Opinion: Where Do We Go From Here? 

By Shiishi K. Philip

I don’t know when this piece would get to you, but anytime it does, be it day, afternoon or night I hope you are having a great time. Greetings.

Today looks like a great day, a perfect time to look forward, but before we look forward, we must look back as well. Unless you know where you come from, you will never know where you can go.  This is  where somehow I was able to churn this articles titla : “Where do we go from here”?
The title is to further caress us as a people, to look at our past and possibly what ought to be done to get us a people forward.

First , learning from the past; This sort of reflection is extremely important to us the “struggling” class. It provides a space to think back, to look back at where we have come from as a people, and to think about where we need to go in future. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved so far, but also on what still need to be done in order to secure emancipation. It affords us an opportunity for what the core christian would call meditation.

It is  bitter: there are many injustices and disregards for what is right that characterise our space and  that we cannot avoid seeing. It is bitter: there is a long dark night of suffering, dispossession and exploitation that casts its shadow over today. It’s bitter: we know but if then we don’t act, who will?

Secondly, in order to truncate this vices been perpetrated in our today, we ought to look at the “Struggles And Victories” of the past. It is sweet also: the past saw ordinary people, the people on the ground rise up and fight for justice, for equality, for our rights: to dignity, to decency, to decide how to run the “basics” of our lives.

It’s sweet: the time of the mass strikes and uprisings, such as those of the first quater of the 1900’s and the early times of the 4th republic. These brought light into the darkness, into the long, dark night of suffering and oppression, where bitter battles were waged for freedom.

It’s sweet: when ordinary people stood together, when the locals united, when the sleeping armies of the exploited, the oppressed, the workers, the poor, woke up, the ground shook. The darkness was driven back.

It’s sweet: every small victory fed the campfires of hope, fanned the flames of resistance and rebellion, moved the people into more action.

1913 saw massive struggles by whites as well as black workers for basic rights. 1918 saw the first attempt at a general strike by black workers. 1922 saw an armed rebellion by workers, which led to the first laws that gave trade unions some legal standing. 1946 shook the mining industry. 1960 ushered the passage laws. 1973 revived the unions. 1976 rocked the townships. 1983-1984 started the final dismantling of apartheid.

Alias to think of this struggle is just to us as a people here, I want to tell you that you are wrong.
The struggles of us “as a people” do not stand alone. They are part of the larger struggle of ordinary people, the oppressed and exploited masses, worldwide.
A struggle that has taken place as long as society has been divided between rich and poor, rulers and ruled, masters and servants, kings and commoners.

It was the working and poor masses of the people that broke slavery, that made slavery illegal worldwide. When unions were illegal everywhere in the world, the masses made them legal, fighting factory by factory, mine by mine, ship by ship, farm by farm, and office by office.
Unity was the basic tool in their hands against the oppressors.

There was a time when no commoner anywhere could even vote, but the masses and ordinary people fought. They took that right – just as every single right and claim by the working people has been won, by struggle.

As the “anarchist” Severino Digiovanni once said: “The right to life is not given. It is taken.”
Whatever our backgrounds, our tribes or our indifferences, know that in each society it has been the masses, that has stood up and said,

“No. Enough is enough” and through struggles, won its demands. 
If we as a people don’t make a move then who will for us?

Now let us look to the present. How far do we still need to go?

Our struggles are not over. The chains of poverty still bind us. Poor and bad leadership still binds us. Poor healthcare still bind us, Our public educational system that has been neglected still holds us. Unemployment, hunger still bind us, and so the list goes on. We are bounded first by our common enemies and the resultant woes of their poor administration, before we are bounded by “blood” and “affinity” .

The people keep waiting for the dawn. The night is fading, but the new dawn has not yet come. We are still waiting for the sun of freedom and good governance to blaze out, burning away the long dark night of suffering and dispossession and exploitation.

But look around us, does it get better? Poverty, ignorance, corruption has been the order of the day. One government fails and unto the next and next does the baton swing; when will this ever stop?

At the government level? Corruption and theft by men and women in office. The rich get richer. The politicians make and break promises. Large private corporations fix bread and milk prices, taking food from the mouths of children.

Strong men and women spend their lives working for a boss, and find, at the end, when they are tired and broken, that they are fired or have reached retirement age, left aside like rubbish while the politician at 60 is probably just launching his political desires. The true creeds which this nation was built on are thrown away like rubbish and forgotten like the ills of a repentant teenager whose new home is the abode of a powerful preacher.

But today I tell you that “The Sun Must Rise” we are better off now in many ways than it was many years ago (better informed than it was years ago). Yet, mighty victories were won,  why wouuld now different?
We are building an army of truth. We are set for a revolution to be occcassioned by the ballot. 
Everyday we make ourselves tools for this progress. The looters of our progress have no idea of what is coming.
The war is not over. The struggling class is far from free. The long dark night of suffering and dispossession and exploitation still needs to be blasted away by the red dawn of freedom. ill lingers on.  A mighty struggle is still needed. The armies of the exploited, the oppressed, the workers, the poor, which are the unions, the community groups, the student movements these armies, we cannot rest now.

What is needed? What is the task for now? It is to free our minds; to break the chains of mental slavery. To question a society where the rich, domineering and powerful few, rule like kings. Where the mighty stride the world like elephants, and the masses are trampled into the grass. To question and challenge a society that has been a factory of crime and misery. To trump out overt impunity.

But first of all, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge. 
To prepare for the war by the ballot ahead and possible eventualities.

To understand these truths is the first step to lifting the uruly veil of darkness that today “clouds” our already parochial vision:

Only the mass   – can change society, but only by uniting, across tribes (Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Etulo etc) and party affiliations, and by struggling;

Only the people– can change society, but only by understanding that society can be changed, can be made better;

Only the masses  – can change society, but only for the better, when it is understood that society must be changed into a society based on social and economic equality;

Only the mass of the people – can change society, but only for the better; when it is understood that society must be changed into a society that to be elected you need not be above a certain age and that even as a youth, you are #NotTooYoungToRun. 
That little priority will be placed on age and more on competence

Only the masses – can change society, but only for the better, when it is understood that society must be changed into a society where a civil servant working ought to be paid at the end of the month so he could provide for he’s family counting on him and not as an achievement of govt.

Let us now find our way in the darkness, to be free, means to arm ourselves with the light of knowledge, and to enlighten our class, the working class, to shine light across the battlefields of darkness.

Let us blaze out our light, blaze out in the long dark night of suffering and dispossession and exploitation. Let us march towards the sun.

For, when we are armed with the truth, we can organise and re-organise our forces.
And make the last marches to victory.

Martin Luther King Jnr once said “Our life’s are not fully lived if we are not willing to die (struggle) for what we believe”

The struggle still continues. Victoria acerta.

Shiishi K. Philip writes from Benin Republic

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