It will be very appropriate if the Save Nigeria Groups, various opposition groups/parties in Nigeria could undertake a study of masses mobilization method used by the Thai’s opposition groups (the red shirts). I am not saying that pro Nigerian groups/ Save Nigeria Groups have not tried. They have done very well. But the prolong protest methods of Thai people usually send strong messages both to the international community and their national government. This is a tool the ordinary people of Thailand uses very well. This approach (prolong protest method), and the techniques of mobilizing about 100,000 people and keeping them together for days deserves a proper study.
Nigerian authorities (the government and the Nigerian Security Services) also need to learn lessons from Thailand which has merited the title of; Protest Capital of The Third World Countries. In the just concluded Thai protest, their police never fired a single bullet, even though they had to contend with about 100,000 demonstrators in the capital city Bangkok. On our part, I have to commend the Nigerian Police for their orderly manner during the various Save Nigeria Group(s) protest marches. We know what the Nigerian Police used to be like in the past. As a matter of fact, the (Nigerian Police Force) complicity in a public protest, led to the death of former Senate President (Dr Chuba Okadigbo). But can the Nigerian Police Force behave in an orderly manner if about 100,000 Nigerians come out to protest and make serious noise?
Thai politics and especially their opposition protest(s) marches (the opposition groups known as the red shirts, due to the red colour of the shirts worn by them) attracts global attention each time the protesters go to the streets. Some journalist(s) have nicknamed the red shirts as the red army. Politics in Thailand is represented by colours or its colour coded. The opposition groups who support their former Prime Minister (Thaksin Shinawatra) usually wear red shirts, whereas the supporters of the current Prime Minister (Abhisit Vejjajiva) wear yellow shirts. Protest marches by both the yellow shirts and the red shirts can both be very interesting. I have no single doubt, that political awareness among Thai people is very high. Most of Thai people have truly realized that power belongs to them.
Starting from March 12th 2009, when the last protest march was being held by the red shirts (opposition groups), about 100,000 people gathered in Bangkok from various parts of Thailand. The protesters came by buses, trucks, tractors, boats, motorcycles etc to the capital (Bangkok). The red shirts wanted to force the government to hold elections. Greater majority of the red shirts that came for the protest march were poor people and farmers who desired change. The protesters went beyond the protest march to shed their own blood. Thousands lined up at medical tents where nurses collected their blood which they spilled on the gates of the Thai government house, official residence and office complex of their Prime Minister.
What amazes me is the fact that Thai is a third world country like ours but very active when it comes to protests. Their various protest marches is like a volcano. In 2008, the yellow shirts (pro government protesters) protested and occupied their government house for months and Bangkok’s airports for a week.
In April 2009, the red shirts (opposition groups) disrupted the ASEAN summit. Demonstrators prevented the leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from attending their meetings. They blocked the entrance to hotel/venue of the summit. ASEAN leaders were airlifted to safety while the Thai government was humiliated and heavily embarrassed. 8,000 police personnel’s were deployed to control the protesters but they could not stop the people. Interestingly, the police did not fire any single bullet to any protester.
My concern here is how we can use the Thai example to increase the political consciousness of our people. I am of the opinion that governance will be much easier when the people are politically aware of what their leaders are doing. As the general election in Nigeria approaches, what are we going to do to increase the political awareness of our people? Are we ready to vote and be voted for? Are we also ready to guide our votes? How ready are we to become electoral activists? What are our plans to educate the illiterate members of our community? What about political evangelism which I have suggested in my previous articles?
In Thailand, farmers and other poor people left the rural areas to come and demonstrate in Bangkok. Meaning that, they are aware that whatever their government does will affect them directly or indirectly. The challenge is now for us to replicate or surpass the Thailand’s experience. On this note, I will suggest mass education using the following methods; rallies, mobile text messages, continuous distribution of political leaflets, books, journals, translation of political messages to our various native languages, organizing town hall meetings, political seminars, symposiums, lectures etc at village, community, town and local government levels.
Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) Faith Organizations, Youth’s organizations, etc should consider mobilizing its members for volunteer work on political enlightenment(s). Several villages/community meetings especially people from the South Eastern part of Nigeria (of which am one of them), should consider political education/political evangelism as part(s) of meeting agenda(s). Market leaders, motor park leaders, leaders of various road transport unions should also find ways of political enlightenment amongst its members. On the individual level, we should find a way to enlighten one another.
I will also repeat my recommendation for political evangelism whereby political messages are produced in DVD’s, CD’s, Cassette players, ipods, Mp3 players etc and distributed to the people. Picture effect can do the magic. We can also take advantages of the new media (facebook, twitter, youtube, blogs, etc) to reach the needed audience. Hopefully, through mass mobilization and political awareness of our people, we might begin to achieve the “pax Nigeriana” we all are looking for.
Finally, I wish also to continue appealing to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to plant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta.
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK