An opinion on the ongoing national debate on the predisposing and preventive factors to youth protest in Nigeria; the #EndSARS protest as a viewpoint.
Amid avalanche of commentaries by renowned patriots and prolific essayists alike, only a handful have audaciously espoused the gains of the nationwide protest by our flag-wavering youths, whose determination to sacrifice the last drop of their energies remain loud and unmistakable.
The #EndSARS protest arguably evolved from Delta State following the death of an unarmed young man in the hands of the recently banned Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); and like a rainbow in the sky, the outcry and spontaneous resentment against the dastardly act of police brutality spread across Nigeria momentarily, in the fashion of harmattan fire.
In a vogue that has not been witnessed in Nigeria’s history of demonstration, our youths were on the streets in every state of Nigeria, and virtually singing the same song – they wanted an unconditional disbandment of a seemingly notorious outfit of Nigeria Police, and this was granted within two days of the protest, as the Inspector General of Police announced in a broadcast and declared the Police special unit disbanded.
Suddenly, in a unique show of youthful exuberance and high emotional intelligence, the protesters who literally had no known national leadership changed the acronym of #EndSARS from the well-known: End Special Anti-Robbery Squad into End Senators and Representatives Salaries – this of course signaled a new chapter in the nationwide protest, and it received tremendous applause and solidarity of Nigerians, who believed that the take-home of National Assembly members is flagrantly insensitive, absurd, a stamp of relegation, and a crass neglect of other critical stakeholders of the country like the Police, the armed forces, tertiary institutions academic and non-academic staff etc.
The same protesters who vehemently lampooned police brutality, especially by the disbanded SARS unit, in a dramatic styled parade started clamoring for increase wage and welfare package for the Nigeria police.
Again, this engendered tremendous prayers and solidarity for the group until hoodlums hijacked the protest and all manner of vices spontaneously changed the coloration and narrative of an otherwise patriotic nationwide protests, to the extent that some peasant masses who ought to be the ultimate beneficiary of a well-managed nationwide protest, became victims of some hoodlums who raped, robbed, and maim unsuspecting passersby. What an irony.
Every State has her catalogue of destruction and loss of lives, and stock-taking exercises are ongoing by Judicial Panels of Inquiry.
In Edo State, it was a galore of arson on police stations to the breach of correctional centres, to breach and looting of warehouses owned by Government and private business operators.
Rape and robbery victims have sordid tales of their gory experiencers in the hands of hoodlums who hid under the guise of a campaign to end the impunity of the political class, to inflicting all manners of terror on our fellow downtroddens.
The professionalism of Nigeria army is in their ethical management of the loosed hoodlums is worthy of mention, and will be the subject of my analysis in a short while from now.
The theatre of destruction across the length and breadth of Nigeria also had a devastating toll on Lagos State, and it was inflamed by the misconceived 20-10-20 Lekki Massacre story and frightening ash tags that accompanied it on the social media especially.
And if truth be told, fake news on social media fuelled the uprising in Lagos especially, and reduced the cosmopolitan city into a shadow of her economic glory.
As if Lagos basic infrastructures and former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) were the chief targets of the arsonists and unsparing hoodlums, the mischievously packaged story of Lekki Massacre, after video of shootings by some uniformed men went virile set the stage for seemingly preconceived devilish acts.
The Oba of Lagos Palace was set ablaze – precious artifacts allegedly looted, Nigeria Ports Authority building set ablaze, the architecturally fascinating Oriental Hotel and TVC television house which have been long rumored to be owned by BAT were heartlessly set in flames; Lagos Hospital Management Board, Lekki ultramodern toll gate, about 100 BRT municipal buses, shopping malls in highbrow business districts like Bode Thomas Street amongst others went down in flames.
The striking tales of devious fake news that fuelled the near total burn down of Lagos, were, first – the fallacy that the toll gate CCTV have been turned off in order to inflict mayhem on the unarmed protesters; and secondly – that the Lekki toll gate shooting was carried out by men of the Nigeria army and it was ordered or influenced by Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
So, like a decision taken by birds of the same feather, any structure with the suspicion of BAT’s signature must be burnt to ashes. The next phase of lies telling was that the former Governor who has become the proverbial golden bird – that must be brought down by sharp shooters in Nigeria’s murky waters – has fled to France.
The social media space was charged. Social media scavengers were on rampage, searching for BAT’s frequently logged hotels in France. Sadly, some foreign.missions and Television networks with supposedly enhanced satellite technology fell for the lies.
Nigerians in Diaspora who had previously disliked Tinubu for whatever ill-conceived assumptions and those who fell for the fallacy started ordering flight and Metros tickets to mob harass an astute Democrat. Lagos State Governor has declared emphatically that nobody died at Lagos toll gate, he in fact noted on Monday 26th October that two people who died from the unfortunate shooting died in the hospital.
He placed a bounty of millions on parents, guardians and relations that can substantiate claim of losing their love one during Lekki toll gate shooting. No one has yet showed up one week after, apart from DJ Switch who claimed she saw the Soldiers who carried out the shooting at Lekki toll gate packed 15 dead bodies into their van or Hilux and speed off. As it is turning out, the so-called Lekki massacre could just be another massacre without dead bodies.
And when President Buhari eventually addressed the nation, the rage started draining downward and the entrepreneurs of fake news have and still trying reactivate moments of carnage and arson, and beyond making BAT a public enemy, they want him banned from any political undertakings in Nigeria. How brazenly wicked can people be? God have mercy.
One fundamental lesson that Governors must learn from 10 days uprising is the inevitability of optical impression gadgets in investigations and arrest of wanted persons. Police and security agencies generally have moved from the locomotive style investigations to the fast evolving cyber enhancement model.
No matter the dastardly effects of the rein of hoodlums across the country during the nationwide protest era, Nigerians should never allow the gains of the protest to eclipse our country’s immediate and long term action plan. Of a truth, there is hunger of horrifying magnitude in our country. There is impunity by the political and privileged class against the less privileged masses.
The lack of visionary leadership in designing and implementing a sustenable biometrics data base of all Nigerians is appalling, sickening and unfortunate.
The dis-proportionality of take-homes between the elected public office holders and the ‘middle class’ civil servants, like the armed forces and police is revolution-provoking.
The oppression and suppression of minority agitation, especially, those seeking referendum to decide sovereign issues Local Government, Senatorial districts and States creation is overwhelmingly debasing and heart wrecking.
Nigeria’s disproportional legal frame work tilting towards Muslims-dominated areas and Christians-dominated areas is a mockery of our so-called one Nigeria anthem.
The seeming state policy of nepotism in appointment, deployment and promotion of armed forces, police, and para-military personnel lives much to be desired of a country that spotlight Africa’s continental relevance in the comity of developing nations.
The plethora of sectionalism and subversion of constitutional processes are endless, and the sustenance of #EndSARS provides rays of hope the interrogation and equitable resolution of these issues.
For me, if the #EndSARS protesters duly and eventually evict our streets, as I agree that their demands are germane, realistic, do-able and patriotic, I plead the underpins of the protest should move into our consciences. It was Usman Dan Fodio that was declared that – “conscience is an open wound which can only be healed by truth”.
Yes, ending police brutality is desirable for all Nigerians; reducing Salaries and allowances of all National Assembly members to cushion the ridiculous take-home of our Police and security operatives is Nigeria’s territorial integrity interest; liberalizing the political space in favor of greater proportion for our youths in all elective offices is in the best interest of prolific leadership of our country; eradicating diversion and corruption in all public affairs matters, including, distribution of palliative to our vulnerable population is our economic and corporate reputation interests, especially enhancement of the huge confidence of the donors; ensuring the right to table and debate the chemistry of our pseudo federation would inform our understanding the broken cords of togetherness, and how best they can be remolded.
I can go on and on. Suffice to posit that, the gains of this nationwide protest will positively touch generations yet on unborn, only if we ensure that #EndSARS continues in our hearts or we should not allow #EndSARS to end.
Thanks for your attention, and God bless all of us.
Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo fcdm, Convener/ National.Facilitator -United Patriots Assembly of Nigeria (UPAN).