I still remember that Sunday morning in April 1990 when the news filtered out that there had been a military coup attempting to topple Nigeria’s self styled President, Ibrahim Babangida.
In the days when military coups were frequent in Nigeria, it was widely held that one of the first things the plotters needed to do was to cut off the telephone lines and seize control of all radio and TV stations….so as to control the flow of information.
One of the reasons [unconfirmed of course] that was given for the failure of Gideon Orkar’s coup in 1990 was that the soldier handed the responsibility of cutting the telephone wires leading into Dodan Barracks in Lagos was apparently drunk….so drunk that he couldn’t tell a telephone wire from a clothes line.
The failure to cut the telephone lines made it possible for Sani Abacha to rally his soldiers including Lt Col U K Bello [who was eventually killed by the putschists] and the plotters were routed.
It’s interesting that Nigeria has not witnessed a military coup since 1990 and particularly since 2001 when mobile phone usage became widespread. It would be interesting to see how a successful coup could be carried out today in a country where it is almost impossible to control the flow of information.
I also remember the dark days of Sani Abacha’s [mis]rule from 1993 to 1998. In those days it was practically impossible to engage in any kind of discourse on the ills of Nigeria in any public place. It’s the closest we have ever come to a police state in our very chequered history.
Fast forward a few years to 2010. For the first time in our history, the flow of information and misinformation has been forcibly yanked from the control of those in government. The Nigerian government has zero control over the internet and the things that are said there.
A government minister can release a statement in the morning and have it ripped to shreds by afternoon of the same day. Nigerians who had lost their voice [or perhaps never had one], can now freely exercise their God given rights to have their say on the state of affairs in their country.
You can pontificate, bombast, perorate, grandstand, brownnose, articulate, postulate…..anything that helps to release some of the frustration at a country that insists on being a parked vehicle.
You can rub minds with Nigerians who feel just like you do in various parts of the world. You can be friends with someone you’ve never met simply because you share the same passion for Nigeria. You can trade insults and opinions without coming to blows and still remain friends after all that.
The internet is the biggest beer parlour available to Nigerians. A Nigerian beer parlour is a place where you are certain to hear a few loud arguments fuelled by the alcohol which helps people find their voices and say things that they probably wouldn’t say in sobriety.
In the same way, people who would not normally get involved with matters concerning Nigeria now have a guaranteed community to engage with 24/7/365 and discuss all the happenings in our crazy country.
There’s also a gap to be filled in our nascent democracy; the role of independent arbiters in a disagreement between the elected and the electorate. In a country of so many competing interests there is a need for a select group of people who are not necessarily interested in political power but are motivated to raise the standard of governance and quality of leadership in Nigeria.
The country is crying out for such people. The press cannot be relied on to do this job. Their track record says they have been doing this job for donkey years and have barely made a dent in the problem. In many cases they have aided and abetted poor leadership in the country.
The requirements for becoming a Beer Parlour Activist are simple and straightforward
- That you have gone to bed at least once in the last 365 days worried about Nigeria
- That your passport is green and you know that no one else’s passport is greener just because such a person is in government or in a political party
- That you understand that you cannot really be a serious shareholder in Nigeria Plc if you dont speak your mind
- That you are not a politician and you have no interest in partisan politics in the near future but you understand that that doesn’t make you less of a Nigerian
- That you are dissatisfied with Nigeria underachieving in perpetuity
- That you understand that being educated in Nigeria is a privilege and you realise that when you use your education to speak out, you are doing so on behalf of millions of Nigerians who are hurting but are not even able to articulate their hurt in any language
- That you understand that even though you are not a Professor of Health and you are not qualified to be Minister of Health, it doesn’t take away your right to criticise the Health Minister if you feel he/she is not doing their job properly…. after-all you should know since you are the one who has to pay through the nose for basic healthcare in Nigeria.
- That you understand that there are no ‘elders’ on the internet and while you will respect people as fellow human beings, you do not owe them any extra respect simply because they are in government. For too long Nigerians have been cowed into a mentality of ‘obey before complain’. Beer Parlour Activism seeks to turn that mentality on it’s head.
- The Beer Parlour is not a place where you come to champion a politician as the best thing to happen to Nigeria since sliced bread. A BPA views every single politician in the same way; a servant of the people. BPAs have no time for sycophancy.
As a Beer Parlour Activist you must also know and understand that talking and criticizing is not a waste of time. When you go to a Beer Parlour to engage in a discussion or argument, you don’t set out from your house with the intention of going to waste your time.
As a BPA you must understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong in engaging with like minded Nigerians on matters affecting Nigeria.
You cannot be a politician or political office holder and be a Beer Parlour Activist at the same time. BPAs exist to hold those in power to account and a higher standard.
Fear is not allowed in the Beer Parlour. If you feel your liver is failing you, drink some more virtual beer. BPAs cannot be afraid of someone simply because such a person is a govt Minister or elected public official.
As a BPA you must be willing to talk and talk and talk and talk…..you cannot be discouraged by those who say the only way to make a change in Nigeria is to ‘get involved’ or join a political party. This is a terrible lie….there is so much work to be done in developing our nation to be left alone to members of the political class.
The job of a BPA is not to write white papers or policy documents…there are people paid to do that, no need to make them unemployed. Your job as a BPA is to passionately criticize when you see things you are displeased with in Nigeria.
High intelligence and plentiful university degrees are not necessary neither is the mastery of flowery language a requirement. All that is needed is for you to feel something, anything for Nigeria and then say it. There is no spell checker or grammar policeman in the Beer Parlour….come as you are only with your green passport.
It’s cool to be frustrated and annoyed at Nigeria. You are also allowed to be outside Nigeria and criticize the country from thousands of miles away. There is no shame in that. The right to speak your mind and say how you feel about Nigeria is a God given and inalienable one.
As a BPA, you DO NOT have a right to remain silent. Anything you DO NOT say can and will be used against you.
But you must also be able to take criticism of your ideas and accept such criticisms as the process of iron sharpening iron…not always a pleasant one but necessary all the same.
- Maybe the Beer Parlour movement will become Nigeria’s own Tea Party….a movement driven by passion that forces everyone else to take it seriously.
- Maybe there will be town hall style Beer Parlours held in the country.
- Maybe the Beer Parlour movement will catch one two faced hypocrite [masquerading as a politician seeking elected office to help the people] and stop such a person from getting elected
- Maybe the Beer Parlour movement will become a thorn in the side of useless politicians who have nothing to offer the country
- Maybe the Beer Parlour movement will become an independent voice of Nigerians spread out all over the world drawn and bound together by a common frustration at a 50 year old country that still acts like a toddler
- Maybe one day Beer Parlour Activists will be able to force the sacking/resignation of a govt minister who has no reason to be there in the first place….instead of waiting for a ‘cabinet reshuffle’ to do the obvious.
The doors of the Beer Parlour are always open….no one will be turned back [provided the requirements above are met].
The Beer Parlour is not a quiet place. The idea is to make as much noise until those in authority take notice [there is evidence that they are already paying attention].
There are so many things to talk about concerning Nigeria. The time to stop feeling guilty about ‘just talking’ is over. No point sitting at home when you can go into the Beer Parlour and say it exactly as you feel it.
Use a fake name….use a fake profile picture….type in all caps….use bad English…whatever you do, dont be like a certain ex military leader of Nigeria who is now trying to make Nigeria a better place at the age of 76….because he cant see a future for his grandchildren in the current mess. Yet he had a chance to lay a foundation for his retirement when he was head of state.
Imagine you are from the South Eastern part of Nigeria. You go to your village and see an illiterate woman unable to speak English who has suffered at the hands of the country’s woeful healthcare system. Imagine you take such a woman to meet Prof Babatunde Osotimehin the health minster and ask her to complain, do you think she could possibly communicate her feelings to him?
As a Beer Parlour Activist, those are the people you have been called to speak out for….the people who hurt but do not have the means to explain their plight to those in authority.
Come in to the Beer Parlour, grab a seat and release the frustration….there will be more to come and all ideas are welcome.
In the fight against the enemies of progress in Nigeria, your only weapon is a keyboard. You are thus an internet guerilla.
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