After the Riot, What Next?

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Olasubomi Iginla Aina, a Member of the Excellent Order of the British Empire, suggests that there is a lot more work to be done to achieve the goal of a just society projected by organisers of the #EndSARS campaigns

I am deeply concerned about the recent unpleasant events in Nigeria which have claimed precious lives, monumental loss of properties and facilities and which has mortgaged the future of our youth and upcoming generations. My appointment as MBE (Member of the Excellent Order Of The British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen was given based on my work with young people and the disadvantaged in Africa especially Nigeria and the United Kingdom. I signed on to a warrant/acceptance of appointment under The Queen’s Sign Manual to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire to continue to extend my goodwill towards humanity and I believe that this is the right time to rise to defend this cause to save humanity from drowning. My youth work in Nigeria is close to 30 years, during which I was involved with the preparation of the first Youth Policy Document for Nigeria, the first in Africa. I have become restless on this humanitarian mission and I ask myself of what use is my MBE if my privileged appointment cannot be used to the advantage of the Nigerian youth?

I am sincerely devastated and filled with thoughts of all we have been through as a nation lately. How did we get here is the question that lingers on my mind. My fellow Nigerians, it is now time to reflect and re-think. Sincerely, we have come really far. Now what next can we do to move our dear nation forward?

The world truly detests the truth but someone needs to speak up. Looking at the incident of the last few weeks, you will agree now that there is a need to retreat which does not mean surrender. We now need to be more strategic to move forward.

During the course of these protests, I took note of different kinds of enemies: One who is guilty and yet clamours to end SARS. A cheat, a corrupt lecturer, a carefree doctor killing innocent patients who cannot afford to pay hospital bills; religious leaders exploiting the less privileged; political terrors, government workers receiving and giving bribes, parents buying exam questions for their children to mention a few.

The real enemy lies within my beloved Nigerians. I watched as many clamour for a change of government and I wonder how soon we have forgotten that every government emerges from the citizens; if this government is not good, we are definitely in to replace a questionable government with another one more questionable. The regeneration of Nigeria needs to start with you and I. Let’s all begin to see Nigeria as our personal project, that is when we can add value. In the absence of this we are not ready for the change we are canvassing for.

There are a few matters that I will like us to touch on:

Looking back, I shudder with terror the quantum of fake news I receive on my social media platforms, and I ask, why would anyone delight in putting up hocus pocus on the social-media to cause unrest and anxiety in the society? This act is wicked and genuinely SARS as you are not different from a policeman who shoots an innocent citizen. This act of spreading fake news has caused unnecessary tension and loss of lives on our streets. This again is a matter that the government needs to address without delay, this fake news has caused and it is still causing crisis. I am aware there are cries and hues about the effort of government to regulate social media, I am equally appreciative of the suspicions that the government might use this as an avenue to suppress the press which again will be deemed as blatant injustice to our democracy. I agree that this may not be straight forward but new regulations that might put misguided fifth columnists to check is urgently requiredto address this problem.

The diaspora serves as a signpost for the way Nigeria is perceived outside her shores and it worried me some time ago when protests rocked the United Kingdom about the revelation that our dear President Muhammadu Buhari was dead. It was a rattling news but I know it didn’t start today.

Buhari dead? Since 2017, this rumour has been circulating and I am aware that the President had made a joke of this in one of his appearances. Unfortunately, this rumour has gone seriously viral across the world and this is another problem I have with our government for its poor handling of the issue. It may sound strange but many people are still convinced that our president is dead. What I expected the president to do was to take this matter more seriously.

A notion that bothers a state and has continuously caused confusion and chaos amongst our citizens, no matter how dim-witted it sounds, is a very serious matter and a proportional action must be taken to address the situation immediately. Delaying such responses in the past has been very costly, It will be quite appropriate for President Buhari to address the nation on this subject. Some of the solutions to our problems are simple and very straight forward but unfortunately we continue to delay appropriate actions. Remember that badly managed information leaves a vacuum which only rumours/imaginations can fill.

The Nigerian youth have thrown up a lot of issues from ending police brutality to fixing bad infrastructure to reducing the carnage of herdsmen attack and of course the reduction in the cost of governance. Well done to our youth who took it upon themselves to wake the entire nation up from a long period of slumber. The night is over and we are all awake now. Unfortunately if the opportunistic tendencies of miscreants to loot and maim is a thing to worry about, then there is even a worst nightmare amongst us and it is the matter of the young people who actually allowed the enemies within to use them to disrupt a peaceful campaign. We have lost so much to these undesirable elements, you are our greatest SARS, you emerged to subvert the process of change and for your information, those who used you are coming back for you because you know their secret. The best thing for you to do now is to defect to the right camp and expose these enemies within.

The clamour to reduce the salaries of politicians is a welcome idea and I hope this will become a reality. But if we must all agree on this as one of the solutions to the problem of corruption then we must stop begging these politicians for money. Houses of most of these politicians have been turned to places people go to eat, drink and make personal requests, rather than engage them for community development and accountability. As such, we have continuously encouraged our leaders to mismanage public funds due to our greedy actions. Let our politicians face their jobs and deliver. We must henceforth work hard to bequeath a country that our children will be proud to call their own.

The people deserve the leadership they get. Leaders are thrown up from within us and that is the reason we must build our people. We must invest in education, we must put money in renewing the mind of the young people. We must invest in raising people who will grow up to be our leaders tomorrow. We must get our youth engaged meaningfully. We must speak truth to power.

Every stakeholder in the Nigerian project had indeed done well in this last struggle. My kudos goes to Nigerians in the diaspora, I salute the role our religious leaders played, I commend the parts played by the traditional rulers, I continue to doff my hat for the civil society organisations who are the upholders of this our nascent democracy but my greatest recognition of all goes to the Nigerian youth. You have indeed spoken up. You have “Sorosoke” and Nigeria will never remain the same again.

Going forward: We need to step back, marshal our points all over again and translate our wishes and desires to long and short term realizable actions.

How do we build on the gains of the past few weeks? I have some ideas:

• In my view our long term goal however should be to raise a new generation of Nigerians who are honest and patriotic, we can do this by introducing History and Citizenship courses into nursery and primary schools, build a reward system that rewards and encourages honesty and charismatic citizenship. And these should continue in secondary schools and become a compulsory special elective in our colleges and universities.
• We must talk: There can never be an end for us coming to the dialogue table to discuss our future together as Nigerians. We must have people of good conscience to sit round the table to represent us and discuss the plans for us to move to greatness.
• We must reorganize our governance structure: Thank God for the gift of democracy but we need to have the brand that works for us and our peculiarities. Repackaging of our governance structure to make them agile, prudent, accountable and inspiring.
• We must be involved in leadership selection: The ballot is the biggest weapon in a democracy. All of us must take active participation in deciding who leads us and we must do this based on conviction. Let us do away with stomach infrastructure influencing who we will cast our vote for, let us do away with nepotism and let us be objective. Greatness and success alike are never achieved on a platter of gold.
• We must wish our country well at all times: What do you wish Nigeria every day? Do you pray for her or you rain invectives on Nigeria and the leaders? Do you obey civil laws or you subvert them at will? Do you teach others to be patriotic or you pull them down with you in your disdain for government? We all have our roles that we must play and it shall be well with our country.

In the words of a Chinese maxim: The best time to plant a tree was yesterday; the next best time to plant it is today. Let us all arise to lift Nigeria up today.

I just came to this realisation but it is a good one. All’s good that ends well.
Every voice counts, not one person shall be left behind in this quest.

Amb. Olasubomi Iginla Aina MBE
Member of the Excellent Order of the British Empire
Executive Director: Lightup Foundation.
Diaspora Ambassador to Nigeria
National Assembly Ambassador to the UK