Over the past week, there has been a resounding clamour for some form of a reactive and compelling protest in the similitude of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Spontaneous suggestions like ‘Occupy Nigeria’, ‘Occupy National Assembly’ and ‘Occupy Abuja’ have been posited on Nigerian social media platforms. To be or not to be?
‘Occupy Wall Street’ has been described as a series of ongoing protest demonstrations originating in New York City. These protests kicked off on Sept 17, 2011 and by Oct 9, had spread to about 70 cities all over the world. The protesters, self-named as ‘the 99 percent’ have taken to the streets to publicly declare a fight against all forms of economic inequality, corporate greed and the absence of evident justice post the global financial crisis. Initially triggered in July 2011 by Adbusters, a Canadian based group, the concept was to actualise a peaceful occupation of Wall Street in protest. It is seen here there was a trigger, the sense of a tipping point – “….there was a feeling that, ‘wow things are going to change’….we are going to take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice…among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…Now, we’re despondent again”, said Kalle Lasn Founder and Editor of Adbusters.
Anyone familiar with the current Nigerian political and economic landscape certainly will perceive obvious similarity in that last statement. For many, at some point, there was the infinitesimal hope for justice to be meted out and corruption tackled squarely, a silent prayer for fiscal prudence and cuts in government overheads, a hope for transparency and accountability, a longing desire to see the implementation of campaign promises. For Nigerians, it becomes almost apt to conclude this with the same phrase “among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…now, we’re despondent again”. Does the similarity of triggers then justify or guarantee a prediction of similar responses?
The Nigerian psyche so far reflects certain features including brevity of memory, especially in the face of transient gratification. Does it not appear as though the average Nigerian, triggered by similar inequalities and injustice, complains and protests for ALL till he gets reprieve for self? Once reprieve is obtained, via that juicy contract or influential office position in Abuja, Port Harcourt or Lagos, it becomes as though the neo-activist within activates an auto system shut down, forgetting ongoing societal and economic issues. In other matters in this regard, what trend do we observe with the cases of the ongoing trial of Hon. Bankole, the alleged injustice to Justice Salami, the ABSU gang rape video? The Nigerian psyche agitates momentarily, then moves on swiftly, relegating past issues to oblivion.
Further examining the Nigerian psyche in the light of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gives the vivid impression that many or perhaps most Nigerians are at the lower layers of the pyramid, with their foci transfixed on meeting the basic needs of life, what Maslow described as deficiency needs – food, water, power supply, security in all forms, health, friendship and family. Maslow’s pyramid suggests appropriately that unless these basic needs are met, people rarely focus on ‘Being’ needs – self actualisation, self esteem, achievements and problem solving. Drawing inferences, people whose daily attention is totally drawn into meeting basic/deficiency needs will have little or no motivation to ascend to levels of societal or economic problem solving. So, it is very likely that the average Nigerian will devote his energies to provide a roof for his family, ensure a steady supply of water, alternative or backup power supply system, and some form of home and communal security. A nation filled with many of such does not appear to present a compelling cause for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ type protests. Why? People are overwhelmed with struggles to meet basic needs, why should they endanger themselves? They hustle, longing for future prospects, and that breakthrough moment, which will make life much better for them, positioning them above the struggle line. Such individuals are more likely to be engrossed in an ‘occupation’ than the thought of ‘Occupy Abuja’.
These factors that characterize the Nigerian psyche (brevity of memory and the encumbrance of basic needs) portend to be potential terminators to the possibility of an ‘Occupy’ protest happening here.
The antithesis to this reasoning will be to prove and demonstrate clearly that a Nigerian tipping point has been reached. Each time a national event or change seems to suggest such, the pre-occupation with basic needs and the brevity of memory surmount the challenge, fuelling the resilient nature of Nigerians. Is there currently a cause, strong enough, as the transference of presidential powers to Goodluck Jonathan in March 2010, to guarantee another ‘Enough is Enough’ march?