Many times, it makes sense to be silent. In a world where trouble is always brewing beneath the surface of even the most seemingly innocuous gestures, the option to be silent is a commonsensical one. Two shady politicians deploy verbal missiles to tackle each other; not your business, keep your silence game tight. Some random individual says something unsavoury about you; they may be seeking attention, be silent. Sensitive subjects like religion and ethnicity are being discussed and tempers are flaring; it makes sense to not exacerbate the situation. Be silent. However, in some cases, being silent takes on a more sinister meaning.
I have been falsely accused before within a group of strangers and in the presence of someone who knew me better than others within the group. Someone that could have expressed doubt at what others said or at least prevailed on them to be patient while she checked with me, But she chose to be silent. I know how much that hurt.
Silence is not always golden, especially in the face of injustice.
In fact, one of the ways to judge the content of a person’s character is their reaction when things go wrong, even when it has no direct bearing on them.
The reason President Buhari is receiving plenty of flak for the shenanigans and audacious crimes of some Fulani herdsmen in the south-west is his disposition to the matter. His body language has been bland at best—bordering on nonchalance—an unacceptable response in the light of a make or mar situation. A leader is able to achieve some level of decorum in the conduct of the people he leads by merely talking tough; this, the masses know, and that’s why it points to a lack of care when the leader isn’t even employing speech to quell violence.
Sunday Igboho is perceived as a saviour today, not because he has done anything particularly inspiring, but because he has been vocal when political leaders have decided to look away and simply say nothing.
I have witnessed scenarios when the one who saw someone else do something bad and failed to report it received a heavier penalty than the one who did the act. Our parents also adopted that principle sometimes. If your sibling misbehaved and you chose to cover them up, you would likely bear the brunt of whatever they did.
There’s a lesson there: you have a duty to speak up when things go wrong.
You owe it to humanity.
And so when people “make noise” about the unlawful arrest of some activists or are unrelenting in their advocacy for stiffer punitive measures for rapists, even when they aren’t directly affected, it’s a function of their resolve to do right by others.
It is a laudable gesture and not one undertaken because somebody is jobless.
The “mind your business” admonition does not apply in this case.
Randy higher institution lecturers were having a field day satisfying their unbridled lust with the bodies of female undergraduates until someone decided they had to put a halt to it by speaking up. If the End SARS protests did not happen, many people would still be oblivious of the level of brutality that arm of the police perpetrated. And the protests happened because a group of people decided they could no longer accept the situation.
Silence is why vices like bullying, conspiracy, goading, and trolling thrive. If every time someone decides to cheat or take advantage of a weaker person, there’s someone else calling out their inappropriate behaviour, they would think twice before attempting it again.
Silence is the reason domestic violence has taken root in many Nigerian homes because victims are still ashamed of what people will say when they find out their marriage isn’t as perfect as the picture they have painted.
Silence can be threatening; keeping quiet when one should voice out isn’t honourable. It breeds toxicity.
An understanding of the above leads to an understanding of the reason poor people despise the rich and even the middle-class. The poor see you who are in the middle class as closer to the people in power. They see you hobnob with them and wonder why you aren’t addressing the issues that have impoverished them with those who can do something about it.
People have received favours and gotten jobs simply because they spoke up. Speak when you need to, you’ll be the better for it.