By Raymond Oise-Oghaede
There is no gainsaying the fact that the ongoing nationwide protest with the theme #ENDSARS is unprecedented in the history of our country. The protest was initially centered on the demand for the scraping of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) (a unit of the Nigerian Police Force) for alleged plethora of unprofessional conducts/activities by some of its men over the years. After days of persistency, the government responded through the Inspector General of Police who announced the disbandment of the unit. Subsequently, another squad known as the Special Weapons And Tactics Team (SWAT) was established.
Notwithstanding, the protests have continued with the people alleging that the newly formed team is a chip of the old formation. Though, the Police hierarchy came up with clarifications that the “new outfit” is going to be made up of entirely new officers with refined mode of operations; the people are still not comfortable with that explanation. The reason is not farfetched; SARS was disbanded in the past; but, it resurfaced after some time as if nothing ever happened. So, the people do not want to take the “risk” of being “tricked” again; and, that is the reason they are seeing the disbandment of SARS and the establishment of SWAT as just a mere “change of name”. At this point, one would be curious to want to know the enormity of the “crimes” allegedly committed by these “supposedly crime fighters” that have made the people to be adamant and insistent that it must not be allowed to exist again.
However, this write-up is of the view that delving into the numerous “allegations” leveled against them would only compound the situation rather than proffering solutions to the problems on ground. Therefore, in line with my style of writing, this review is going to be holistically objective in analysing the situation with the main aim of drawing some cogent lessons that would be germane for the betterment of our country and the citizenry.
As it stands, the protests have been gaining momentum by every passing day; and, it is even attracting solidarity from outside the shores of the country.
A closer look at the situation reveals that the people are “deeply disgruntled” and their actions go beyond just ending of SARS and police brutality. It is clearly a reflection of the popular adage which says that “there is a limit to human endurance, because nature is bound to react”. Thus, what we are witnessing now is the “reaction of nature” to accumulated pains and hardship that they have been made to pass through over the years; and, that is the major reasons for the lingering of the protest. The people seem to be fully prepared to take their destinies and future into their own hands; because, they want a country where there will be hope for the “common man” on the streets. They said that they are tired of situations where their lives are being “selfishly manipulated” and made to pass through harrowing pains and hardship on daily basis. They are now seeing the long-suffering as gradually leading to “perpetual slavery”; because, employment opportunities are very difficult (if not impossible) to come by. Even the menial jobs that most of them (including graduates) resorted to doing to making ends meet were either banned or restricted or scrapped by some state governments without creating alternatives. Many that desperately opted to seek for greener pastures abroad through the deserts and seas have been sent to their early graves; and, those that remain in the country are living in perpetual fear of the unknown due to the spate of insecurity and hardships across the country. Thus, the people (most especially the youths) have concluded that they have been left to their fates without signs of better days ahead. However, it will be unfair to say that this administration has not been responsive to the plights of the people; but, the fact remains, that their efforts have fall short of “soothing” the “pains and sufferings” that the majority of the citizenry are passing through.
Judging by the magnitude and persistency of the protests vis-à-vis the issues mentioned above, you will agree with me that the #ENDSARS people are presently clamouring also involves “putting a stop to all those factors that have prevented them from enjoying the dividends of democracy over the years”. Thus, the protest is not all about this present administration (unless there are other ulterior motives); it is expression of anger and frustrations against the effects of “accumulation of societal ills” that the people have been enduring over the years. As I rightly posited in my article titled “THE REAL ENEMIES OF OUR NATION” (published in May 2019) I highlighted the numerous problems that the masses were facing and I warned that “this lingering frustration amongst the youths is a time bomb waiting to explode because of its capacity to pushing them to revolting against the society and setting the country on the brink of destruction”. As a result, I used “GOVERNORS` INAUGURATION AND THE DAY AFTER”; “THE 9TH ASSEMBLY AND OUR DEMOCRACY”; “JUNE 12 AND THE WAY FORWARD”; “INSECURITY AND THE PRESIDENTIAL IMPRECATION OF NECESSITY” (all published in June, 2019); and, “THE POLITICS OF HAILERS, HATERS AND WAILERS” (published in July, 2019) to further delve into other areas responsible for insecurity and hardship in the country with workable suggestions/recommendations to resolving them.
Just recently, my article titled “EDO GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION AND THE FUTURE OF OUR DEMOCRACY” (published before the election in September, 2020); was used to conscientise the people on the need to jettison the “old order” (where elections were marred by strings of irregularities and misconducts); and, to embrace “the new order” (where the votes of the electorates will count). This was aimed at ensuring that the people are put in the best position to “elect their preferred representatives” (rather than those imposed on them by godfathers and selected few) as a step towards reaping the “dividends of democracy”. Also, “NIGERIA AT 60: LET`S END POLITICS OF MISTRUST” which was published in commemoration of our independence; identified “mutual suspicion/mistrust” as the major problem which encompasses all other problems bedeviling the polity. As a result, I had adjured all and sundry to join hands together (regardless of tribal, political and religious affiliations/sentiments) to tackling our common problems from the grassroots with a view to finding permanent solutions. In addition, “EDO 2020 AND THE EMERGING NEW NIGERIA”; “ONDO GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION: DON`T DROP THE BALL”; and, “ONDO “CONSOLIDATES” WITH “AKETI” were published to support the emerging new Nigeria that all patriotic citizens unequivocally desire.
From the aforementioned, you will agree with me that my past write-ups have identified our lingering problems; forewarned the government and the citizenry about the impending dangers; and, proffered workable solutions to averting what we are presently witnessing in the country. Therefore, I want to use this medium to call on the protesters to ensure that they do not allow unscrupulous elements to infiltrate their midst to causing havoc; and, thereby turning their “legitimate right to protest” to “criminality”. The pockets of violence and clashes being experienced in some parts of the country presently are “totally unacceptable”.
You are to ensure that you do not “overstretch the efficacy of the protest” by “dragging it out of context”. Remember that, there are demands that could be remedied “immediately”; and, there are others that “will take time to resolve”; so, do not expect the government to meet all your demands at “the same time”. You have to give them enough time to prioritize and address them accordingly.
Do not allow desperate politicians to use the protest to champion their own selfish interests while “pretending to be for the people”.
Do not infringe or encroach on the rights of others; because, it can only lead to chaos which will not achieve any meaningful/positive result.
Do not attack or destroy any public/private property(ies) or police facilities because it will not in any way solve the problems.
Do not allow enemies of the country to introduce ethnic, religious and political sentiments into the struggle that could snowball into civil unrest.
The call for a “better Nigeria” where dividends of democracy will go round should not be seen and used as an avenue to promoting “dismemberment of our nation”.
Do not be deceived that you are in “control” of the country; because, the “only recognized government” is the “democratically elected government in place”. Even, the international community will not condone any act that could lead to “anarchy”.
Most importantly, do not “hesitate” to “call off” the protest “as soon as possible”; considering the fact that the government has assured that it’s going to look into all the grievances with a view to resolving them. It means that your voices have been “heard and recorded”; therefore, let’s give our leaders the benefits of the doubt to respond appropriately.
Therefore, I am also calling on the government to seize this opportunity to redouble its efforts towards alleviating the sufferings of the masses. Take this as a confirmation that all your policies and strategies towards moving the country forward are well noted and commendable; but, they are still short of achieving the desired results; and, that is why the people are on the streets to show their dissatisfaction.
Though, it is true that most of the problems we are facing today were not entirely caused by your administration; they remain the problems of the country; and, you are expected to right the wrongs because “government is a continuum”.
As the president and leader of government, you are to exercise restraint. Do not be quick to employing the use of “force” to try to suppress the yearnings of the people; because, it will be “counterproductive”. If at all, the protest is eventually hijacked by unscrupulous elements (God forbids) with the aim of throwing the country into a state of anarchy; “then”, it would be obvious to the whole world that “force” could be used as a “last resort” to restore peace.
Do not take any demand with a pinch of salt or with levity. All demands should be taken seriously and must be considered on their merits.
Do not handle the situation with any iota of “mistrust”; because, this is the time when all hands must be on deck to finding solutions to the problems at hand.
Do not allow your aids/advisers/political cronies etc to as a result of their “personal interests and ambitions” discourage you from reaching out to those across tribal, religious and political divide in your quest to finding the best remedies.
Also, the “Governors Forum” should bring its members together to finding solutions to “our national problems”.
They should try as much as possible not to be divided along party and regional lines; but, rather, they should act as governors of the people and not governors of members and leadership of their respective parties or region.
Furthermore, members of the National Assembly should ensure that issues referred to the hallowed chambers are looked into expeditiously, objectively and patriotically without fear or favour (my article on “The 9th Assembly and Our democracy” mentioned earlier will make an interesting read). You are also required to look into the areas of cutting down the cost of governance “considerably”; ensure the passing of the Electoral Reform Bill into law; take urgent steps to ensuring that key sectors of the polity are reformed so that the people will have access to quality and cheap education; healthcare services; good roads; effective and cheap cost of transportation etc; you are to formulate policies that will boost creation of jobs to reduce the rate of unemployment; and, improve the welfare of workers and members of the armed forces; and, following up to ensuring that the civil service, the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Immigration Service, and other government agencies are restructured and adequately funded to be more result oriented, to mention but a few.
Finally, I am using this medium to enjoin the citizenry to remain calm and go about their normal activities (remember to adhere strictly to covid 19 safety rules) while hoping and waiting for amicable resolution of the current impasse.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Oise-Oghaede writes from Suru-lere, Lagos State, Nigeria. He can be reached via email@example.com.
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