President comes, president goes, nation remains
There might have been a time when the implications of police corruption and extortion were not fully appreciated by ordinary Nigerians. When I was about to leave secondary school many decades ago, an uncle suggested I should enrol in the Nigerian Police Force or seek employment as a sanitary inspector. He reasoned it could be the easiest way of making money because there would be those begging me with it.
I honestly did not see anything wrong with his advice, even when his suggested professions made no appeal to me. We all wanted to make money and the evils of corruption were hardly taught to young children of a generation. We encourage corruption one way or the other. We readily bribe rather than seek or face justice. A university teacher would rather part away with a few naira than face the magistrate for driving without a valid licence. Corruption has become a pandemic in our society because we are all involved in perpetrating the lawlessness that pervades.
The ongoing protest by young Nigerians, seeking an end to police extortion and brutality-End SARS-has been the most popular revolt in the history of our nation. Every decent Nigerian identifies with it. Even the politicians, whose corruption should be subject to popular revolt, express support. Honestly, Nigerians have been taken for granted. The assumption of their docility has resulted in our nation being a society where anything goes.
Sadly, lives have been lost in the course of the protests. The overzealousness of security outfits and crudity of hoodlums account for this. There was a report that rapists also took advantage of a chaotic situation. I once wrote an article exhorting President Muhammadu Buhari to be more proactive and presidential in state matters. At the time of writing, the President has yet to address the nation. He should not be talking to Nigerians through special assistants when his voice needed to be heard by all. President Buhari would be naive to underestimate or underplay the crisis facing his administration.
The protest could possibly have more to it than the prevailing anger over police lawlessness. Unemployment and ostentatiousness of the privileged elite could not have created anything other than discontent. Those who cannot be patient for 2023 to come are possible agents in fanning and amplifying such discontent. Of course, those who would want to create new nations out of Nigeria as well as their Boko Haram rivals see great opportunities when law and order have broken down. Neither can external influences be ruled out in a determination to turn Nigeria into an ungovernable and failed nation.
However, patriotic Nigerians must always seek to protect the sovereignty of their nation at all times. They should be wary of those who would want to exploit a crisis situation to achieve unconnected objectives. The call for Buhari to resign may be unnecessary. The agitation for the breakup of Nigeria cannot be sustained on the platform of the current crisis, not least because police corruption, extortion and brutality, have been a national malaise. Of course, all religions have failed our nation in this.
There will be an election in one important nation of the world early in November. The African-Americans have not asked to leave their nation because of a President who, from their perspective, has not been the best thing to have happened to America in recent memory. That President could lose or still win another four years in office. The beauty of democracy, especially with its attribute of periodic elections, is that no leader remains in office forever. There will be great presidents with historical achievements. There will be caretaker presidents who preside over a relatively peaceful and uneventful period of history. And, of course, mediocres do find their ways to the presidency.
Nigeria should be allowed to remain. Many great nations of the world have endured and learnt from serious, historical crises. It is all part of nation-building.
Dr. Akinola wrote from Oxford, United Kingdom.