I always love to be on Twitter, that virtual planet where millions (or is it billions?) of people of different races, cultures, ages and religious orientations can get to meet and share opinions, ideas, friendship and even love.
To me, Twitter is more than just a social medium; it is a veritable human community, albeit with certain modal variations. However, being an undergraduate and, as of yet, not having a career in the deployment of new media, I do not usually possess the luxury to log on to Twitter consistently express my opinion at all times.
Due to my workload in school, I have to be away from the environment sometimes for days, weeks or, at times, even months. Needless to say though, I am always delighted to be back on.
On this note, I was happy to conclude exams in school about a week ago. I enthusiastically packed my belongings and vacated the hostel for home. I had looked forward to this long holiday, during which I had planned to, among other things, re-unite with the Twitter community.
My enthusiasm was doused, however, by the first news that greeted me upon my re-arrival: Japheth Omojuwa’s iPad, which got missing on an Arik-Air flight, has not been recovered yet; the thieving or lying Lanre (or both) is still at large and probably still enjoying life as an unqueried Arik employee; even the inculpated Arik-Air management has not thought it wise to do anything but take matters up against the dispossessed Japheth himself, preventing him from flying after he had booked a ticket, and even moving to sack the poor attendant that had initially checked him in.
Obviously, these developments would make one ask the clichéd question, “What kind of a country is this?” But it also led me to thinking about the greater ramifications of the whole drama – those possible dimensions and consequences that may go beyond the two parties involved in this particular case.
Firstly, the struggle between the individual and establishment (e.g. the state, institutions etc.), and the question of how they should interact, has been a major philosophical problem for ages before now. From the time of Socrates, philosophers and politicians have asked questions as to which is to be held as more important, the individual or the establishment.
Certain scholars have opined that the individual is more important, since his existence is prior to that of the establishment or state and, also, because establishments are run, in the end, by individuals. Some other scholars, on the other hand, maintain that in relation to the state or establishment, the individual has limited or no rights at all.
In an ideal and just society, a balance is usually sought and delicately maintained between the rights of individuals and those of establishments, with the facts and intricate details of particular cases determining to which side justice leans. But in a country like Nigeria, where establishment is synonymous with corruption and oppression, justice is perpetually clothed in the colours of the establishment – no matter what the facts may be.
Take the case of Omojuwa against Arik-Air for example. I am not someone that pretends to neutrality, but you need not be biased to see to which side all blame must be cast in this particular case. Or can it ever be thought a mistake for a passenger to travel with his personal belongings? Has the safety and security of airline cargos become too much to ask?
And, in the event of one’s item getting lost or stolen on an airliner, is it out of place for one to demand that it be found, or even that a replacement be made? Again, in a just society, all these questions would obviously be answered in the negative. In our Nigeria, however, where establishments dictate the tune, the answer to the above questions seems to be an oddly resonating YES!
In this matter, I see the conflation of an individual’s interest with our collective quest for probity and true justice. “The story of my iPad,” writes Japheth, “has since become the story of a generation’s quest for justice and justice or nothing.” I totally agree with him.
Victory for Arik in this case would mean yet another undeserved and unjust victory for the establishment over an individual, and this would, in turn, prepare the ground for the further oppression of more individuals – and whose turn would be next, you or me, nobody knows.
Unfortunately, by refusing to speak up and agitate for right, we lend our silent support to Arik, becoming accomplices of the establishment against our own selves, and joining that evil choir in singing a stentorian “YES!” to questions that should be answered in the negative.
Also, and very importantly too, Japheth Omojuwa is known as an activist and social critic, who does all that he can to better the lives of youths and the country in general. He has been involved in rescue missions and fundraising’s through which the lives of individuals with death-threatening diseases have been saved.
What becomes of us, when the people who fight for our collective justice and well-being are unable to get justice for themselves? I am reminded now of how the late Gani Fawehinmi was once brutally beaten at Yaba by security agents while onlookers, the same people whose interests he always sought to protect, kept a safety distance away.
The question I ask is, for this habit of neglecting our stalwarts of justice, truth and hope, is Nigeria not worse off? Whence cometh civil justice, when even the vanguard of our struggle is denied it?
The point is that we must begin to speak up. We must make a louder noise against the theft and rottenness that have come to characterize establishments like Arik, and against the bravado and the oppressive stunts with which they attempt to stifle agitation. Maybe this bigger picture – these larger ramifications to the matter that have been laid bare here – can shake us all out of our speechless inertia. Then, together, we can pronounce a resounding “NO!”