Politics is as old as time itself, and agitation is one of the techniques by which a preferred political outcome is influenced. Agitation goes hand in hand with propaganda, and these twin strategies are usually deployed with the aim to mobilize public opinion. Marxist Theorist, Georgy Plekhanov, who originally elaborated on both strategies, defined agitation as the promulgation of a single idea to a large mass of people, and propaganda as the promulgation of a number of ideas to an individual or small group. Agitators often use political slogans and half-truths to exploit the grievances of the public in order to mobilize their support, whereas, propagandists deploy historical and scientific arguments to indoctrinate the ‘informed’ segment of the populace.
Agitation can be a very potent weapon in the class struggle between the bourgeoise and the masses, and the louder the ‘noise’ from the agitators get, the more attention the ruling class pays. Agitation seeks to uncover hidden truths which should lead to the masses gaining common knowledge of particular events and their contradictions. This helps in building class consciousness across a broad spectrum of the populace. Mao, the Chinese Communist Revolutionary describes agitation as that process which leads to a gradual growth in the knowledge of individual and general events by the populace. He is of the opinion that when people attain the knowledge of this common essence, they use it as a guide to effect a common goal.
Since the return to the present democratic dispensation in 1999, every president has had to deal with one form of sectarian agitation or the other. Indeed, the outcome of the 1999 elections in itself was broadly seen as an attempt to placate a particular region for the annulment of what was widely perceived as the freest and fairest election in the history on Nigeria. The loudest of these agitations, however, have emanated from the South-South and the South-East regions. The South-South agitators have anchored their grievances around neglect of their region, which happens to be the cash cow of the federation, and continue to clamor for resource control, while the South-East agitators complain of marginalization, hence, the need to secede.
Do both regions have legit reasons to be aggrieved? Obviously. More so for the South-South. There has, however, been a curious trend in the use of agitation in Nigeria. We have seen many agitators emerge, only to abandon the struggle once their nests have been feathered, with the problems left unsolved, and leaving behind wanton destruction, tears and blood of the gullible masses that were enrolled as their foot soldiers.
Ironically, these grievances are usually directed at the Federal Government, whereas, their State and Local governments, which are just next door, are left undisturbed to continue squandering their commonwealth. Charity, they say, begins at home. The proceeds from the federation account is a split of 52% and 48% between the Federal government on the one hand, and the States and Local governments on the other. More than 70% of the roads in the States are the responsibilities of the State and Local governments, so are most of the healthcare and educational facilities. This suggests that by the time we hold the States and Local governments accountable, more than 70% of those needs would have been met. Will I be right to assume these infrastructures have been developed to global standards in our localities is why our agitations don’t start from our backyards? Or does corruption become a sin only when those at the center are not from our region?
Although Nigeria could be said to have many fault lines, the problem has never been the north, south, west or east divide, neither is it the Christian/Muslim dichotomy. The same injustice perpetrated in the north to fellow northerners by their brethren, is visited upon the easterners in the east by their own kith and kin. The poverty engendered by leaders of western extraction in the west, is also fostered in the south by the southern leaders. Corruption has no creed or tribe, and incompetence has no quota system. Let us shun the agitations of greed, and collectively hold our leaders accountable. Although there can be joy in individual victories, true fulfillment can only be achieved through communal successes. It is time to eschew greed-laced sectarian agitations and embrace the synergy that our differences can stimulate as we strive towards an equitable society.
Olugbenga A. Olufeagba