It is hard to be an activist in a country deeply divided along ethnic lines. Some youths attacked activists as reported in some places in Abuja because they concluded wrongly that the protest was against the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Governors of some northern states, I gather, also toe the same line. Victimhood is celebrated as a Heaven’s fare.
SARS ought to have been reformed and transformed before now. If only Nigeria had strategic leaders. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s leaders don’t care about tomorrow.
There should have been an alternative to SARS before youths went on the rampage demanding an end to SARS. It is public knowledge that the outfit established to tackle crime; criminality, and brazen wickedness, to deal with bad people so that good people can sleep with both eyes closed, chose, instead to deal with good people, killing many in gung ho spirit.
Bad people have got the chance and fillip created by governance that has taken flight to deal with good people, a double tragedy. Nigeria needs an outfit to keep bad people in check, an outfit ready to display the panoply of smoking guns against bad people in many places across Nigeria.
Nothing appears to work in Nigeria because the actions of leaders across board are guided by chance. No-one person thought it best to engage demonstrators until it spiraled out of control and gave vent to violence.
President Buhari was counselled to deliver a speech close to two weeks after the uproar – instead of engaging with the youths in a national dialogue from the first. If he had done so earlier, we may not have witnessed a prison break and 24 -hour curfew imposed on some states. Are we at war? Where are the crises managers in this administration? Nigeria has really gone broke.
In Singapore, peaceful protests are not tolerated because leaders there are responsible enough to provide citizens with everything they need to stem the tide of protestation. Why can’t that be the case in Nigeria? Responsibility comes before accountability.
Citizens are hungry and governments over time have failed to display the quality of honesty in dealing with Nigerians.
Honesty is a choice that involves efforts and skill. But the skill is not deployed until people die after which leaders engage in a rat race.
I support people courageous enough to protest against prejudices in Nigeria. Nigerians have been taken for a ride for too long. Regardless, many people in Nigeria are bedroom activist only. They cannot venture out to the street. But what I worry about in Nigeria is the absence of ideologues in protest movements. It is easy to start a protest, as in the case of End SARS now but there are no leaders to provide thought leadership.
It is also the same with the Biafra movement. Confrontations are easy to start, but to spearhead efforts for peace at the negotiation table is difficult. You need real thinkers, ideologues, brain-boxes with the emotional intelligence to martial points with supposed adversaries and arrive at a win-win situation for everybody.
The protest that I witnessed was not without jingoism even though the feelers that I got was that it was non-partisan. Some of the protesters were not ethically, culturally and socially active. And those I watched closely allowed themselves to be amused by fustians in the name of activism. Activism is not a child’s play.
I know that this administration has not met the expectations of Nigerians but activists should put issues in proper perspective. The SARS imbroglio did not start with the Buhari administration but I am mindful of the fact that the administration does not have a proper communication strategy to engage Nigerians and hence worsens issues which could have been handled before it became a Kentish Fire. No word on Leah Sharibu, she has become passé, so also are the remaining Chibok girls. Sadly!
Youths should appeal to a sense of right and wrong. They should have a large fund of national sense.
Killing people, looting and burning vehicles, shops, sexually harassing women, carrying sticks and freeing prisoners is not activism, it is barefaced criminality. And the organizers who thought nothing that the protest could be hijacked in a country where half of the populace is hungry are to blame and held responsible. The criminal elements in police uniforms that went about killing innocent youths must be brought to account.
Insulting people is also not activism. Real activists are bothered about outcomes and are not interested in fame and the klieg lights for the wrong reasons. Their activism is around specific causes and is not violent because they know that activism is hopeless if it is based on regionalism, ethnicity and religiosity.
Activists campaign for the rights of all people puckered by the Nigerian state; they are no tribal war lords. They pursue knowledge to teach and to inform and avoid the spot lights; the cause to serve humankind to them is more of importance. They are not conceited and do not manipulate the feelings of the helpless.
Nigeria is ours and for those not yet born and recourse should be given to the fact that we are one family and we must develop positive relationships not only with citizens but with government officials.
Real activists promote crusades against conflicts, they open their doors to argument with the possibility to bow down to superior argument, respect all citizens of Nigeria in spite of biases, they respect constituted authority, and they give and take, and ensure a free and just society.
––Simon Abah, Abuja