By Sunny Ikhioya
MANY saw it coming but, never in the dimension that it finally manifested itself. The youths had become an endangered species during the reign of the SARS regime. When your child says that he is travelling, your mind is not at rest until he gets to the destination and calls to say that he has arrived safely. Such was the situation, that an ordinary laptop or a simple android phone on your hand can attract the attention of the SARS officer on our highways.
Some of them were profiled by their looks or clothing. In the mad rush to get at these, so called “Yahoo boys”, so many youths were harassed, bastardised and even killed. It was just a matter of where the backlash will come from them.
People had trended the hashtag Endsars before now to no effect but that of October 20, 2020, was spontaneous. Ignited by an incident in Ughelli, Delta State, the whole country caught up within minutes. Yes, it is true, the government escaped a revolution that would have probably led to its fall, but thank God, the status quo was eventually restored.
We have just witnessed one year anniversary of the Endsars protest, but have things changed? Is it likely that there will be a repeat of such incidence in the future? Have parties in the conflict learnt their lessons?
What is to be done, moving forward? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves, as it has become an epoch event that will be recorded in the history of the Nigerian democratic struggles. The endsars protest took place for almost a week, effective from 20th October ‘ 2020, it will be very unfortunate, if no lesson is learnt from this incident.
We seem never to learn from our experiences, this is a country that went through three years of brutal civil war, today nothing can been identified as lesson learnt – technological breakthroughs, inter ethnic interactions, leveraging on our strength of unity in diversity, recorded history and others – nothing to show for it. Most of what we enjoy today as technological breakthroughs manifested during periods of war in America, Europe and other lands.
The advancements in the aviation radar technology today, emanated during the second World wars, what is the takeaway from our 1967 -1970 civil war? More bitterness, greed and unforgiveness, and so, the benefits have been confined to the dustbin, not even recorded in our history curricular for students to learn from.
Because of our unforgiving spirit, we have allowed the progress of the country to remain stunted. In any circumstances, whether good or bad, lessons are learnt for mankind to make progress, what are the lessons from the endsars protests? It clearly shows that there is an extent to which we can push our youths, the sophistication of the organisation of the protests have never been witnessed in our history and it caught the authorities unawares.
It shows that if the people are ready to exercise their powers, there is nothing the government can do but to kowtow. At least, before things got out of hands, the government already made concessions to the protesters. It also shows the multitude of idle youths we are producing in this country, as a potential time bomb for the nation.
Also, when people lose confidence in the police authorities, the country will tilt towards anarchy. The youths failed in their adventure because there were no visible leadership to check the excesses. They allowed the protests to be hijacked by hoodlums and in the process, many innocent people lost their lives and businesses. It also shows that when you allow the mob to hold sway, situations will spiral out of control.
The government succeeded in putting the revolt in check through their counter thuggery approach. A lot of criticisms followed their actions, because they also caused many innocent lives and businesses to be lost. What is to be done?
A school of thought in military strategies are of the opinion that, if you want to eliminate a threat, you will do it in such a way that the threat never possesses the capabilities to rear its head again to threaten you. Is this the case now between the government and our youths? Unfortunately, instead of addressing root causes, some of us in government are flexing muscles, beating their chest for containing the revolt.
As long as the youths are disgruntled, the potential for a repeat will always be there, coercive force can only last for a while, but the solution must be a durable one that will guarantee peace for the nation. We must begin with how the people can win the confidence of the police and vice versa.
Part of the reasons for the protest, according to them, is the welfare of our policemen, as they called for better conditions of service that will encourage them to carry out their duties without bitterness. Looking at situation of things before Endsars and now, have things changed? The men of SARS have been transformed into another name but they have continued with the same behaviour of unnecessary harassment of citizens.
We saw an example on the Kogi highway, where policemen forced a passenger from his bus and marched him to a POS centre to withdraw money. They are back on the street, with even more brutality. We have the DPOs, state commissioners,regional AIGs and the IG, these ones need to sensitise their people down to the basement level. There must be effective training and monitoring of our police personnel, as it is now, everyone is minding his business.
It is very important that those at the top take notice, because the reverberating consequences will affect everyone, top to bottom. The people’s revolt is a very powerful force, all governments, all over the world try as much as possible to avoid it, that is what they live for, to avoid the peoples revolt.
You can only avoid it by doing the right things, things that will make them happy, otherwise, a rather innocuous event, like the Ughelli incident, can trigger an explosion that can engulf the whole nation, the leadership must be wise to it. Fortunately, in Nigeria, the people are very easy to pacify, make basic amenities available and stop unnecessary harassment in whatever form, the military mentality carried from years of dictatorial rule must stop.
When President Buhari took over government in 2015, he promised a reform of the police, it is six years down the line, nothing has changed. We must put laws in place for police reforms, there is the Police Service Commission, Ministry of Police Affairs, Inspector General and all others, what are they doing?
Our policemen still operate under an atmosphere of fear and impunity, there must be reform in areas of education, accountability, funding, recruitment, training, evaluation, welfare and partisanship.
According to human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, killings and extortion are still happening in police custody. It is true, a couple of mistakes were made by the youths during the protests but the people in government also were impatient with their reactions. To prevent a re occurrence, all observed lapses must be addressed.