#EndSARS Protests: The Lessons Within

#EndSARS Protests: The Lessons Within

Sanusi Muhammad

This is not the first civil unrest that ever enveloped Nigeria since independence and no lesson seems to have been learnt. We pray for the restoration of peace while hoping that those piloting the affairs of governance, will rebrand themselves against eruption of another ‘violent’ protest should the system remain unchanged as promised.

The dynamics of civil unrest can sometimes be very complex given the varied reasons why citizens take to the streets in protests. These reasons are rarely static-it changes based on the feedback that those engaged in such activities get.

From my NADECO experience, although, we were not violent, we pushed our case for the understanding of those in authority. We looted nothing and torched nothing. We were civil but protesting for a democratic purpose.

We were tagged as terrorists but we remained focused until we almost crippled Nigeria. We dwarfed those in leadership and exposed their weaknesses. We exposed hypocrisy, greed and fought parochial interest until our aim was achieved and democracy reinstated. Some of us in the process paid the supreme price with our lives but we achieved our aims as heroes of democracy.

The then military government opted to the use of force to silence our agitations and we resisted with intelligence and courage. Same government went violent, planting explosives etc and crediting those deadly acts to our collective just to discredit our cause. It never paid until the end. By 1998, the maximum ruler passed away without achieving his aim against us. 

From this brief, let those protesters and government endeavor to learn from history.

Nigerian civil war started with protests. Maitatsine riots started with protest. June 12 started with protest. Boko Haram started with protests etc. But governments at all levels are yet to put-in-place a mechanism to checkmate the repeat unwarranted protests that originate most of the time from bad governance. Sadly, from the records, all peaceful protests metamorphosed to violence from Police excesses in trying to subdue the protesters with the use of force.    

Nigeria has for the past 60 years transmogrified into a breeding ground for all sorts of social ills ranging from corruption to ethno-religious conflicts. Present and past leaders who choose to follow archaic and lock step approaches to remedy would often end up creating platforms for the advancement of these ills.

Fast forward to the present; as Nigerian youths were out on the streets protesting against police brutality amidst other pressing grievances, one must not expect to see an immediate end to these agitations as the reasons that pushed those young ones out of their places of abode to the streets under the scorching sun and humidity are of quantum magnitude and must be frustrating beyond tolerance.

Police brutality was only a means of stepping out of a box fabricated by past and present leaders to muzzle the public from negotiating their freedom from oppressive and non-progressive governance systems by voicing out their pains and frustrations.

It is only in Nigeria stark or semi-illiterates accesses power through corruption and imposition and in-turn, misuses the power for wealth accumulation against progress of the governed. The governed are unconsciously pushed to slavery by their representatives for crumbs.

Our lawmakers are not that better than the traditional praise singers and political bandits we know. We have lawmakers that hardly understand why they were even elected to be where they are. The perception of most of our lawmakers is to be in the national assembly to squeeze water from the system for their personal comfort than what they can offer for a better Nigeria.

Their thinking starts and ends with how to procure second-hand automobiles, grinding and water pumping machines and motorcycles for their constituents as ‘constituency’ projects. That is the highest contribution they usual make to their deprived electorates with pride.

When you carefully look at the modes of dressings and appearance of some of those our national lawmakers, they look more or less like masquerades or liberated war prisoners in confusion, simply  because they found themselves in a national assignment far above their capacities with some that can hardly communicate fluently even in their native language. It is a sad situation that must change in years to come for Nigeria to catch-up with advance democracies. 

A new dimension in politics and governance is about to be ushered in and the responses of those currently in power can only foster this process. Dare I say that one’s government could run into rocky waters if the genuine and justifiable demands of the majority are not met?

Civil protest in this country is taking a robust and new dimension. Agendas are set, rules are placed and the whole process is inter-supervised. This will make it very difficult for any “hard-wired-to-be corrupt” politician who would want to hijack this generally peaceful process by organizing counter agitations occasioned by incidences of unwarranted violence and wanton destruction of lives and properties and even passing ‘commando’ laws and enforcing official orders that prohibit the use of some social media networking sites used frequently as launch pads of protest.

All these goes against the ideals of a peaceful and democratic civil protest meant to silence the voice of the deprived and ultimately, violates the fundamental rights of the people as spelt out in the 1999 Constitution (amended) which our tormentors in power twist to justify their crimes against us. In the alternative, if civil protest fails to achieve the desired goals, we shall opt to the application of jungle justice to sanitize the system for the good of all.

As we are about taking a new turn of the decade, Nigerian youths must remain united, clear sighted and reasonable in their demands without a bargain of their conscience and falling prey to myopic sentiments of ethnicity, religion or region for crumbs.

I should posit here that the protest by the youths of Nigeria is only a tip of the iceberg and the beginning to the hurried end to bad governance and injustices in our only dear country as promised by Mr. President. Anything short of an aggressive approach to normalizing the situation may snowball to a full blown bloody revolution. God Save Nigeria!

Lest I forget, I doff my hat for the Inspector-General of Police for directing the disengagement of police personnel from serving self-appointed big men and women that are only big in stealing and greed. As he directed, I most sincerely hope, the directive will be respected.

Those so-called big guys that disturb traffic follow with mortuary sirens will now have to join the cue at road bloc etc. Nigeria must move according to the tenets of civilization. We are tired of fake leaders and morons on the corridors of power!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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