#EndSARS and a Revolution that never was, by Hassan Gimba
A kingdom (nation) can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice – Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio in Bayan Wujub ul-Hijrah alal Mukallafi. For two to three weeks now, a protest over police highhandedness and other hurts has literally taken Nigeria by storm. The protesters came up with a five-point demand. The demands include the immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days. Others include carrying out psychological evaluation and retraining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they are deployed (with verification by an independent body) and improved salary and working conditions for police personnel.
President Muhammadu Buhari, an otherwise taciturn leader, quickly acceded to the five demands of the protesters while the inspector-general of police hastily disbanded the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and in its stead formed SWAT, an acronym for special weapons and tactics.
To be fair to the protesters, they were peaceful and well organized. They showed the innovation, resilience, camaraderie and intellect the Nigerian youth are capable of exhibiting on a good day.
For days, these youths held the government by the jugular. The attention of the world was riveted on us and the government could not do what it normally did to protesters to cajole them. However, the tactics to break the protests seemed to have come from a playbook dipped in desperation; unfortunately, those underhand tactics threatened to shove Nigeria down a very precarious path; fights broke out that widened the cracks in our religious or ethnic divides. But it served its purpose – it provided a plausible excuse for the government to deploy its coercive powers on perpetrators to ‘restore’ peace.
Many feared the protests could lead to an undemocratic change of government, or that the turmoil could lead to anarchy. The south was united in the protests while the north was divided, with a majority going against it because they saw it as a southern conspiracy against a northern president. But there was no denying the validity of the protesters’ demands – the level of injustice in our national fabric is evidently suffocating. And because the north did not participate, the protests, which should have been a pan-national affair, took a regional colouration.
However, the nation has suffered untold economic losses and international embarrassment. Save for a Tiananmen Square treatment, which can turn the international community against the government, only a descent into a tribal, regional or religious fight can bring out the government. Or a miracle.
The miracle did not take long in coming and it saved the government and Nigeria, a country that was tethering at the precipice. The miracle came in the guise of Lagos attacks. The attacks took a dangerous twist as opportunistic elements came in and hijacked the erstwhile peaceful protests and turned it into a show of violence. Many government and private assets were torched, including the palace of a revered monarch – the Oba of Lagos.
Not only are these elements divisive, but they are separatists with a bent towards violence and blood-shedding. A leader of the separatists, who was not in any way part of the initially peaceful protests saw an opportunity and jumped in as if he was the initiator of the protests, and started dishing out orders to his narrow-minded gullible followers to be violent.
In the video that trended, he can be heard intermittently saying ‘mad people everywhere’ and changing names of towns to suit his fancy and instructing his blind followers to ‘kill the police and their children’. It makes one wonder who the mad people were between him and his bird-brained followers who lapped up his venomous words like words coming from the mouth of a saint.
Anyway, all Nigerians should thank God for the whole saga, seen as a revolution in an embryonic stage by some idealists living in utopia, ended this way. Nigeria can never see a revolution so long as the elite will close ranks to protect their obscene privileges irrespective of religious beliefs, political leanings or tribal affiliations in times like this while, conversely, the downtrodden will read politics, religion and tribe.
But truth be told, we need Nigeria more than Nigeria needs us. If by accident this country becomes dismembered as some vainglorious, ambitious and empty-headed charlatans bent on being kings fantasise, then even the so-called ethnic nationalities are gone. Family relationships and friendships of decades will be rent, deaths of unimaginable proportions will be the result of the ensuing anarchy and we shall all be at our weakest.
For sure, Boko Haram will have their ‘caliphate’ with its fluttering flag in the northeast while northwest will become the empire of the bandits. The purported middle belt will be a war zone while the southeast will be shared among the most violent among the strongest. Yoruba land has its fair share of irredentists and the question of the pure breed will come to the fore.
Perhaps to save the situation, the United Nations will have to encourage Chad to come and deal with Boko Haram and the freed territory definitely cannot stand on its own, and so it has to become a new addition to Chad. Niger will have to do the same for the northwest and Cameroon for the southeast. This scenario may last years while, at the same time, families have been torn apart with millions of people living as refugees elsewhere. Our children, or perhaps our great-grandchildren or their children will now be faced with the task of reuniting the various units at the risk of their lives because the ‘holding’ nations will not want their richly endowed new territories to go just like that, despite treating their inhabitants as second class citizens with no political or economic rights.
Therefore, let all the sabre-rattlings of some elements among the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and other tribes remain what they are – posturings for a greater share of the national cake. We are good at this game and so it should remain the game it is. But must you fight for the national cake when there is justice and fairness and states and local governments generate their revenue?
The good thing about the initial protests is that it made our leaders sit up, and we pray they do not sit back. There must be justice in the land and people must see it being done. A people whose leader does not feel their pain will remain in pain and taken for granted in other lands. This is the message of #EndSARS. End SARS is a metaphor for an end to the monumental injustice in every facet of our national life.
Let our president and other political chief executives start paying for their food and upkeep with their legitimate earnings and let the nation’s resources be applied to providing good health facilities for common use by both the political class and the ordinary citizen. This means world standard hospitals should be built here. Let the ordinary man’s son be able to go to the same school here in Nigeria that a leader’s son goes to. I went to a primary school in Maiduguri and, in my class was Mairo, daughter of Brigadier Musa Usman, then governor of the North East, and there was also Musa whose father was a driver in one of the state ministries.
With these things and with justice being seen to be done, no citizen will rise up against his country. Many criminals (who mingled with the original protesters) would not raise an eyebrow when they are taken to court and their illicitly acquired property confiscated by the law. But surely not when a law officer confiscates and turns the ill-gotten property to private use, or collects bribes and lets the culprits go.
In December 2015, Shiites were ‘dealt’ with for blocking a road, not for violence or killing any civilian or a law officer. The president, in a media chat, said one of them ‘touched the chest of a general’. What a grave crime! In this case where protesters blocked Abuja roads, including public buildings and the airport, those who think the punishment against road blockage is military onslaught will be wondering why the same law was not applied. It’s getting to two years now that a general was kidnapped, slaughtered, cannibalized and his remains thrown into a well. If the president’s law book says touching a general’s chest is punishable by death, what is the same law book saying about those who killed a general? People see things happening and they ask: where is justice, where is fairness? The protests are a cumulative reaction to all these and many more.
It is time for national healing, sincerity in governance, the fulfilment of agreements and justice and fairness to all, irrespective of status, creed, tribe, political affiliation or region.#
Reaction to ‘An Agenda Beyond 60 Years’ by Ambassador Mohammed Kabiru Ilyasu
I read your article on education and find it very useful and implementable with right mindsets and political will.
There is no doubting the fact that our authorities must have come to realize the kinds of trappings our educational system have found itself and must be ready at offering educational opportunities as a means of arousing interest and initiative on education. The establishment of NOUN (Open University) through occupation which is assumed capable of helping students to select a vocation, and of showing to them the significance of the various ways of earning a living are commendable.
Education through occupation consequently combines within itself more of the factors conducive to learning than any other method. It is incontestable therefore that the NOUN program of education through occupation is in practice a program of education for occupation. That is its singular lesson we have come to appreciate.
Our opinion is suggestive of our observations that education is an avenue of acquiring an occupation which is a continuous activity having a purpose.
That’s just one aspect of education being appreciated, but more is required to put Nigeria more at par with some developed countries. We need to be more committed by providing modalities as well as appreciating other efforts put in place by the government.