It is so well put that it strikes a chord: “In a country where “those who are least deserving get the loudest accolades” while “some who are deserving get their recognition after their death”, Testimony to Courage is evidence that the supplication for civic canonization does not always have to await earthly mortality”. These lines are from Dr. Chidi Odinkalu’s review of the book of that title in honour of Dapo Olorunyomi at Abuja Monday May 27th, 2019. They provide a part of the philosophical grounding for recognizing and celebrating icons of the ideological, moral and organizational accomplishments of Generation Radical in a struggle for a national democratic transformation as has been done in the case of Dapo Olorunyomi with the book in question.
There is another equally good argument for that ‘show of strength’. The period from 1994 to date has seen members of Generation Radical watch all the sacrifices, the heroism and other accomplishments in that struggle unravel before their own eyes and in a manner they could do almost nothing about. A combination of the rise of neoliberal globalisation; June 12 and the methodological challenge to Enlightenment conception of truth or meaning administered too many severe blows on the radical project in Nigeria. But, even in this Interregnum – this dumb period in which the slow death of the old order is manifest but the tablets of the new order are still not available – Generation Radical has continued to expand with success stories.
Other than Olorunyomi whose recognition came up in the book form, Professor Attahiru Jega went on to apply a technological fix to election management that left antediluvian politicians high and dry for once. That is one such success story. In that circuit can equally be found Professor Abubakar Momoh with particular reference to the model way he ran The Electoral Institute, (TEI) of which he was the DG before his death yesterday in 2017. Although it has had to swim in the turbulence of the times, Media Trust, for instance, drank from the radical inspiration. There are a number of NGOs that are pursuing agenda that can be said to be substantially informed by radical consciousness. In spite of the manner of his emergence and the horrible conduct of the election that brought him to power, Umaru Yar’Adua was a conscious member of Generation Radical. Only a product of that consciousness could publicly acknowledge he was a product of a flawed election and then move to reposition the process.
The big question, however, is whether Generation Radical can still fulfil the speculation that unless one member of that generation climbs Nigeria’s apex political power, Nigeria can never go anywhere. That is, Nigeria is waiting for a full blooded product of that grooming to be in power before it can ever experience a transformative leap. Whatever informs such perception would not be unconnected with Generation Radical’s pedigree in teaching Nigeria how to combat anti-democratic traditions of rule. What it inaugurated through the agitations of students, women, professional associations and youth culminated in the retreat of the military in a manner that could not privilege October 1st as departure day, thereby landing Nigeria on a strange date of May 29th, a date from nowhere in terms of any message of historical worth.
This is not to forget areas of strategic errors and terrible moments such as the implosions that started in the late 1980s – the organised splits in the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) before the ones in every major platform subsequently – Women in Nigeria, (WIN); Campaign for Democracy, (CD) and then the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS) in 1994. Opinions will remain divided on why the implosions were occurring virtually at the same time but Comrade Chima Ubani provided what is probably unsurpassed in that regard. In the aftermath of the forceful take-over of NANS National leadership by those derisively called ‘the Sergeant Does of NANS’, the Naseer Kura team headed for Lagos from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife where the convention took place determined to deny the ‘successor’ regime legitimacy by addressing a world press conference. Chima’s argument was that no such press conference was needed because it would amount to playing the government script. What a press conference would do, he said, would be to let ‘them’ hear that there had been a split in NANS at last. The point, said Chima, was that the right wing had discovered its strength, a statement which could be taken as meaning that ‘the Sergeant Does’ were aware of terrible weaknesses with the leading force in NANS. Very, very unfortunately, that sort of statement could be heard from only three leaders of the NANS establishment at that time: Chima, the late Bamidele Aturu and a comrade who has now become a professional politician. The Secretariat report which made this the core of its submissions was torn to pieces and described as a tendentious manoeuver.
Testimony to Courage can be taken as the current phase of a historical inclination of Generation Radical to turn on itself, look back to be sure of what it set out to do, what it eventually did, who emerged the heroes and models, what the turning points were, what have been the most serious errors and how renewal might be confronted. It is interesting that an earlier one bore a very similar title, Homage to Courage. That was in respect of Comrade John Odah in 2010. Like the May 27th, 2019 ‘show of strength’, 2010 was also remarkable in the bewildering diversity of voices heard at the occasion even as all such voices were, theoretically speaking, operating from the overarching lens of radical democracy and the praxis corresponding to it.
But, what do all these point to at a time of restless remaking of the world by a global system which takes power very seriously, especially the great deal of power that informationalization and virtuality. have placed before it?