#EndSARS, panel report and White Paper

By Ezinwanne Onwuka

POLITICS is a fierce game in Nigeria because it is one of the surest means to power, wealth and fame. Consequently, as 2023 gets closer, the political atmosphere in Nigeria is being heated up as the race for Nigeria’s presidential election has started in earnest.

Sadly, the present reality of politics in Nigeria indubitably portrays a system that is under siege by the actions, inactions and reactions of the ageing political drivers of this country in policymaking and implementation.

Youths constitute the most significant subcategory of growth in the Nigerian demography. They are powerful and can influence policy formulation and decision making if allowed. Unfortunately, it has not been the case for our beloved country, Nigeria, which has witnessed the recycling of mostly old and corrupt politicians.

The marginalisation and limited political participation of the Nigerian youth are evident in the fact that since the return of democracy to the country in 1999, referred to as the beginning of the Fourth Republic, the cabinet at the federal level has not been “youth-friendly”.

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Over the years, Nigerian youths have been sidelined in the affairs of leadership. We have been merely indispensable instruments in the hands of hungry power-seekers who only recognise us as important for a successful election, mostly as thugs, and discard us when elections are over, having ‘used’ us for their selfish motives.

Recruiting political thugs is an easy task in Nigeria: in many corners lurk legions of youngsters, unemployed and seeking survival by all means. To disrupt a rally or an election, a politician only needs to give about 20 able-bodied young men wielding guns, cutlasses and cudgels, N2,000 each. Hence, thuggery has been elevated to a fashionable but regrettable status within the Nigerian polity.

It is a means of sustaining power and life – an asset that brings money for thugs for life sustenance, while it brings and sustains power for their barons. However, as political campaigns and support mobilisations for the 2023 general elections gather momentum, given the growing evidence of youth activism and mobilisation in the country as championed by the #EndSARS campaigners, the narrative is bound to change as many of our youths will not make themselves available agents that can be used to perpetuate the desires of these corrupt politicians.

The #EndSARS protest of October 2020, undoubtedly, was a civic awakening for Nigerian youths. Indeed, #EndSARS was undeniably our moment; our introduction to the world as a social force to be reckoned with. Consequently, it has thus far helped us to achieve the level of inclusion required to gain representation in politics.

Thus, the expressions of youth discontent through public dissent, as exemplified in the #EndSARS protest is an indicator of the political determination of the youths to take their engagement with Nigeria more seriously. If anything, it made it clear that our youths are intent on no longer being bystanders in the fare of governance and how the country is being run, particularly within the purview of the sustained failure of an older citizenry or power elite.

Furthermore, the #EndSARS protest have shown the capacity of the youths to now organise for change in society in more resilient ways. It shows that we will no longer stay complacent in the face of governmental abuse and dysfunction, as we are now aware that change is what has to be struggled for, as it never comes around by mere wish-making or simple rhetoric.

Consequently, there is no greater evidence that the playbook of political power and participation can no longer remain the same. This is because the #EndSARS protest, as a non-violent revolution, has massively infiltrated the political arena and is set to unseat the present crop of leaders – a generation that has clung tightly to political power since the dawn of Independence.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to add that the youths must never be sceptical of the political and economic powers they wield; and if in doubt at any point, they should take a walk down memory lane on October 20, 2020.

Frightened by the cooperation of the youths, irrespective of their ethnic, cultural and religious differences, the government exerted force and violence to suppress and disperse the protesters with blatant disregard for their fundamental human rights. That singular act shows the youths can take over.

In fact, the #EndSARS protest was a pilot scheme test-running the power of the Nigerian youth community. It has kept these gerontocrats on their toes and given them the consciousness that they will be unseated if the youths are determined to do so.

And there is no iota of doubt that we are determined to do so. The #EndSARS event has opened our eyes to the enormous powers we wield, and we are most willing to test this newfound weapon during the next general elections.

Onwuka, a social commentator, wrote from Abuja, via [email protected]

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