Feature: National Assembly needs a Rosa Parks Patriotic & Civic Act


By Ayo Akinfe


To get Nigeria off her knees the new president will need to get the National Assembly to pass a Rosa Parks Patriotic and Civic Act.

[1] On December 5 1955, the Alabama Bus Boycott began. The Monday after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person. I love this lady from the very bottom of my heart as she is a symbol of that desire to want a better society

[2] Rosa refused to stand up and her arrest sparked off a chain of events that led to buses in Montgomery, Alabama being boycotted between December 5 1955 and December 20 1956. Poor black folks walked for miles to work to make the point. They endured the pain and discomfort and could not be bought off with enticements

[3] It is no surprise that as the pressure mounted, the US Supreme Court ruled the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional. No doubt the bus companies felt the impact too as they lost a lot of money, so had no choice but to back down and abolish segregation

[4] Prior to the bus boycott, Jim Crow laws mandated the racial segregation of the Montgomery Bus Line. As a result of this segregation, African-Americans were not hired as drivers, were forced to ride in the back of the bus and were frequently ordered to surrender their seats to white people even though black passengers made up 75% of the bus system’s riders

[5] In addition, African-American passengers were often attacked by bus drivers and shortchanged. Sometimes, they were even left stranded after paying their fares

[6] I challenge you Nigerians today. How many of you are prepared to walk to work, school, the market, church, mosque, owambes, etc for 381 days to make a point? You will not do it, which is why you shall continue to suffer. I do not blame the Nigerian elite for exploiting your cowardice. You brought all your suffering upon yourselves. Every people get the government they deserve

[7] So effective was this Alabama bus boycott that the city of Montgomery authorities were forced to pass an ordinance authorising black bus passengers to sit anywhere they chose on buses. This Montgomery bus boycott stimulated activism and participation from the south in the national civil rights movement and gave Dr Martin Luther King national attention as a rising leader

[8] About a year later, this tactic was employed in South Africa with the 1957 Alexandra bus boycott undertaken against the Public Utility Transport Corporation by the people of Alexandra in Johannesburg. Their bus boycott lasted from January 1957 to June 1957. At its height, 70,000 township residents refused to ride the local buses to and from work. For many people this daily journey to downtown Johannesburg was a 32 km round trip but hey, they did not mind as they fought on against apartheid

[9] When you look at the manner in which the Nigerian elite treat the masses with contempt, refuse to pay salaries, leave our schools dilapidated while their children school abroad, neglect our hospitals while they go for monthly check-ups abroad and abandon public transport while they have fleets of SUVs, I have to ask myself why there is no civil disobedience campaign to protest all this

[10] If every Nigerian decided to boycott both PDP and APC political rallies to protest the way they treat the masses, this alone would have a profound impact. However, from what I can see, for a bag of rice, gari and some palm oil, our people will troop out en mass to cheer the looters on. In the 1950s, black Americans and South Africans lived under far worse conditions than we did but alas, they never allowed themselves to be bribed. When we reach that stage of mental development, our suffering will start to ease. I think going to owambes, attending the church and mosque and going to heaven is more important to my people than a functional society, so these problems will remain with us for a while to come


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