#EndSARS: PATHWAY TO A NEW NIGERIA OR SLIPPERY SLOPE TO DOOM?
The nearly 2-week long nationwide #EndSARS protests, which has morphed into a mass movement, apparently enjoying popular national following has drawn drum majors and support from all corners of the globe. And, with its resilience and endurance the proverbial genie has escaped from the Nigerian bottle and there’s no way of forcing it back in. In its wake as it unravels and chugs along daily on its uncertain course, the ensuing #EndSARS protests have roused and unleashed a new, relentless force in Nigeria, which before our very eyes is obviously redefining and reshaping the power equation between the governors and the governed in the Nigerian society.
Engendered by the #EndSARS phenomenon, Nigeria has moved on and things will almost certainly never be the same again in this country of ours. As the season around the rest of the world inexorably rolls towards Autumn or Fall, with plummeting temperatures and the falling off of leaves, the Nigerian polity roils and is heading in the opposite direction, with a contrarian heating up amid an ever-expanding maelstrom. The whirlwind that is currently kicking up dust and leaves Nigeria is in the shape of the unprecedented coalitions of pan-Nigeria youths who are united in #EndSARS movement through which they are clamouring for a better society. These youth seem fully intent on forcing the Spring at this point in time, in order to germinate the seed of a new Nigeria. They are poised to forging a new Nigeria to create a renewed nation in which the leadership is responsible and accountable to the people. This generation of Nigerians are communicating that they yearn for a society where the government shall be obligated to deliver a minimum of governance dividends, or else stand to pay the price of rejection and retrenchment from office as routinely happens in proper democracies.
In the final analysis, therefore, the ongoing #EndSARS protests is but a metaphor for the struggle to bring an end to several years of inept leadership, maladministration, official highhandedness and impunity. The Police and especially its Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Unit appear to be the most easily recognizable symbol of the oppression and suppression of the citizenry. The anguished tales of horror that are variously recounted by those fortunate enough to escape from its clutches have succeeded in painting a picture of SARS a Police unit gone rogue. This has stoked a nationwide notoriety of SARS in the mind of the public and earned it unenviable reputation for lawlessness, wanton brutality and pervasive human rights violations, including the whimsical “disappearing” of citizens across the country through the extra-judicial taking of human lives.
Our young people have showed by the smartness and the spontaneity of their organisational savvy that they will no longer brook being stymied by inept and incompetent leadership, in a world in which social relevance and economic reckoning flows from the brain and not from the barrels of the gun or the pandering to some primordial sentiments.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the government finds itself in an uncharted territory that it has never been to before. For the very first time, it is called to deal not with a formal organisation with recognised leadership and understood command and control structure. Rather, in the present contest, she is perplexed as she is faced with dealing with an amorphous and highly fluid and delocalized movement of the masses; with no obvious leadership to harangue or compromise, no corporeal entity to proscribe or co-opt. “How,” the government scratches its head, “can it handle a force so disjointed and disparate but yet so cohesive and united and strong with such organisational discipline and unquestionable focus, resolve and determination”?
It is clear as crystal that the knee-jerk jackboot responses of yore for dealing with real or imagined challenges to the continuance of obnoxious government policies or actions will be totally ineffectual this time round in dealing with the new phenomenon birthed by the creative deployments of the tools of social media.
United by their disdain for alienated, insensate and inept leadership, this crop of Nigerian youths have rejected the ploy of divide-and rule through appeals to tribal loyalty or ethno-religious affiliations to frame the ongoing struggle as a “we” versus “them” conflict. The youths seem to be saying “Yes we have issues of local concerns in various parts of the country such as police brutality, insurgency, banditry, herders/farmers clashes, marginalisation, exclusionary government etc; but lo and behold, the emergence and persistence of these problems derive more from poor leadership and incompetent governance than anything else. And, that is what we want to see changed”.
And, a harried and scared government is running from pillar to post and try all kinds of measures and tactics to no avail. It has tried the recruitment of thugs to break the protests in several locations, no dice. Tried the carrot, the stick and whatever else lie in between, no show. Sought to compromise the struggle through bribery, dead on arrival. Employed the genocidal shooting killing of unarmed and peaceful protesters, who were draped in the symbol of our nationalism – the Nigerian flag – and singing the national anthem as an unmistakable proof of their patriotism in Lekki Toll Gate and other locations across the country, but the people have remained resolute.
In line with the Law of Unintended Consequences, the misbegotten October 20th Lekki Toll Gate shooting of innocent Nigerian youths obviously orchestrated by the Nigerian Government has become a watershed and a tipping point in the course and nature of the struggle. Now, in addition to its domestic troubles, an insular and bereft administration carrying the odium of the blood of its nation’s innocent youth on her hands faces the scrutiny and condemnation of the entire world.
Something is in the offing in Nigeria, and I am damned if I knew what. But, irrespective of how it all pans out and irrespective of whichever way the country emerges from this experience, Nigeria will never be the same again.
It would seem that a quickened resetting of the country might be one of the consequences – intended or not – of the events of these climactic two weeks in Nigeria. Not a few persons feel disappointed that the President in his broadcast to the nation on Thursday evening did not seem to have taken the high ground nor properly addressed the issues at hand. Now, whether this cocooned, supercilious President has the nous to pull the chestnut out of the Nigerian raging fire at this time is left to be seen.
Chuks N. Nwagbara
Video Courtesy of The Guardian