For the past two weeks, Nigeria has been rocking under an unusual social tumor. The long term silent whimpering of #EndSARS finally hit the streets. It reverberated loudly. And it re-echoed in practically all the South Western zone of the country. The youths of the zone came out in their numbers to decry the operational attitude of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of The Nigeria Police, popularly known as “SARS”. The Northern hemisphere thinking was slightly different. They want the dreaded Police Special Squad to remain and help them #EndInsecurity. No definite stand from the Eastern and Southern zone. This clearly shows how polarized the country is socially and politically.
But despite acceding to their requests, surprisingly, the protests persist. As the Federal Government panicky, through the Inspector General of Police quickly disbanded the Squad nationally, and promises reforms. It simply snowballed from #EndSARS to #EndPoliceBrutality. An attempt to further move it to #EndGovernment or given any political coloration, was however sharply nipped in the bud. The unending protests, strictly from social perspective, bring out some salient points in our society.
I was at the Lagos/Ibadan end of the Expressway and saw live what played there. I was also at Ogba, and Ikeja points of the protests. I thoroughly listened to and enjoyed the side discussions and main theme of the protests. The truth is that the ‘Yahoo Boys’ are fed up of constant harassment and extortion by SARS Operatives. But still, these protests pack much more than the ‘Yahoo Boys’ revolt. The army of unemployed and unemployable youths are frightening in our society. These ones readily lumped up with the promoters to form a big army of Resistance Force.
I heard from several reliable sources that the protesters are not money or material hungry, They want change and that is what they are agitating for. All over the hotspots or boiling areas around the country, I heard some influential people go round to distribute money and other sundry items which the protesters rejected vehemently. This shows that the youths are awakened. I wish same can be done during electionary periods when politicians go round to give money and bread in order to buy votes from the masses.
They call them ‘lazy youths’. Agreed. But what have the leadership done to help these socially vulnerable lazy youths in the country? At least there should be a safety net which no one is allowed to fall beyond. But nay. These youths have crashed totally into the nadir and are now reacting, some with the last kick in them. While one can easily deduce that the so-called ‘lazy youths’ are the protagonists, yet that such social disorder persistently going on for days, running to weeks ought to wake our leaders from their deep slumber. The society is deeply disjointed. The citizenry are disoriented. Like Professor Wole Soyinka would put it: "It is the season of anomie"!
The main lesson the country can learn from these protests is that now is the time to reason together, to reason is now. The time to come together, act and speak with one voice is now. Thomas Paine, that American political activist started the move. He wrote his Age of Reason in 1794. His work was centered on the position of religion in society. Then late Hon. Olaiya Fagbamigbe, remember the progressive turn-coat who was murdered in the wake of the 1983 General Elections in Akure, Ondo State? He packaged the late Pa Obafemi Awolowo’s words of reason to the people and published it as a first of a trilogy. He pushed out the Voice of Reason in 1980. Ideally not related, but the two books seismically pricked the conscience of a people. They were call for social and political reflections.
Today, our dear fatherland need a strong call for reason. The first line of the National Anthem is ‘Arise o Compatriot’. All compatriots must arise now. The country is fast sliding into the precipice socially. We can still rescue the country socially and abandon the politicians if they adamantly choose the path of damnation.
The reality of recent happenings is that the fallacy of leadership infallibility has been broken. The SARS operatives’ reign of terror on the hapless populace has been on for years. This special squad of the Nigeria Police must be avoided if one values his peace. The other arm, The Mobile Police Squad, the notorious ‘Kill and Go’ too are in the same league. While their duty briefs is holistically germane to maintenance of peace and order in the society, the unquenchable propensity to exhort monies from their ‘victims’ rendered any good purpose prostrate.
One must admit the flatulence of the so-called Internet fraudsters, the Yahoo Boys in any neighborhood they are found. But the SARS men have turn them to another stream of income. Exhorting money and materials from them now and again without ever prosecuting one. The Squad failed the simple test of reason by engaging in actions worse than some of the boys they are holding ransom in their gulag. The leadership never listen to all the hues and cries about the activities of these irresponsible Squad. The killing in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Oshogbo, Osun State, the one in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the several killings in Lagos State remain a bad sore in the records of the Squad, as these killings amounts to extra-judicial killings in the eye of the law.
While the cries over these killings continue, the leaders played the Ostrich. From an Area Commander somewhere to a Commissioner of Police of a State or even a Deputy Inspector General of Police, no one hear or picked the news of the killings from the media. From the Police to the relevant Ministries and seat of Power, still no one pick up the news, either from a regular news source or an unorthodox social media. They keep mute. Now the fireballs in the streets. It has started. No one can predict the end point.
Taken panic measures to re-open National Youth Service Corps Orientation Camps, tertiary institutions closed down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, may not solve the problem. Neither is the given to the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities’ (ASUU) Satanic agenda, all in an efforts to drive the youths back to the schools, can be of any help now. This is given the restive youths the opportunity to regroup and map out proper strategies. The leaders have failed. And they must adequately face the consequences of this monumental failure. Simplicita.
As a nation, we lack good reasoning. Both at the lower or at the higher levels of the society here. The leaders play God or demi-gods. We deal with subordinates with all arrogance once we have the power over him. The toothless National Assembly was laughingly reported to have set a very long date to hear the protesters’ grouses. Setting a date more than eight working days simply show how they treat issues that affect the masses. But let’s even assume they set up a panel of inquiry to look into the agitations of the youths, would the reports ever see the light of the day? This seems to be in us. We have never learn to reason together.
How many reports of Inquiries have been buried in this country? The killing of Adepeju Adepoju of the University of Ibadan in 1972 by the Police readily comes to mind here. The Gowon Administration set up a committee and till today, no white paper was prepared on the Committee’s Report.
If the #EndSARS protests did not die a natural death. It may snowball into something unpalatable for the leaders. This is a call for reason now that something can still be done. We should not, by any act of omission or commission, accidently mismanaged it and allowed it to snowballed into a political spring.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lago, Nigeria
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All images, courtesy Google.