Commentary: "Nigerian Spring" Poised to Change the Continent

Successful revolution and stable reforms in Nigeria have the potential to extend far beyond the country's oil-rich shores.

Posted: 01/19/2012 03:59 PM EST

In Nigeria, 2012 started with a bang.

On January 1, the Nigerian government announced its plan to cut a critical fuel subsidy and, almost overnight, gas prices across the country increased by 50 percent. And although President Goodluck Jonathan has agreed to temporarily lower prices, the fuel debacle seems to have ignited a movement that won’t be easily doused by token gestures.

If you assume, as some westerners do, that West Africa is rife with turmoil, and thus, such an uprising is the norm, you’d be mistaken. Although there have been several movements catering to specific interests and groups, massive protests, such as the ones seen recently, are virtually unheard of.

Despite beginning just weeks ago, the movement that has been coined the "Nigerian Spring" has demanded the attention of the government and the world through targeted strikes and protests that have impacted the Nigerian and world economy. In the wake of the initial wave of protests and strikes, the streets in many cities came to a standstill. Many flights from Nigeria’s international airport were grounded for days and global oil prices rose as the world's eighth-largest crude oil exporter trembled under threats from oil workers to shut down all production.

Many are organizing under the name, Occupy Nigeria, but these occupiers are doing way more than beating drums in the rain. Even after getting President Goodluck Johnathan to buckle on fuel prices and order a corruption investigation of the country’s fuel agency, a body of Nigerian hacker activists under the aegis of NaijaCyberHactivists has continued to occupy the online home of many Nigerian institutions.

Meanwhile, another group descended upon the offices of the state-run national public broadcaster Nigerian Television Authority and the private Africa Independent Television, to demand more balanced coverage of the demonstrations.

Still, there are challenges. The government has recently called in militarized troops to maintain peace and quell protests in many areas around the country. However, if the "Nigerian Spring" makes it past this stage of armed suppression and further along toward its goals of ending poverty and corruption, its brand of "Nigerian shock-therapy economics" could make it beyond Nigeria’s borders and spill over into the consciousness of others where similar conditions persist.

It may be lofty, but a successfully won era of accountability and economic stability without bloodshed in Nigeria would be a tremendous win not only for its citizens, but for the remainder of the continent, and would inspire generations to stand up against inequalities.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: AFOLABI SOTUNDE/Landov)

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