Why I can’t be bothered to wish Nigeria a Happy 54th Independence Anniversary.

For the first time since I can remember, i cannot be bothered to wish Nigeria a Happy Independence anniversary. The sad part is that I feel 385935_186228838142571_185630604869061_319047_711932141_nindifferent about it. I am not angry, I am not excited, I am just indifferent. Am I finally bereft of any emotion for my once beloved country, Nigeria?

Too much is wrong with Nigeria and its people for me to care about whether it breaks up or stay together as one ignoramus, corrupt entity. The one thing i now only care about is our shared humanity. I hope no innocent lives will be further lost in whatever determines or is determining the present and future of Nigeria.

To think i once inhaled tear-gas, faced bullets and was ready to die for that country!  However, I take solace in the knowledge that my actions were not really for the country but motivated by my strong belief in inalienable human rights.

I marched on the streets and confronted the military junta because I believed and still believe in the right to determine who represent me in the seat of power as a Nigerian via the ballot box and not through military coups.

As a student union leader, in the face of oppression, detentions, and suspensions, I stood my ground to speak out against hike in school fees, cultism, and access to education for all. I remember vividly holding a fellow comrade in my hand right outside my university gate as he bled to death after being shot at by armed soldiers deplored to stop031 ftb resized

a peaceful pro-democracy protest . For years, I felt the rage surged through me whenever those politicians who are now the beneficiaries of our struggle for democracy make yet another law to thwart everything we stood for as young revolutionary Nigerians who were ready to pay the ultimate price for a democratic Nigeria.

In 1998 when I had a serious run in with the then Military Vice president of Nigeria, Late Rear Admiral Mike Akhigbe. I penned a letter from the detention cell to my comrades. A few years later, I was surprised to see the contents of the letter online, where it was used to ask for donation for legal funds. I was not even aware there was an appeal for a fund in my name! Revered Nigerian human rights lawyer and social crusader, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi represented me without charging a penny. He was away in America when he saw the news of the arrest and even though he never knew me, from the details he knew my life was in danger. Like a true human right activist, he flew to Nigeria and set in motion, free of charge, a  legal case for me that led to my release. Before I met him, he was one of my inspiration for venturing into human rights law and in death, he still is. Even though he was much loved by Nigerians and seen as a symbol of human rights, justice, anti-corruption and progress, he could not get Nigerians to support his political ambition to serve as president.

I wondered what happened to the legal fund that was raised in my name, but when I asked my socialist comrades who must have released the letter and made the international contacts, I was told to “Just forget about that”. How are we supposed to effect change as socialists when we have such corruption and lack of transparency within our midst? I still have my socialist ideals but I am no longer a fan of groups, especially Nigerian groups under whatever ideology they come under.

Here is a link to the appeal and below is the letter as posted online-

“The following is a note smuggled out of the detention centre:

“Cell 2,



I appreciate the efforts you are making outside. This regime must be put to shame, people must be made to understand that a military regime will always be a military regime, an aberration, whether it be an Abacha or an Abubakar regime. It must not be trusted. The DPP (department of public prosecution) and some commissioners that the students went to see on our behalf asked them if I am mad or smoke Igbo (Indian hemp), they feel that is the thing that could have given me the audacity to challenge Akhigbe and his cohorts to their faces. They have forgotten that I have Justice by my side and I shall not be cowed, broken, or intimidated, they can arrest and imprison the physical body but they cannot do the same to the spirit.

The stupid goats have already started the Omole'(OAU Vice chancellor) trend, saying we should write a letter of apology to them before we are released. Well I have told them that I’d rather die in detention than apologise to the bastards, I wish I was there to tell them to their faces.

This regime has already laid the foundation for its defeat and we use their disadvantage to our advantage. Agitation must continue and it must be intensified. I intend to sue the CGS, CP and others for assault and battery, attempted murder, defamation of character, sexual harassment, public disgrace and embarrassment. Their brutality on me was filmed by some media houses, Channels, AIT, DBN, TNT had a good picture of it on the front page of one of its editions. Please try to get those things, they are vital evidence against this regime. And try to put things in motion through a lawyer. I promised Akhigbe to his face that I will fine him and I intend to carry out that promise. We will discuss better when we meet. We shall overcome. Yours truly.


Yemisi Ilesanmi”

Hmm. I can definitely say I don’t regret standing up for human rights all my life. I am just glad i never hinged my passion or commitment on hero worship but on ideals, i believed and still believe in. If i knew what i know now about most of my comrades and the ‘Nigeria factor’, I probably would be more careful.  Moreover, the struggle continues.

As a trade unionist, I inhaled tear-gas and marched on the streets for workers’ rights, decent wages, and good governance.

As a national officer of a National Party, Labour Party formerly known as Party for Social democracy, I worked and campaigned hard to have the party registered, recognised, and accepted by workers. Even senior trade union leaders were sceptical about the chances of the Labour party ever taking off. They were busy opportunistically jumping on other political platforms to fulfil their selfish political ambitions because the labour party was too poor to line their corrupt pockets with gold.

As a sexual minority, I made my voice and still make my voice loud and clear against discrimination and oppression of Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.

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As i look back on all these, I cannot even bring myself to be angry at the utter failure the country has become.I have since stopped shedding tears when I remember all the comrades we lost in battle for a better Nigeria and how the vultures are feeding on the struggle of our heroes’ past.

I am not proud to be a Nigerian. I am also not embarrassed to be a Nigerian. I am a Nigerian by virtue of my place of birth and parental lineage.

First and foremost, I am a human being. I am an earthling.  I will defend my human rights wherever I find myself on the face of planet earth.

I definitely won’t take up arms to fight for any misplaced national pride or flag. However, I will definitely do whatever I can to defend my inalienable human rights, no matter whose country or ox is gored.

I do not think there will be another civil war in Nigeria. Nigerians are just too corrupt and selfish to fight for anything other than their own private pockets and selfish interests.

I look at some former student union leaders who are now in a position of power today as governors, lawmakers, or special advisers to igovernment officials, many of them are now part and parcel of the corrupt system. Many are now puppets and paid mouthpiece to the very corrupt old politicians who ordered the killings of many of our comrades during our many student union protests for a better Nigeria. They have now assimilated the very thing they fought against as student union leaders and trade union comrades.

I look at my fellow socialists who are busy breaking up and forming yet another socialist party, many of them are contented to keep mouthing irrelevant jargon that they cannot apply to their immediate situation. It is like a battle of who can best quote Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

A look at the Labour party could have brought me to tears but not anymore. I remember when the party was just a small office in a small room at the Nigerian Labour Congress. A few of us laboured to keep it relevant. I even collaborated with some international comrades to provide materials for a Research book titled The Failure of Nigeria’s Labour Party, with the hope that by drawing on experiences from countries with strong workers political parties, we can move the labour party forward. I remember how fellow trade union leaders and comrades would crack jokes at my expense during meetings and call me labour party crusader as a taunt. Now, the labour party occupies a big building, with a two-term governor to its name and a few lawmakers. However, it is now a party I can’t bring myself to identify with. The Labour party as it is now is certainly not the party to save Nigeria from its many woes.

The famed ‘Nigerian Factor’ has permeated every facet of Nigerian communities and groups that we could have found succour in. The labour movement, the trade unions, the student movement, the lgbt community, the atheist /agnostic freethinker community are all riddled with the ‘Nigerian factor’. Corruption, Religion, Ethnic rivalry, Nepotism, and selfish interest are some of the many woes preventing any major positive change in Nigeria.

The young ones are disillusioned; the middle-aged ones are still struggling to find their feet while the elders have learned a bitter lesson, albeit too late. Nigerians, be they young, middle aged, old, man or woman, now know one important thing; Life in Nigeria is not about survival of the fittest, it is survival of the cunniest.

Being a hypocrite is an integral part of survival in Nigeria. It is what keeps the country running in a retrogressive direction. You run along with the crowd and maybe together you will all collapse as one Nigeria or you run against the crowd and know you are not running as a Nigerian but as a cast off who takes solace in the fact that you are still human. It is a lonely journey to run against the tide, but it is not impossible.

There are no heroes anywhere. You can only be your own hero. You can try to ensure your own survival with or without principles. An attempt to be a Nigerian hero would make you the laughing stock of not just the oppressors but also the oppressed you are trying to save.

I remain a Nigerian. No one can take this birth right away from me.YEMMY IN JAPAN

Nigerian corrupt politicians cannot deprive me of my birth right.

Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic Nigerians do not have more right to Nigeria than I do.

Nigerian belongs to all Nigerians. Therefore, even if I do not care about what becomes of it, as long as I am still a Nigerian and there is still a Nigeria, I will continue to fight for my human rights as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria. I will continue to oppose any law that deprive any Nigerian of any inalienable human rights that Nigeria is a signatory too.

In addition, I reserve the right to wish or not wish Nigeria a Happy 54th Independence Anniversary.

BTW, Happy 54th independence anniversary, Nigeria.

Related links-

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  1. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Meggamat-Yeah, you are right, political structure wax and wane, principles on the other hand can last forever. 🙂

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