PUNISH’s open letter to President Buhari
Patriotically United Nigerians In Suffering and Hardship (PUNISH), currently on the streets of our beloved country, peacefully and genuinely pressing home our most honest, patriotic #EndSARS/SWAT/PoliceBrutality reforms are being further assaulted, traumatised, and killed by a state-sponsored mercenary in the name of thugs, while the police stay aloof, and the army adding more insult to injury by threatening our inalienable right to peaceful protest. We have further hardened our collective resolve as we anticipate more bullets from you under this sweltering sun, rain dance, and freezing nights.
Who can see deeper? For it takes the deep to call for the deep. Mr. President, right from the year 2002 when you vied for the number one office in the land, we, the PUNISH, had been your unalloyed supporters/voters and ardent admirers. But sadly, not anymore sir, as your disappointingly nepotistic government’s policies are daily sending us to early graves, even before this deferred #EndSARS uprising, given how the police under your watch had unpatriotically maintained that it was impossible to disband SARS before suddenly surrendering to our torrential pressure. The alacrity with which this replacement was made, from SARS to SWAT, remains stealthily distrustful.
Yes! We may have been lazily deficit in provocative mental thoughts over the years, complacently allowing both APC and PDP corrupt governments hemorrhage us for long. But, certainly, not anymore. What precisely has changed within the 72 hours the Inspector General of Police (IGP) hastily dissolved SARS but sets up SARS again with the ersatz label, SarsWithAnotherTitle (SWAT), absorbing the same brute SARS infrastructure and DNA. Such a rapid switch only means you and your IGP never understood the intensity of the evil we protest against.
It is an irony that your government parades a policing system that works against its own citizens. They achieve this by extorting and defectively recruiting and superimposing on us, the same poorly-trained, poorly-remunerated police that is relentlessly prone to sadistic use of power on the already impoverished citizens. Sad!
Our self-sponsored, patriotic #EndSARS protest should have been a grand diamond opportunity for you to demonstrate a commitment to the claimed reforms. But no; instead, the same fussy show of naked power that always flawed your communication with the public still defines your handling of a tense situation as this.
Excruciatingly, within just one week of this protest, more than 20 of our fellow youths have been killed, our vehicles vandalised and the injured still hospitalised. Why are your police still deploying live bullets via thugs against peaceful protesters? In as much as the police and the military (and their thugs) remain the only arms-bearing side, the death of our fellow compatriots is on you as always, even as we remain unshaken.
Except for cynics, whether SARS or SWAT, any conscientious witness to our patriotic protests thus far can readily tell that our anger goes beyond police brutality, but revolution at last against injustices. Both your current APC and previously PDP-led governments have wounded the citizenry.
Ours is a country whose wicked leadership against its own people is pitiless. SARS is the trigger point of our enslavement right from PDP to APC; hence their governments’ policies have been massive re-looting, killing, and dehumanisation.
Reason: we are not only tired of a brute police system that operates in bad trust, but also tired of a country that kills us before we can even grow. We are frustrated with the endless cycles of International Monetary Fund (IMF) enslavement of Nigeria, bad leadership, endemic poverty, grand corruption, and nationwide insecurity that have ruled the country all our lives. We are not getting the quality of education that sets us up for life, even as our father/mother figures in the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are disparaged. We are not guaranteed quality healthcare, and our lives are quite easily low-priced. Overall, we have very slim chances of upward mobility, and yet, the police, SARS or SWAT, nay the military, and even the now state-sponsored thugs can still shoot us on the streets.
History beckons, Mr. President. Do not join the ethically blind and hypocritical former leaders to assume that what is currently playing out in our #EndSARS universal protests is only about the youths’ quest for policing system reform that will fizzle out by mere name switch from SARS to SWAT or that we the youths can be merely dispersed via military invasion.
No, it will take only genocide from you to stop us; for it is about the entire citizenry so fed up with evil leadership that use our sweat and blood to nourish their gluttonous selves. It is about a dead-end leadership that has no agenda for social flourishing. It is about over 150 million Nigerians in extreme poverty. It is about we, the abandoned youths, that is finally done with circling the same mountainous incompetence and mediocrity, while all that gets our leaders’ attention is swinging elections of the rubber stamp and attendant self-enrichment across political party lines. Enough, when do our own lives finally get to start? #completesystemchangenow and it should not take setting up a panel to understand our disenchantment, as we, the youths, are finally tired of multi-generational dysfunctionality. We are fed up! We need to finally start living and not merely existing.
So, our #completesystemchangenow remains virtuous anger against a broken system.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
*Okereke is the convener of PUNISH.
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