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Lessons from #EndSARS protests

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People take the metal sheets off the roof of a warehouse during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Jos, Nigeria, on October 24, 2020. Ifiok Ettang / AFP

There is no gainsaying the fact that the nationwide protest with the theme #ENDSARS is unprecedented in the history of our country. The protest was initially centred on the demand for the scrapping of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) (a unit of the Nigerian Police Force) for alleged plethora of unprofessional conducts/activities by some of its men over the years. After days of persistency, the government responded through the Inspector General of Police who announced the disbandment of the unit. Subsequently, another squad known as the Special Weapons And Tactics Team (SWAT) was established.

Notwithstanding, the protests continued with the people alleging that the newly formed team is a chip of the old formation. Though, the Police hierarchy came up with clarifications that the “new outfit” is going to be made up of entirely new officers with refined mode of operations; the people are still not comfortable with that explanation. The reason is not farfetched; SARS was disbanded in the past; but, it resurfaced after some time as if nothing ever happened. So, the people do not want to take the “risk” of being “tricked” again; and, that is the reason they are seeing the disbandment of SARS and the establishment of SWAT as just a mere “change of name.”

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A closer look at the situation reveals that the people are “deeply disgruntled” and their actions go beyond just ending of SARS and police brutality. It is clearly a reflection of the popular adage which says that “there is a limit to human endurance, because nature is bound to react.” Thus, what we are witnessing now is the “reaction of nature” to accumulated pains and hardship that they have been made to pass through over the years; and, that is the major reasons for the lingering of the protest. The people seem to be fully prepared to take their destinies and future into their own hands; because, they want a country where there will be hope for the “common man” on the streets. They said that they are tired of situations where their lives are being “selfishly manipulated” and made to pass through harrowing pains and hardship on daily basis. They are now seeing the long-suffering as gradually leading to “perpetual slavery;” because, employment opportunities are very difficult (if not impossible) to come by. Even the menial jobs that most of them (including graduates) resorted to doing to making ends meet were either banned or restricted or scrapped by some state governments without creating alternatives. Many that desperately opted to seek for greener pastures abroad through the deserts and seas have been sent to their early graves; and, those that remain in the country are living in perpetual fear of the unknown due to the spate of insecurity and hardships across the country. Thus, the people (most especially the youths) have concluded that they have been left to their fates without signs of better days ahead. However, it will be unfair to say that this administration has not been responsive to the plights of the people; but, the fact remains, that their efforts have fallen short of “soothing” the “pains and sufferings” that the majority of the citizenry are passing through.

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Apart from clamouring to put a stop to all those factors that have prevented them from enjoying the dividends of democracy over the years, the protest is not all about this present administration (unless there are other ulterior motives); it is expression of anger and frustrations against the effects of “accumulation of societal ills” that the people have been enduring over the years. As I posited in my article titled “The Real Enemies of Our Nation” (published in May 2019): “This lingering frustration amongst the youths is a time bomb waiting to explode because of its capacity to pushing them to revolting against the society and setting the country on the brink of destruction.”

Just recently, my article titled “Edo Governorship Election And The Future Of Our Democracy”(published before the election in September, 2020); was used to highlight the need to jettison the “old order” (where elections were marred by strings of irregularities and misconducts); and, to embrace “the new order” (where the votes of the electorates will count). This was aimed at ensuring that the people are put in the best position to “elect their preferred representatives” (rather than those imposed on them by godfathers and selected few) as a step towards reaping the “dividends of democracy”. Also, “Nigeria At 60: Let`s End Politics Of Mistrust” which was published in commemoration of our independence; identified “mutual suspicion/mistrust” as the major problem which encompasses all other problems bedevilling the polity. As a result, I had adjured all and sundry to join hands together (regardless of tribal, political and religious affiliations/sentiments) to tackling our common problems from the grassroots with a view to finding permanent solutions.

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Government should redouble its efforts towards alleviating the sufferings of the masses. Take this as a confirmation that all your policies and strategies towards moving the country forward are well noted and commendable; but, they are still short of achieving the desired results; and, that is why the people are on the streets to show their dissatisfaction. Though, it is true that most of the problems we are facing today were not entirely caused by your administration; they remain the problems of the country; and, you are expected to right the wrongs because “government is a continuum.”

Also, the “Governors Forum” should bring its members together to finding solutions to “our national problems.” They should try as much as possible not to be divided along party and regional lines; but, rather, they should act as governors of the people and not governors of members and leadership of their respective parties or region.

Furthermore, members of the National Assembly should ensure that issues referred to the hallowed chambers are looked into expeditiously, objectively and patriotically without fear or favour. You are also required to look into the areas of cutting down the cost of governance “considerably”; ensure the passing of the Electoral Reform Bill into law; take urgent steps to ensuring that key sectors of the polity are reformed so that the people will have access to quality and cheap education; healthcare services;  good roads; effective and cheap cost of transportation etc. You are to formulate policies that will boost creation of jobs to reduce the rate of unemployment; and, improve the welfare of workers and members of the armed forces; and following up to ensuring that the civil service, the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Immigration Service, and other government agencies are restructured and adequately funded to be more result oriented.

Oise-Oghaede wrote from Suru-lere, Lagos State.

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