present should note how JJ Rawlings called some fellows out of retirement in Ghana to answer for their crime against the Fatherland. If Vox Populi is Vox Dei, then, let our leaders listen to the cries of the people and harken to the voice of God!

I see Tinubu in Gorbachev’s shoes. If he dithers, like the Soviet leader did, God help him! If he fiddles like king Nero did while Rome burned – like Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos was reported partying in one fairytale island while fire was on his roof – you can be sure he will come to certain grief. Nigeria’s situation is dire; it is long past the one that half measures can take care off. “Either this or that” is what is needed now.

The mistake many are making is to think the problem is that of the president alone; it is not! State governors, local government chairpersons and the National Assembly members are all in the net together.

On whose side is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu: On the people’s or their oppressors’? The same audacity that Tinubu displayed on the way to the presidency is needed now. He must call the same bulldozers into action. He has to step on toes now like he did then. Said Robespierre: “Audacity, more audacity and always audacity and France will be saved”. Yes, audacity, more audacity and unending audacity saved France. The same audacity is needed right now if Nigeria would be saved. Is Tinubu up to the task? Can this man rise above his well-known limitations and conquer his own foibles?

Let no one deceive you: This is no mean task. Says the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle: “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.” Tinubu conquered his many enemies on the way to receiving the APC presidential flag; he thereafter went ahead to defeat 17 opponents at the Saturday, February, 25, 2023 presidential election. Now, he is up against the fiercest enemy he will ever confront – his own self. Will he stumble at this hurdle? May he not! But should he, then…!

*Bolawole ([email protected] 0807 552 5533), former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of the Westerner newsmagazine. He writes the “ON THE LORD’S DAY” column in the Sunday Tribune and “TREASURES” column in the New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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