Editorial: The ENDSARS Protests

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ENDSARS protesters

The ENDSARS agitation came like a bolt from the blue. It shot into the sky like an asteroid. It perched in the sky like an eagle. Its emergence dazzled the authority and boomeranged into protests all over the planetary space, thus attracting deafening sounds and global condemnations.

This is the picture the aborted but dosing ENDSARS protest in Nigeria conjures. It was the first time in the history of Nigeria that protest of such magnitude was organized by the youths and it caused panic in the authority. Though it was supposedly tailored after Hong Kong Protest that has lasted for more than one year, the ENDSARS was said to have been organized by 30 Coalition of Civil Societies. Only Segalink backed out.

There are some grievances that could have given birth to #ENDSARS protest. One, the protest tomb stoned from the systemic failure of Nigeria Labour Congress to go on industrial action after massive mobilization by civil liberties and organisations and Nigerian populace. Two, the protest was born as a result of the failure of Nigerian leadership to provide good governance at all levels. The problem did not start from the President Buhari administration, but it was cumulative defecation by the country’s founding fathers in failing to bequeath a just, selfless, and equitable leadership to next generation. The distrust, ethnicity and fear of domination that dogged the era could not be zipped by successive administrations. One of the problems that dogged the country then – bad governance- is still bedeviling our leaders from the military to the civilian era.

So, agitating for end to SARS, a unit of the police force, that eventually turned out to be a dose was a deliberate tactics to divert and bring up other issues to the table for discussion. Nigeria Police Force mushroomed from the society mirrors a typical Nigerian society. The way politicians behave and act is the way they perceive and manipulate the force to be to serving their whims and caprices. It is a mirage for a child to have DNA different from the father’s otherwise he would be dubbed ‘bastard.’ Let us not crucify the police as the worst organization.

But then, it would have been a peaceful protest if not the Un-nigerian spirit of impunity had crept in. How can soldiers be drafted in to quell civil unrest? Days after the protest, some soldiers were seen on Abuja streets stopping and ordering the protesters to leave and go back. How can peaceful protest be given ethnic colouration? A young man claiming to represent Abuja Indigenous Citizens was seen in a video giving the protesters a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Abuja or face unpleasant consequences, yet nobody warned nor arrested him for what was seen as hate speech? One day, government will sermonise hate speech, does the government think everybody is a fool and many will put trust in the basket of such a regime?

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In a democratic milieu, the police are expected to provide safety and security for peaceful protesters. Protest is a necessary ingredient in every democratic menu. But the power-that-be used and swayed the police away from their legitimate duty- protection of the peaceful protesters to be anti-people hence the backlash that greeted such action.

As a deterrent, some government officials were alleged to have infiltrated the rank of protesters by sponsoring thugs who wreaked mayhem, maimed and killed some protesters. Yet, the police became helpless and failed to ward off every perceived act or form of brigandage by dubious elements. At the end, the police paid handsomely for abdicating their responsibility, though they waited for the last order. The massive looting, arson, killings and destruction of public and private properties could have been averted if there was no meddling in the protest.

By the time, the IGP Mohammed Adamu ordered anti-riot policemen to go in and stopped what wanted to look as a state of anarchy, the situation had gone sour. More policemen were mowed down and more police stations were razed, vandalized and looted by suspected thugs.

Before now, there were many protests and industrial actions that swept the government off its feet. Occupy Nigeria was a socio-political protest movement that began in Nigeria on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday, 1 January 2012. Protests took place across the country, including in the cities of Kano, Surulere, Ojota (-part of metropolitan Lagos), Abuja, Minna, and at the Nigerian High Commission in London.  It went through successful and some people in government today were organizers.

However, after the disbandment of SARS, the protesters shifted the goal post in their demands. It was case of the hunter plotting to hit and the hunted plotting to dodge the killer’s bullet. The ENDSARS protesters latter rolled a 23-demand to government for solution. They seek: End SARS,  Sack security chiefs, Improve security, Full deregulation of the oil and gas sector to allow more investments for job creation, Immediate passage of PIB, Full deregulation of the power sector to allow investment capital flow to generate, transmit and distribute more power and create jobs, Should hands-off petroleum pricing to enable free-market determination of pricing, Close our northern borders to stop the free entry of Fulani herdsmen and bandits,

Others include Inclusive government for all tribes and regions of Nigeria with 50 percent youths in charge of governance and Allocate more funds to the education sector to provide better teaching tools and to pay better salaries to end ASUU strikes, Change our academic curriculum to reflect modern-day realities, All politicians should be placed on minimum wage to attract genuine public servants, Migrate to 100 per cent electoral reforms with electronic voting tied to our BVN and GSM, Return Nigeria to regional governance structure or restructure the country and embrace true federalism States autonomy must be paramount, Disband the bi-cameral legislature and adopt uni-cameral, Immediately reform Nigeria Police Force and let every state or region create its own police service, No more budget for running private affairs of elected and appointed public servants.

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The rest are Enthrone university education as a minimum qualification for public office holders at all levels of government from the president to local government and ward chairpersons, Strip ex-governors and all elected and appointed public servants of all benefits after office, Increase salaries of our doctors, nurses, teachers, police, military officers, and civil servants, Government should hands-off ownership and management of businesses at all levels, Name and shame looters and make criminal offenders, and looters face trial in their home states and villages to shame them and their families and Stop foreign medical trips for public servants. Let them be treated here in Nigeria. When last did you hear an American President or a British Prime Minister visit Nigeria for medical tourism?

Though the demands are tough, they are not rocket science that government cannot concede ground for peace to reign. As aftermath, looting and arson continue in some states unabated. The protest may be stalled, but it could wake up in another guise and clime. Knowing its spontaneity, will government be able to contain anarchy talk less of a revolution? The US President John F. Kennedy at his first anniversary celebration in 1962 put it Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

We hereby call on the state governors to show good governance by doing the wishes and  grievances of the ruled instead passing buck. We also call on the Federal Government to nip the protest in the bud by hearkening to the demands of Nigerian youths reset the country on the path of glory in the international community circle and for its citizens to show their government love and cooperation rather than fear and hatred.