October 31, 2020

#EndSARS protest: Time for introspection

Stray bullet shattered my leg when SARS officers were arresting boy with tattoos — Hairdresser

EndSars Protesters at the CBN Headquarters, Abuja, last Sunday. PHOTO: Abayomi Adeshida.

EndSars Protesters at the CBN Headquarters, Abuja, last Sunday. PHOTO: Abayomi Adeshida.

By Rowland Odegbo

Nigeria is in deep crisis and nothing will be more gratifying than its honest admission. The protest to end SARS/police brutality has taken a turn for the worse. The death of protesters at Lekki toll gate has robbed the protest of its peace and sent violent death and vandalization of properties across the country.

Since the Arab Spring there has been the fear of possible uprising in Nigeria even if its consciousness was not generally felt. But the state didn’t seem to care and made no effort to assuage the pains of muffled voices. Governance continued to slide off into the impotence of error. Graduates of 15/20 years ago still roam the streets without jobs and with no hope of securing any. Leaders who should be sympathetic, who became what they are today on account of state grants and scholarship, without which they might be walking the streets an ordinary people, turned a blind eye. No jobs for graduates and no incentives for those struggling through school.

Though most of the elite were beneficiaries of state grants, yet they refuse to avail the youths a chance at growth. They feign ignorance of their plight and carry on without them. To make the bad situation worse, some of them entrusted with public fund spend it recklessly without as much as providing the basic infrastructural need for the people. Even those who should be of cosmopolitan bent, who have seen development in advanced countries of the world, made no effort to raise the bar.

But the youths are not dumb. They know as others do that most of their leaders did not sweat through school rather the state funded their education either as full scholarship or subsidized. They are also aware that most of them didn’t have to schlep enormous bags of curriculum vitae from one office to another in search of illusory jobs as employments were waiting for them on graduation. In frustration, and with no hope of the state extending the same facility to them they became more agitated.

Many had wondered aloud as to what brought about the immediate protest. The SARS/police brutality has been an ever present pain no doubt, but it was more of the frustration in governance that contributed immensely to the nationwide protest. The anger has long welled up in the youths who are witnesses to the rot in government and its ancillary organs like the legislature, the judiciary, public service, security forces and even the traditional institutions. Years of impunity, evident in ostentatious display of dubious wealth, moving in convoy of exotic cars, flaunting of splendid homes and stories of stashing away state funds in private bank accounts were no longer bearable as were the greed of the ruling class.

It was becoming clear to the youths that most public office holders, especially politicians, are not honorable and do not regard with dismay any position or office which must be attained or held at the sacrifice of honour. And beneath the gloss of decency, many of them have a reputation of unflagging consideration for lucre, and little objection to loss of life provided that they personally cannot be seen to have had anything to do with it. Perhaps that explains the different standard the state applies in the treatment of its citizens with some being pampered while others are getting hounded. The discriminatory standard which also affects admission into schools as well as employment and elevation in offices has so affected output that Nigerian graduates no longer command respect both within and without. No wonder the state is yet to get a hang of basic technological knowhow and has to rely on foreigners to handle most of its needs.

READ ALSO: EndSARS: Police say protesters attacked 205 public, private facilities

As it stands, the end of the rot is not in sight yet as the decay appears swift in the manner it affects every sector and every section of the society. Though the youths themselves are not without blame as some of them inadvertently contributed to the rot. Perhaps for want of job or inexplicable obsession with violence, many of them have become puppets, dancing on the string managed by a few devious politicians. Quite often, mere provision of a bus with few other incentives puts this set of intemperate youths on the path of violence, thuggery, and all manner of criminal engagement. It is a fact that some of the worst public office holders past and past manipulated their way to office with the support of these indulgent youths. Snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes are done not by elders, but these youths who are ready to mortgage their future for mere pittance.

Emboldened by the misguided support, some of these leaders who enjoy relatively good facilities abroad take a lot for granted, and do not care to replicate same at home. They are comfortable going on medical tourism abroad rather than fix the dilapidated facilities at home. Issue of dilapidated roads hardly provokes their attention as they fly most of the time and use four wheel drive vehicles where otherwise. Rather than find solution to the plight of the teeming mass of unemployed youths, time and resources are spent on vain obsessions.

There is so much indolence and corruption in the system that a review of the penal code has become very necessary. It is surprising that those who benefitted from state grants cannot plough back into the society. A good number, in their arrogance, believe their rise to position was as a result of brilliance, forgetting that so many of the youths they like to dismiss as miscreants are brighter. Some of the youths may have gone down in death, wrongly tagged miscreants, but let no one wave aside their demands however illogical they may seem.

It is true that not all members of the proscribed SARS were vicious. Some were, but a good number did excellent job of running armed robbers and kidnappers out of the way.  It will be good to rethink Nigeria and restructure where necessary. And if this restructuring requires low pay for our public office holders, members of the legislature, including the traditional rulers, so be it. There may be no better time than now to get Nigeria working again.

  • Rowland Odegbo, Aborgu 11 n’Nteje, wrote in from Nteje, Anambra State