Tuesday, November 03, 2020 / 06:47AM / OpEd by
Reuben Abati / Header Image Credit: VoA/AFP
The #EndSARS protests which lasted for about two weeks until the crisis in Lagos on October 20, 2020, now known as the Black Tuesday in Nigeria's contemporary history, may have abated, with the disappearance from Nigerian streets of the horde of protesters, looters, hijackers, and miscreants who together lent a new dimension to the protests. But essentially what we are now witnessing is best described as the "silence of the graveyard." It is at best "a temporary reprieve". The embers of the youth revolution that resulted in death, arson, wanton destruction and expansive alienation, are still smouldering.
The extent to which this is true can be seen in
1) the renewed attempt in the Federal Capital Territory to loot a freshly discovered COVID-19 palliatives warehouse;
2) the threat by some civil society groups that if the Federal Government does not address the demands of Nigerian youths about police brutality and good governance, nobody should rule out the possibility of another round of protests; and
3) the reported state of anomie in Oyigbo Local Government Area in Rivers State, where the people and the military are locked in a potentially explosive situation following the killing of six soldiers within the community by persons said to be militants of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra Movement (IPOB) and the imposition of a 24-hour curfew on the community by the Rivers State Government.
A "revolution" is like the spoken word - a word is like a seed, it germinates and in actuality, its embodied meanings could take on a utilitarian and practical edge. Kinjekitile in Ebrahim Hussein's play of the same title, on the 1905-7 Maji Maji War against German colonial rule in Tangayika (modern day Tanzania), makes the point about the potency of the word: a word once spoken may be difficult to recall or control. Kinjekitile, the seer, energized the people with a word of hope about their own invincibility but even if he did not command the next line of action, the people were driven by their own emotions and enthusiasm.
The #EndSARS protest was a spoken word which assumed a life of its own. The protesters in Kinjekitile thought water as directed by the spirit, Hongo, will protect them against German bullets. The protesters at Lekki Toll Gate and other parts of Nigeria believed that the Nigerian flag and the singing of the national anthem would offer them immunity from the same state brutality that they were revolting against. Many ended up as casualties. The state and the innocent have also suffered. The culture of hate that has been promoted thereby, the Nigerian fault lines that have now been further widened, and the gulf of alienation between the people and their leaders that has been further stretched - point to one fact: the need to save Nigeria from an avoidable blow-out between the people and the state that could prove costly. This will require a sober and detached reflection over the meaning and implications of the #EndSARS protests in terms of lessons, gains, loopholes and possible options.
One major lesson is about people power. Both #EndSARS protests in the South and the #EndinSecurityNow protests in the North were about the power of the people to insist on their own truths, hold their leaders accountable and ask questions. We often talk about the coercive powers of state, and how the control of such power's places Nigerian leaders in a superior position over and above the people. In the face of the people's anger, the vulnerability of those powers was exposed and the true location of power in a state, nation and country was revealed. Power rests with the people. The youths of Nigeria coalesced around a word: #EndSARS - that word soon became a signifying coda, adopted and translated into different strands by even those who did not understand what it represented other than an opportunity for rebellion against perceived enemies - from the police, to political leaders, to the rich and affluent, business owners and the ordinary man or woman riding a flashy car.
What began as a protest by young men and women in the privileged quarters of Lekki, Ikoyi, Ajah, Banana Island, Victoria Island, later joined by celebrities and social media influencers taking photographs, making speeches and eventually, playing music, eating Shawarma, Pizza, delicious rice and puff puff, soon degenerated into chaos. Even before Black Tuesday, the protests had spread across the streets of Lagos, from Lekki toll gate to Agege, Iyana Oworo, Ikorodu, Iyana Ipaja, Oshodi, Fagba, Mushin, Alakuko...The youths in these parts and their cousins in Benin City, Osogbo, Federal Capital Territory, Onitsha, Oyigbo brought a new dimension to the protests. In Benin they attacked two prisons. In Ilesa, they went after the Soun of Ogbomoso's palace. In Abuja, Lagos and elsewhere, they pulled down traffic lights and public infrastructure. These other protesters have been dismissed as miscreants and hoodlums, but no one has been able to deny that they are Nigerian youths. The sad news is that they are in the majority.
With #EndSARS, Nigeria began to pay the price for its failure to provide for the future of its youths, to train its young persons and to empower them beyond slogans and rhetoric. The big lesson lies in the solidarity that we saw between the educated puff-puff and pizza eating crowd at Lekki Toll gate that spoke fine English and sang the National Anthem and carried placards and the stick-wielding, "we-die-here" youths that went after public infrastructure and anything that looked rich. They were both united by one word #EndSARS which had become a catch phrase for youth frustration.
Nigeria is a divided country across all lines: ethnic, demographic, religious, and geographic with tension and entropy sewn into the national fabric. Nigerian youths constitute more than 60% of the country's population but they are the most neglected, and of course the most divided: North and South, rich and poor. The children of the rich live in privileged places. They go to the best schools abroad. They acquire vertical education, and the kind of exposure that money can offer. But when they return to the country, they don't get jobs. They have no hope of self-actualization because the country itself is bleeding. And so they are angry and disillusioned. On the other side are the children of the poor: the products of Nigeria's warped system. This other group has not enjoyed the opportunity to go to school.
A few may have had the opportunity, but these are mostly school drop outs whose little education is of no use. The only toy that they have ever played with in their lives is a wrap of marijuana, a shot of cocaine, tramadol, a gun and a bullet. They speak the language of the streets. We saw them at work during the #EndSARS protests. In the South, they took over the protests. In the North, they became hired agents of their oppressors and attacked the protesters. Lesson: a country that fails to invest in the future of its youths is bound to count the cost in the shape of anarchy. Nigerian youths - whatever label we give them - protesters or miscreants have spoken up. They have shown that they have a voice that must be heard.
When some funny lawmakers in the Lagos State House of Assembly - Mudasiru Obasa, Mojisola Alli-Macaulay and Desmond Elliot tried to reconstruct the nature of the #EndSARS protests, the same youths dragged them like dirt on environmental sanitation day! Those lawmakers must have now learnt that it is better to think before uttering a word!
Our youths need jobs. They need to be taken seriously. The challenge of poverty and hunger also needs to be addressed if Nigeria must have peace. Political leaders and government officials must also learn to be accountable. As it happened, the protests moved beyond a revolt against police brutality, to an attack on warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives had been hoarded, organized attacks on the homes and properties of politicians, even innocent entrepreneurs. It was shocking to be confronted with the ugly truth that Nigerian politicians had converted COVID-19 palliatives for personal use to be distributed as birthday souvenirs. One of such persons even had the effrontery to confess that he was saving the materials for his birthday anniversary. He wasn't intelligent enough to figure out his own folly. The angry youths that attacked COVID-19 palliatives warehouses across the entire country were not alone. They were joined by ordinary people, pregnant women, and the army of poor Nigerian masses. What has been labelled as looting and criminality is subliminally an expression of the people's frustration with government. Why hoard palliatives when the people are in need? To further show the rise of the lunatic fringe in high places, there has been a report that COVID-19 palliatives provided by the private sector coalition, known as CA-COVID are now actually on sale in some stores, locally and in London!
Nigerian policemen and women suffered a lot: 22 policemen were killed, 205 police formations and stations were set ablaze, operational vehicles were destroyed. We sympathize with the Nigeria Police... and all the families who lost their loved ones in the course of the protests. Nobody deserves to die in such manner. There will be need for healing and reconciliation at all levels. However, in an attempt to rebuild trust and confidence among his men, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu has been quoted as saying that policemen have a right to defend themselves and that any policeman that is assaulted by anybody has a right to fight back. The IGP should talk more about peace building strategies rather than the politics of vengeance and confrontation. There is a Federal Government Committee in place to work out the processes for giving effect to the 5-for-5 demands. The Committee should conduct its work with the speed of light. States of the Federation have agreed to set up panels of Inquiry; about 13 states have done so, the others should hurry up. Nigerians need to know the truth and they need to know that justice will be done. The Nigerian Military stands accused. Its leaders must stop talking as if the military is above the laws of the land. Thy must learn to be humble and accountable.
Related to Nigeria Police:
1. Lagos Coordinated Attacks: An Attempt to Weaken Southwest Economy LASG, October 25, 2020
2. The #ENDSARS Protests: A Fundamental Lesson in Democratic Governance - Bola Tinubu, October 25, 2020
3. Our Youth and the Unfolding National Crisis: Need for Urgent Intervention - Concerned Nigerians, October 23, 2020
4. President Buhari Calls for Peace, but Insists on Decisive Action Against Carnage - State House, October 22, 2020
5. #ENDSARS: President Buhari to Address the Nation by 7pm - State House, October 22, 2020
6. NBA Condemns the Killing of Peaceful #ENDSARS Protesters in Lagos by the Nigerian Military - NBA, October 21, 2020
7. Deja VU - In Tragic Vein - Wole Soyinka, October 21, 2020
8. Statement by Olusegun Obasanjo on Violence Against Protesters in Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm - Olusegun Obasdanjo, October 21, 2020
9. Lekki Toll Plaza Attack: Governor Sanwo-Olu Sets Up 5-Man Fact Finding Committee - LASG, October 21, 2020
10. #ENDSARS Protests: Speaker, Gbajabiamila Calls for Wholesale Reforms of The Nigeria Police Force - House of Reps, October 20, 2020
11. IGP Deploys Anti-Riot Police Nationwide To Protect Lives and Defend Critical Infrastructure - Police, October 20, 2020
12. Lagos State Police to Enforce 24 Hour Curfew, Proshare Reverts to Remote Access Work - October 20, 2020
13. #EndSARS: Understanding Nigeria's Emerging Active Citizens- Abiodun Awonusi, October 20, 2020
14. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu Imposes 24-hour Curfew in Lagos State - LASG, October 20, 2020
15. #EndSARS: The Generation that said "Enough is Enough"- Reuben Abati, October 20, 2020
18. The #EndSARS Protests and the Problem of Police Reform in Nigeria - CSL Research, October 15, 2020
19. #EndSars Protest Movement A Watershed Moment in the Quest for Genuine Change in Nigeria - Ahmed Sule, Proshare, October 15, 2020
20. SARS and The Youth Revolt - Olusegun Adeniyi, Thisday, October 15, 2020
21. Appeal court declares Police Act 2020 illegal, nullifies constable recruitment - Punch, October 14, 2020
22. A Nigerian internet or social media shutdown? What to know and do - TechCabal, October 14, 2020
23. Presidential Panel on Police Reforms Swings Into Action, Okays 5-Point Demand of Protesters - State House, Proshare, October 13, 2020
24. #EndSARS: Almost a Nigerian Revolution - Reuben Abati, Proshare, October 13, 2020
25. VIDEO: #EndSARS: President Buhari Reaffirms Disbandment of FSARS, Assures Nigerians of Police Reforms - WebTV, October 12, 2020
26. #EndSARS: IGP Orders Immediate Dissolution of FSARS Formation Nationwide - Proshare, October 11, 2020
27. Download PDF: Order and Directives - Restrictions on The Operations of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad - Proshare, October 11, 2020
28. VIDEO: #EndSARS:The Quest For Reforms And Effective Policing In Nigeria - WebTV, October 10, 2020
29. President Buhari Signs the Nigeria Police Bill 2020 into Law - Proshare, September 17, 2020
31. The Kolade Johnson Killing: #ENDSARS #ReformPoliceNG Group Calls for Signing of Police Reform Bill - Proshare, April 05, 2019
32. VIDEO: Kolade Johnson Killing: #ENDSARS #ReformPoliceNG Group Call for Signing of Police Reform Bill - WebTV, April 05, 2019
33. NBS Publishes 2019 Corruption in Nigeria Survey Report - Proshare, December 06, 2019
34. 134,663 Crime Cases Were Reported in 2017 - NBS - Proshare, June 26, 2018
35. National Corruption Survey: Corruption in Nigeria - Bribery as Experienced by the Population - Proshare, August 16, 2017
40. PDF: Police Affairs / Budgets
43. PHCN, Police Most Corrupt in Nigeria, By ICPC - Proshare, June 29, 2006
Previous Posts by Author - Dr. Reuben Abati
1. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Best Woman for the WTO Job - Nov 03, 2020
2. #EndSARS: The State of the "Revolution" - Oct 27, 2020
3. #EndSARS: The Generation that said "Enough is Enough"- Oct 20, 2020
4. #EndSARS: Almost a Nigerian Revolution - Oct 13, 2020
13. Corona Blues - Abati - Apr 07, 2020
16. New Electricity Tariffs: Questions by Reuben Abati - Jan 07, 2020
17. Omoyele Sowore: Portrait of A Life in Protest - Abati - Dec 10, 2019
19. The Supreme Court and the Atiku Election Petition - Abati - Nov 05, 2019
20. The Constitutional Crisis in Kogi - Abati - Oct 30, 2019
21. The Spiritual Solution to Boko Haram - Abati - Oct 08, 2019
22. Oct 1: The Journey So Far - Oct 01, 2019
23. Presidential Powers and The Vice President - Sept 24, 2019
24. Nigeria, Xenophobia and Ramaphosa's Apology - Sept 18, 2019
25. Mohammed Adoke Writes Back - Sept 18, 2019
26. P and ID vs. Nigeria: A Review by Reuben Abati - Sept 10, 2019
27. When Soldiers Do Police Work: Disaster - Aug 14, 2019
Related News on Governance and Nigeria's Future
1. Igboro ti Daru: Governance, Leadership, Ethics - How To Build A Thriving Nigerian Economy - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, June 29, 2019
2. Beyond Politics - A Government Within A Government Has Always Existed - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, August 08, 2018
3. Ogun Standard Education: A Way Forward - Olufemi AWOYEMI - Proshare, May 23, 2017
4. Leadership, Change and Corporate Transformation - The Nigerian Experience - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, November 07, 2017
5. A Village Made Me - Our Collective Story of Humble Beginnings - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, December 11, 2019
6. Memo to The Market - The NSE, Oscar Onyema Foundation and Corporate Governance - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, August 20, 2018
7. Where Nigeria got it Wrong - Olufemi Awoyemi, Proshare, December 01, 2014
8. The Case Against High Interest Rates in Time of Contagion - Bola Tinubu - Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Proshare, May 03, 2020
9. Nigeria's Economy After Oil: How Should We Prepare? - Bode Agusto, Proshare, April 24, 2020
10. Nigeria - How to Win - Bode Agusto, Proshare, April 16, 2018
11. Can Africa Afford COVID-19 Lockdowns? - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, April 24, 2020
12. Economic and Institutional Restructuring for the Next Nigeria - Soludo - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, October 01, 2019
13. Nigeria: Where is the New Economy? - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, August 20, 2012
14. Full Transcript of Professor Charles Soludo's lecture at the APC ... - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, September 05, 2016
15. Reconstructing Nigeria for Prosperity (1) - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, September 03, 2012
16. Reconstructing Nigeria for Prosperity (2) - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, September 17, 2012
17. Reconstructing Nigeria for Prosperity (3) - Proshare Nigeria - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, October 02, 2012
18. The Hard Facts to Rescue the Nigerian Economy ... - Apr 5, 2017 - Chukwuma Soludo, Proshare, April 05, 2017
19. PDF -Soludo on Buharinomics: Lecture Paper - Proshare - November 19, 2015
20. The Quadrilemma of Buharinomics - Temitope Oshikoya - June 03, 2015