It is popular geopolitics because an assemblage of transnational activists are using a platform of popular culture – The New York Times – to narrate leadership and governance in a particular part of the world outside the metropolitan discursive space. In this case, intellectuals, politicians, artists of different engagements, environmentalists, philosophers and campaigners are putting up a narrative fix to the human rights implications of state response to the #EndSARS protest last October. But the transnational activists constitute just one of the pressure points.
Apart from theirs, the British Parliament recently threatened selective sanctions. And before that could melt away, Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, (ICC) came out with a list of infractions for which Nigerian security forces are to be investigated along with Boko Haram.
It is nearly fruitless to be found on the opposite side of the ICC on matters of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, being a normative global actor. Although African leaders have indicated their discomfort with the ICC innovation, it remains a powerful norm entrepreneur, being basically a creation of global civil society.
Now, the ICC is seeking the co-operation of the Nigerian government to move towards proving claims of sexual slavery, hostage taking, murder, torture, rape, child soldier recruitment.
On the surface, these are mostly crimes that Boko Haram are liable but who knows who has gathered evidence that could also implicate Nigerian security forces in the trial process? Not when players such as Amnesty International, (AI) which was part of the coalition that pushed for it are already hailing the announcement.
To make matters worse, there is no let up in the domestic security situation. Zabarmari massacre which some domestic platforms such as the ‘Concerned Nigerians’ say should be the redline is being surpassed by a recruitment move by kidnapping over 300 students from a secondary school in Katsina State. If not rescued through a military operation, then that is a whooping new fighting force for Boko Haram or a huge ransom payment to bandits. Unlike the girls who were needed for comfort purposes, these boys will certainly be worked on quickly to become operatives, turning their gun on the society.
Meanwhile, the assemblage of transnational activists under the name ‘Diaspora Rising’ is pushing their own stuff in a one-page advertorial in the December 10th, 2020 edition of The New York Times. With notable names such as Angela Davis; Naomi Klein; Ilhan Omar; Angelique Kidjo; Greta Thunberg; Alicia Keys; Opal Tometi; Aja Monet; Kumi Naidoo out of the 60 that signed the advertorial, it is the power of voice that is unfolding. It is there in the sort of actors they have enlisted, each of whom are sensitive to the agenda setting capacity of transnational activist networks in global politics. On the list are G20 Nigerian ambassadors, that of Nigeria to the US, the Chairpersons of the African Union and of the ECOWAS. In spite of decline in newspaper sales, The New York Times still sells nearly a million in hard copies. It must be in several millions for the online version.
Their own concern is against the Lekki shooting in the wake of the #EndSARS protest that rocked Nigeria last October which they argue, “has exponential implications for the continent and the African diaspora”.
Lekki shooting, they also said, was unwarranted force against unarmed citizens and for which they indict President Buhari whom they say should know that he assumes a leadership role on the global stage because he is the president of Nigeria, referring to her as “… a major power house for the continent of Africa”.
They are asking the president to release all detainees concerning the #EndSARS protest, hold all security personnel and actors to account, permit transparent investigation by independent human rights monitors and lift ban on the right to protest.
At this level, the narrative of the transnational activists and that of the Nigerian government differs widely. At stake is thus the making of a plausible clash between coercive power and discursive power. In the post Cold War, discursive power has rarely lost out to coercive power. The question is whether Nigeria will be an exception.
With such emotively evocative references to Nigeria “as the world’s most populous Black republic”, “major powerhouse for the continent of Africa” and the declaration that “Nigeria Matters”, the campaigners seems to be confirming an earlier analysis that in matters of Nigeria’s survival or future, broadly, “the global civil society – is sure to… intervene from the point of view of emancipatory politics in global justice”.
The global civil society here is defined in the said write up as “powerful amplifiers, stretching from thinkers, writers, philosophers, models, First Ladies, musicians, vocal international personalities, the anti-globalisation actors, the anti-war movement, the Occupy Movement, the Boycott campaigners, the anti-debt coalitions and sundry activists already on the barricades”.
Under five months from the date of publication, the prediction has acted somehow like a call to action, confirming an even much earlier analysis crediting popular geopolitics with emancipatory potentials in Africa.
Nigeria may be the envy of certain global actors which seeks its immersion in instability but it is also one country with immense stock of solidarity. The country’s problem may appear to be that it is permanently at war with itself as to be incapable of getting out of the entrapment in the colonial narrative of the impossibility of the best in Nigeria even as the worst never happens.
The question today is whether the kind of people capable of the kind of deliberate political arithmetic that can restore the nation are still at work for Nigeria.