Last week, Mohammed Bouazizi would have been 32. He was a Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself ablaze in protest of the confiscation of his wares and maltreatment by a municipal officer and her subordinates in a rural town. His crime was that he refused to pay a bribe after being accosted by town officials for selling fruits without a permit.
It is very unfathomable what frustration can do to a human being. He had been denied work severally, having applied to the army and other organizations. And at the time of his self-immolation, he had lost the $200 he had borrowed to buy fruits the previous day to the government on top of being slapped by a female—the worst form of humiliation a man can receive in that part of the world.
Boazizi’s torching himself torched Tunisia and ended the 23-year tenure of the country’s President within 10 days of his eventual demise on January 4, 2011. But more than this, he conflagrated Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Western Sahara, Djibouti, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria in what became known as the Arab Spring. Boazizi’s martyrdom voiced out against the characteristic insensitivity of political leadership that often pervades Africa and the Middle East.
I heard that voice again last week when a video of an unnamed man sitting on his car went viral. Probably having stayed on the queue for fuel for a long while, the man wished simultaneous death on the President and every Nigerian to end all of his frustrations and the frustrations of others. Bouazizi reached that point too before setting himself ablaze. One can only wonder how many Nigerians will get to this point of frustration someday soon.
Pent-up anger and frustration are potent things as you can see. They fell insensitive governments; that don’t know or monitor the unemployment rates in their countries; that refuse to regulate the undue use of force by its law enforcement agencies; that do not know that stockpiling essential supplies for national emergencies are a necessity and not a luxury.
Methinks if governments do not quickly stoop to the wants of their citizens, then the wants of their citizens will make their citizens stand up to them…but again, I don’t know everything.