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Rethinking the audacity of #EndSARS youth 

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#ENDSARS protesters at Secretariat Area on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Lagos.

In his characteristic blunt manner, Rev Chris Okotie delivered some strong words in support of the #Endsars protest movement as he analysed the root cause of the widespread youth unrest that has left rampant destruction across the country.Just like he did in his controversial broadcasts in respect of the Covid – 19 pandemic, the cleric veered into political philosophy as he attempts to dissect the dynamics of change and the sentiments that produced #Endsars.

In a two-page press release titled, Pocas Palabras (a few words), he introduced his speech with a famous quote from the founder of communist China, Chairman Mao Zedong:” If the people no longer fear your power, it is because another power is on its way”. I hope the political class would take note of that, because like Rev. Okotie said, within the context of our nation’s political evolution, it is absolutely clear that the audacity of the #Endsars youth is a red card to the ruling elites.

Now, the political class is looking in horror as its power is being eroded. #Endsars, a bunch of young, dynamic, patriotic and completely detribalized Nigerians, have put our current leaders on notice that their days are numbered.

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It is rare for political change to occur without spilling blood. That’s the reality of the Lekki Toll Gate attack on the harmless #Endsars protesters by the security agents. You know what? The youth need this baptism of fire. It’s part of the process.

Again, let’s turn to Rev Okotie’s speech. After rightly observing that the #Endsars youth have only risen against “forces of dissatisfaction, disillusionment and despondency from taking their souls in captive hopelessness,” he makes a case for the legitimacy of their struggle: “These young people (#Endsars), are not rebellious dissidents. Rather they are emissaries of posterity. Galvanized by the indomitable spirit of the Nigerian psyche and the relentless cry of posterity, they have become veritable instruments in the hands of destiny to chart a realistic path for the Nigerian renaissance”
Therefore, it was a fundamental error of judgment on the part of the Army to have sent troops to storm the Lekki Toll Gate to disperse the Endsars protesters who assembled peacefully in that place. In addition to the killings of innocent people, this action provoked widespread outrage and, in the confusion that ensued, hoodlums hijacked the protests by burning and looting public property. Thank God, Nigerians, including the victims of the mayhem, know that the destructions and looting were not perpetrated by the well cultured, patriotic #Endsars protesters.

These #Endsars protesters are smart, bold, organized and patriotic. They are the New Nigerians, the faces of a new breed of citizens that can take this nation to the Promised Land. These folks will produce good leaders; I am fully persuaded about that.

However, they need wise counsel. #Endsars leaders must now present themselves publicly. We need to see the leaders NOW! The idea of hiding their leader to avoid being bought over has worked so far. This strategy cannot work for all eternity. #Endsars need to have a face or faces. They need a spokesperson. They need to close this lacuna in their structure.

They need a command centre which people can identity and relate to. #Endsars is now a legitimate and respected movement. I love those folks and I am proud of what they have accomplished. But they need to reorganize, re-strategise and reload after this shooting tragedy. This struggle needs a timeline. It can’t continue for too long without tangible results. We should not lose momentum to inaction or failure to achieve set objectives on time. People may get bored or tired of the struggle.

Now, the authorities must act. The leadership of the National Assembly, the security Agencies, the national economic team and the major political parties, led by the President must meet to provide a holistic response to the demands of the youth. The APC can’t handle this alone; it requires bi-partisan approach because the issues at stake span presidential terms of any one political party.

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President Buhari must lead this change because he came to power with a mantra of change. Now, his re-election slogan, next level, is still relevant in the current crisis, even though his response to this matter so far, has been disappointing. He should see the youth as joint stakeholders in the Nigeria project, not enemies. I think he’d benefit from the closing admonition in Rev Okotie’s speech, if he accepts it:

“And as brother and sisters in peaceful arms they march towards the great goal of an emerging nation. They march as an unconscripted army bound by the commonality of being joint heirs of our national patrimony.

“I apply to the indulgence of Mr. President to please be a father now and not a commander-in-chief and treat this matter with conciliatory disposition; let compassion mitigate the sterner resolutions of your political oversight.

“Your paternal superintendence must now over-ride every other consideration and engender a peaceful rapprochement. Please listen to the Nigeria Youth, no matter how discordant their voices maybe.

“Let the heart of a father translate the pathos in their desperate exclamations and compel you to reassure them of your paternal commitment to securing them a great future.”

Lasisi wrote from Ibadan.

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