By Ayodele Adio
“I am she who is called Pelewura…. . I will not starve in the country I was born in. “ – Alimotu Pelewura (1938).
IN 1940 a food control price scheme was designed by the commissioner in Lagos Captain AP Pullen, which soon became popularly known as the Pullen Scheme. It was aimed at controlling where food could be sold, who could sell and at what price it could be sold in other to create an advantage for the European merchants at the detriment of local market women. These local women saw their profits eroded by this scheme and were taxed further by the colonial government. The Alaga of Ereko market, Alimotu Pelewura, would have none of it. She went round educating market women of their rights and with the help of the Iyalode of Lagos, Rabiatu Alaso Oke, they led series of massive protests, closed down the markets at intervals, signed several petitions and on the 18th of December 1940, at the Glover hall on customs street, the government reluctantly backed down from the tax collection. A group of uneducated market women, led by the fearless and formidable Pelewura had scored a huge point against an oppressive colonial government.
It takes a people who know exactly what they want to turn around the fortunes of their country. In our case however, we have continually expended time and resources in oiling the “it’s our turn to rule” machine rather than what needs to be done. In forward thinking societies it is the “what” that produces the “who” and not the other way round. If we are desirous of any meaningful progress we must take off the scales of mediocrity and nepotism from our eyes and deeply reflect on our journey thus far as a country. If perhaps this reflection (and I strongly believe it would) brings us to the ultimate realisation that we have failed ourselves not for lack of opportunity or potential but from a chronic sense of negligence, non-challance and a complete disdain for discipline , then we must, out of relative obscurity, resolve to rescue our future.
The mission to rescue our nation is not another futile effort in search of a political Messiah, it is infact a clarion call to citizens leadership and a sense of complete ownership of our dear nation.
We are where we are today not just because a privileged few have stolen our collective wealth and mismanaged our resources but largely because we all have been Co conspirators with our damning silence. We cheered them on even when we could not explain their sudden rise to wealth. Some of us gave them highly revered titles in our villages, universities showered them with honorary degrees, churches gave them front row seats and our royals gave out their daughters in marriage . We all are guilty!!
I believe we have a chance to redeem ourselves and nation from the sorry mess it is today but we must act now, collectively and decisively. We must be fully persuaded that we deserve more than we have got thus far. We must decide within ourselves that we no longer want to raise donations to get healthcare for our loved ones. That we no longer have to fly our kids to neighbouring countries to get a decent education. That we no longer want to fast and pray just to embark on a journey from Lagos to Ibadan. That we no longer want wheel barrows for our youth as economic empowerment life lines. That we are sick of the noise, pollution and over head costs of running generators. That what we want is not a perfect system but a system that works.
It took the irrepressible citizens of South Korea who felt cheated by their president Park Geun -hye thereby demanding for her impeachment and prosecution. She is currently facing trial after being impeached. Only a couple of months ago, the Romanian government passed a law that was seen to encourage corrupt practices in government , the people responded by taking to the streets in a mother of all strikes which saw the government retrace its steps. Whether it’s in Brazil, South Korea or Romania, citizens collective actions have constantly reminded people in government who their true employers are.
Enough of this “sit-down look syndrome “ because as Charley Boy has constantly yelled, “Our mumu don do “. In the words of Hilary Clinton :”….the fight isn’t over yet, we will have to push back on bad ideas and embrace good ones but we are reminded today that there is no substitute for standing up and defending our values”