The Agony of #EndSARS Protests and the Pathway To a New Nigeria

0

Sunday Okobi writes that the Convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare espouses the birth of a new Nigeria built on the values of nationhood, equity, equality and dividends of democracy, as canvassed by the EndSARS campaigners

In the last few weeks, economic and social activities were crippled in some parts of Nigeria, especially in Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, among other cities due to the peaceful #EndSARS protests to call for an end to police brutality caused by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protest was also for the federal government to heed the call to reform the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in order to play its constitutional role in a civilized manner. The issue is one among the myriads of challenges calling for not just policy reform in key sectors, but also for the total restructuring of the country.

The expected goal was that such remonstration would cause the birth of a new Nigeria built on the values of nationhood, equity, equality and dividends of democracy.

Though the dreams and aspirations of the Nigerian youths weren’t realised in practical terms, however, a statement has obviously been made. Many who lost their lives in the struggle for a new Nigeria will never be forgotten in the annals of Nigerian history. National Sovereign Conferences had been convoked in the past, but none has been able to chart the way forward. The peaceful protests were seemed to be the makeshift way to re-awake the struggle for restructuring, but things seem not to be clear as to the direction the Nigerian government wants to follow for total redemption. The government has appeared to briefly display sincerity of purpose in addressing these agitations; however, eminent Nigerians are coming forward with concrete suggestions on the way forward.

One of such Nigerians is the Convener of Save Nigerian Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare, who, while lamenting the degeneration of the peaceful #EndSARS protest to unprecedented violence in the country where many lives were needlessly lost, described it as ‘Stained banner of our nationhood’.

He, however, still expressed the belief that no individual or collective challenges in the country can ever diminish the hope for a new great Nigeria.

Bakare bemoaned the events of the past week, saying: “We witnessed with great sorrow the desecration of our nationhood as Nigeria’s armed forces stained the banner of our nationhood, the Nigerian flag, with the blood of our children, the Nigerian youths, to whom our founding fathers charged us to handover a banner without stain. It is, therefore, with a heavy heart over the current state of our nation, but with resilient hope in the possibilities of a New Nigeria.”

In his recent State of the Nation broadcast at the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC) in Lagos, which was originally intended to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary titled: ‘The Building Blocks of Nationhood: A Blueprint for the New Nigeria’, the cleric still retains the hope for a great Nigeria “because this dark chapter of our history is not how Nigeria’s story ends.”

He lauded what he described as the awakening by the ‘ordinary Nigeria’ across the country to make their voice heard in the repositioning of their beloved country, terming it ‘The Birth Pangs of Nationhood’

Bakare enthused that “there is a wave of people movement. It is a wave of citizen engagement championed by the so-called ‘ordinary Nigerian’,” who he noted has proven in extraordinary terms to be by no means ordinary. According to him, “It began in Edo State with an awakened and resolute electorate defying the political establishment to make their voices heard and their votes count. In the past couple of weeks, that wave has been transformed into a tsunami of people movement led by our young people who have had enough of the horrendous brutality of the now-disbanded SARS. I believe that this wave of people movement is the physical manifestation of the birth pangs heralding the new Nigeria.”

With the prospect that Nigerian leaders failed to measure up well to this generation in many facets, the Serving Overseer of The Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC) stressed the need to apologise to Nigerians on behalf of the ruling elites. According to him in his address, “Before I proceed to unveil the building blocks of nationhood, permit me to address an issue that is heavy upon my heart, for we cannot proceed with laying the building blocks of a new nation without addressing the issue of how older generations of Nigerians have failed our youths. By the older generations, I refer to the so-called ‘Independence Generation,’ those who were born before and immediately after the independence of Nigeria. I refer to the parents and grandparents of the millennial generation.

“One can understand why the younger generation would so heavily indict preceding generations. At independence, we inherited a promising nation, but we are bequeathing a predatory nation to the young generation. We inherited a nation where a young graduate was guaranteed immediate employment with housing and a car loan, but we have bequeathed a nation in which our youths are largely underemployed, unemployed or Yahoo-employed.

“We inherited a banner without stain, but we have introduced a new colour to our green-white-green: blood red. This is why there has been a definite generational spin to the protests.

“To citizens of the young generation who are disappointed in the older generation; to those young freedom fighters who believe that the generation of their fathers and mothers has failed them; to those young Nigerians who have stood up to oppression; permit me to stand in the gap to apologise on behalf of my generation and the older generation for the undesirable state of the nation you were born into. Permit me to apologise on behalf of your parents and grandparents for the kind of country you have grown up in. We salute your courage, and we applaud your resilience. We hear you, we share your pain, we share your story, we share your dreams for a better nation; and, although you may not realise it, we did our best to fight for you.”

The clergyman cum politician suggested a pathway from the present state of the country to the Nigeria dreams, which he said is paved with transformational landmarks in four dimensions namely: Culture, Structure, Infrastructure and Intra-Structure.

He said the dimensions are the four strong pillars around which his church, the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC), is built as a governmental, authoritative, powerful institution, generating solutions, influencing policy, and providing clarity, adding that these are the four building blocks from which a new nation can be forged.

Our National Culture

The first landmark in the journey from the status quo to the Nigeria of our dreams is the birth of a New Nigerian culture. The cultural dimension of nation-building is the value system or value superstructure upon which the nation must be built. It brings to focus what I call the 4 ‘IDs’ of our nationhood, namely the Nigerian Identity, the Nigerian Idiosyncrasy, the Nigerian Idiocy, and the Nigerian Ideal.

To address the current issues plaguing our nation and to make meaningful progress towards the Nigeria of our dreams, we must resolve certain unanswered questions that border on the Nigerian Identity. Who is a Nigerian? What is the irreducible minimum standard of decency below which no Nigerian must fall? To find answers to this question, I recommend revisiting the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration (ii) which was unanimously passed by delegates to the 2014 National Conference. Our conduct should at all times be moral, ethical and legal, moderated by the reality that there are no shortcuts in nation-building.

From protests to progress, we must now proceed to the next phase of citizen engagement. We must organise ourselves like the nation-builders who teamed up with Nehemiah to build the wall of the city. With one hand they built the wall, and with the other, they held a sword to defend themselves. (iii) In like manner, when this battle is won, we must defend our gains.

Our National Structure

Upon the foundation of a New Nigerian culture, we must revisit conversations around the structure of Nigeria. The #EndSARS protests have once again brought to the fore the diversity of the challenges and aspirations of the Nigerian people across geopolitical zones. Let me at this juncture address those young people, particularly in the North, who have taken a different position and called for reforms, rather than the outright disbandment of SARS. (iv) I am referring to those who argued that they need such tactical formations to combat their peculiar security challenges in the North. First of all, I say to these young Nigerians, you have the right to air your views, no matter how unpopular they may be. We hear you too, because you are also Nigerians.

Our National Infrastructure

As ‘we the people’ begin to take responsibility to shape the new Nigerian culture, the government must facilitate the right kind of infrastructure that can channel that culture into productive ventures. Our cities and communities must host affordable and decent housing units, functional education and health facilities, industrial facilities, sports and recreation facilities, all linked by efficient multimodal transportation networks and broadband technology, protected by intelligent security architecture, and powered by sustainable energy solutions. Such state-of-the-art infrastructure will facilitate the development of our young people, the incubation and growth of enterprise, and the drastic reduction in crime rates.

At this juncture, I reiterate my recommendation that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) becomes an optional two-year programme with the first year spent on military training for our young people and the second year spent on agro-entrepreneurship. In addition, I recommend that a minimum of an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) obtained from a recognised polytechnic, or two years in a recognised university with a cumulative grade point average not lower than a second-class lower division, be among the prerequisites for admission into the Nigeria Police Academy. This will compel an upgrade of the Nigeria Police Academy to a degree-awarding tertiary institution affiliated with a Nigerian university, transform the Nigeria Police Force into a Nigeria Police Service, and further build the bridge between Nigerians and the Police.

Our National Intra-Structure

The intra-structure question is what, for years, has been referred to as the National Question. It is the quest for how best to coexist as a nation irrespective of our differences and diversities. The intra-structure question has remained unanswered since the era of our founding fathers, and it explains the various conflicts that define our nation, including inter-ethnic, interreligious, partisan, and, especially now, intergenerational conflicts. It explains the ethnic colouration wrongly applied to the destruction of lives and property in Lagos State, the South-west region, and other parts of the country by hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protests.

To resolve the intra-structure question, it calls for a national redemption experience and an appropriate institutional framework. A national redemption experience is modeled in Revelation 5:8-10.

A national redemption experience entails forsaking a primordial attachment to ethnicity and tribalism and pledging allegiance to a higher national identity. An appropriate institutional framework for such an experience would be the Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Rebirth which I have called for on various occasions.

This commission must be charged with the mandate to address intra-structural issues, reconcile sectional interests, rebuild trust in the Nigerian state, and birth a truly integrated Nigeria. Furthermore, this commission can serve as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where citizens can publicly narrate their ordeals with agents of the Nigerian state and find healing, compensation, justice, and reconciliation.

He appealed to the Nigerian youths ‘whose patriotic spirits have been brutalised and traumatised by a repressive Nigerian state’ not to lose hope in Nigeria. Bakare encouraged them to keep the hope alive “because the Nigeria of their dreams, the New Nigeria, is within reach.” He believes that Nigerians, both old and young, with unity, love, peace and sense of purpose will take the country to a great height, “not upon the altar of the blood of our young people, but on their visions and aspirations. Let us, therefore, arise to build a great nation, that all who have died in the quest for a new nation will not have died in vain, and that the Nigerian dream will become the Nigerian reality.”