Amby Uneze reviews the consequences of the Nigerian youths protest and the result for the country
The eruption of protests by Nigerian youths under the code name: #Endsarsprotests have indeed opened the eyes of Nigerians that for the country to be great again, its success lies in our collective hands. Quite alright, what the people want is what they get in terms of achieving greatness. But in an orderly way round, when people are tepid over the affairs of their country, definitely, it takes a miracle for such a country to move forward.
A lot of decay has taken place in the country and the leadership has no doubt brought this nation into her knees making it very difficult for the rot to end. Since the attainment of Independence in 1960, the country has had a deep sited problem arising from her leadership. Corruption among the leaders has risen to high heavens and every effort to bring it low proves abortive. Over the years, it has been loots upon loots and the led have suffered over time making it impossible for citizens to partake in the God giving resources that are abound in the country.
It is unfortunate that those names that had been ringing bells as the leaders of this country for the past 50 years are still in power and their children and grandchildren are still being spoon-fed. Those old men and women who have nothing else to offer to the country are still in power and that is the problem of this country. If Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Audu Ogbeh, Ibrahim Gambari, Muhammadu Buhari, etc who had ruled this country for over 30 years ago can still be in power today, it then means that Nigeria is not working.
There is no gauge to measure the alertness and mental alacrity of these old men and women in government and compare it with those of their children who are more eager and swift to change the narrative for a better country. It is granted that there are no new ideas left with the old generations who have been occupying positions of authority for over three to four decades other than to replicate those policies that had made the country remain stagnant and lacking development. These leaders amassed wealth with public treasury and it is the heavy war chest they had accumulated over the years that are instrumental to their buying their way back to leadership position.
The #endsarsprotest has actually erased the notion that ‘only the old can bring about the desired change and development Nigeria desires’. The events of the past weeks also brought to the fore the message that Nigerian youths could fight for their rights, even as they had stomached so many injustices against them and the Nigerian state by those who swore to protect and defend democracy of this great country. By so doing, they seem to have approached the issue with all sense of purpose, sending the signal of readiness to take back their country and manage it better than those of their fathers and grandfathers.
While commending the dexterity of Nigerian youths for their peaceful protest, it is also regrettable to note that some hoodlums later turned the peaceful protest to a battlefield which consumed many innocent souls. From available reports, the looting and unruly behaviours of the hoodlums could have been avoided had it been that the shooting of innocent protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate was not carried out by yet-to-be identified gunmen, believed to be soldiers.
Again, the subsequent evading and looting of warehouses across the country where CACOVID (Covid-19) palliatives were allegedly stored was also condemnable. But, looking at it closely, these were hungry youths who had been variously denied food and decent leaving by the so-called leaders. One wonders how else these youths can access ownership of what was meant for them all the time. The Covid-19 lockdown started in March 2020 and for six months everybody was indoors without money, food and other life-saving supports. The Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) brought timely support which ran into several billions of Naira and food items such as bags of rice, beans, garri, yams, packs of indomie, etc were procured with the proceeds.
There is no germane explanation of the governors that can exonerate them from blames because these CACOVID palliatives were supposed to have been distributed to Nigerians long before now. How on earth could they (governors) hoard these items long after the lockdown had been eased and subject hungry Nigerians to wallow in poverty and hunger? In line with an age-long saying that ‘a hungry man is an angry man’, therefore, the governors should take the blame for not distributing these items as when due to those they were meant for initially.
Nigerians are aware that most of the countries of the world went extra miles to make enough money and food items to her citizens and those who live in their countries to save them from dying of hunger. Such measures were not experienced in Nigeria, even when the Central Bank of Nigeria approved some interest-free loans to assist the SMEs in their businesses.
Many prominent Nigerians extolled the action of the Nigerian youths. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) saluted the courage and patriotism of Nigerian youths for standing up to defend the fundamental freedoms and dignity of Nigerian citizens. National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus said “your exemplary patriotism, using peaceful and constructive protest, to retrieve the country from the path of failures and creeping authoritarianism sends a strong message that democracy is alive in Nigeria. The fact that our youths have not submitted to cynicism and hopelessness gives us hope to continue to fight for a democracy that respects the freedom and creativity of young Nigerians.
“It is indeed appalling and worrisome that government’s response to the legitimate demands of the protesters for a comprehensive reform of the police and the policing system in the country is to hurriedly recycle SARS in the form of the SWAT, thereby simply pouring the same old poisonous wine into a new wine bottle.
“PDP endorses the 5-point demands of the protesters and calls on the Buhari-led APC government to commence real actions towards a comprehensive reform of police and criminal justice in Nigeria. It is about time the APC government stopped this manipulation and insincerity, which it has turned to an art of governance, and honestly implements the legitimate demands of the protesters.
“What is required is a comprehensive reform of policies and institutions of Nigerian police that would overhaul a mindset that appears to view all citizens as potential criminals rather than potential victims of crimes in need of their protection.
“We support the call for a judicial panel of inquiry into the atrocities of the defunct SARS and those who have visited mindless violence on protesters since the protest to #ENDSARS started. We also support the demand that the government should pay compensation to families of hundreds of Nigerians killed and maimed by SARS under the APC government. All these however, will only be an indication of good faith by the government, and does not substitute for the reform that is envisaged.
“It is the lamentable insensitivity and brutal repression by the APC government that has escalated the protests across the country. However, we recognize that everyone is commonly imperiled if the APC government fails to do the needful and continue to provide the pretext for the protests to continue”, Secondus said.
The President General of Ndigbo umbrella socio-cultural and political Organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo said that the raging youth revolt in the country against the menace of Police brutality as mirrored by Special Armed Robbery Squad, SARS, had its root in the existing political injustice in the country.
He noted that the youth rebellion brought to the fore the fundament security challenges that is imbedded in the erroneous political imbalance in the country, adding that the fact that the youth rebellion continued days after the disbanding of the notorious Police outfit, SARS showed that the problem is fundamental and should be intellectualized from that perspective.
“It has shown that the surface scratching by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu in dissolving SARS and raising SWAT, goes far away from addressing the deep rooted problems of policing in the country. SARS menace has also thrown a challenge to the country’s elites and government over prolonged neglect of that critical arm of our life as a nation”, he stated.
Chief Nwodo said that the only viable and enduring solution to the current situation is to harken to the clarion call of the majority of Nigerians to redesign this country in such a way that could address the prevailing injustice. He said that a problem like this was bound to come up when the country continually lived in denial as operating a federal structure while in truth running a confederation in such a multi-cultural and divergent nation.
The Ohanaeze boss said that in addition to the total overhauling of the nation’s security’s architecture, the government should as a matter of urgency initiate the process of restructuring this country as the only way of holistically tackling the basic problems on ground. He regretted and condemned in strong terms the targeting of some Igbo businesses particularly in Abuja by hoodlums pretending to be countering the genuine protest and warned that such wicked acts will have far reaching consequences.
Many prominent Nigerians extolled the action of the Nigerian youths. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) saluted the courage and patriotism of Nigerian youths for standing up to defend the fundamental freedoms and dignity of Nigerian citizens. National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus said “your exemplary patriotism, using peaceful and constructive protest, to retrieve the country from the path of failures and creeping authoritarianism sends a strong message that democracy is alive in Nigeria. The fact that our youths have not submitted to cynicism and hopelessness gives us hope to continue to fight for a democracy that respects the freedom and creativity of young Nigerians