In sane climes, every element of power comes with a corresponding responsibility. But in the upside-down world of our beloved country, Nigeria, every element of power comes with a corresponding irresponsibility. The Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) was specially empowered to enable its operatives to effectively combat violent crimes. But in our characteristic abuse of power, they convolved their powers into a license for impunity, brutality and murderous binge. They took illegal arrests, extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings to extents, hitherto unknown in Nigeria.
Sick and tired of SARS excesses, Nigerian youths, who have borne a preponderant brunt of SARS abuse of powers, took to the streets, in protest, demanding the disbandment of SARS, reformation of the entire Nigerian Police Force, good governance and social justices. They have presented a seven-point demand to the government. Their demands are legitimate, pertinent and cogent, and in total conformity with the desires and aspirations of the generality of Nigerians. Until the federal government accepts and implements these demands, the struggle should continue. Aluta continua!
It is exhilarating that Nigerian youths, for long, disparaged for their laziness, civic indifference and political docility are daringly standing up for a worthy cause. Potentially, democracy is a wellspring of political stability, social justice and overall societal progress. It can progressively raise our standards of public morality, and steadily elevate our national ethics and refine our value system. However, these are possible only if the governed, especially the youths, actively engage the governing, demanding probity, accountability and social justice.
Thus far, the EndSARS protests have elicited a number of promises from the federal government. In principle, the government has agreed to all the earlier five-point demand of the protesters. Refreshingly, the agitation continues, because, according to an Igbo saying, “Adi ekwelu onye okwu asi, o bu na ngbe okwulu ezi okwu”, meaning, you do not believe a liar, even when he is telling the truth. The generality of Nigerians distrust the government. So, first of all, the government needs to earn the public trust, by going beyond mere promises to actually implementing the demands before the youths can take it serious.
The nexus between the police and the government it serves is obvious. It was therefore logical that the protesters expanded their earlier five demands, to seven, to include reforms in government, good governance and social justice. After all, the police force is only a tool of the ruling elite, and its conducts are accurate barometers of the attitude of the ruling towards the ruled. The Nigerian ruling class is corrupt and lawless, and infamous for theft of public funds and scornful indifference to the ever increasing economic miseries of Nigerians. Inescapably, the Nigerian police are corrupt and lawless, and in their disdain for Nigerians, trigger-happy and contemptuous of human lives. Therefore, an effective reformation of the Nigerian police requires obvious changes in the government’s modus operandi.
A onetime American president, Richard Nixon, once wrote that in politics the stakes of power are so high; it can mean life or death, prosperity or poverty, happiness or tragedy for millions of people. Therefore those that seek power “must do so with a sense of mission, and belief in their ability to change the course of history to the point that nothing, not personal gain, not even, their own personal survival, matters to them”. Those who seek power for personal gains, will, “at the very best, be dangerous leaders”.
The Nigerian government is teeming with dangerous leaders: those that came to power to advance personal gains and pander to insatiable greed. Not surprisingly: the political class steals public funds with the avarice and callousness that will flabbergast even the most vicious armed robber; and we have an unconscionable system that engenders the inordinate wealth of an elite few at the economic strangulation of many. Do our governors not appropriate for personal use (security vote), at least, N500 million monthly, and still, sometimes, refuse to pay state employees’ monthly salaries? Despite the disproportionate concentration of extreme poverty in Nigeria, our legislators are the highest paid legislators in the world.
In addition, it is not surprising that that our public infrastructures are totally decayed. With a despicable healthcare delivery system, Nigeria has the highest birth-related and under-five child mortality rate in the world. Our schools, even, the universities, have been reduced to horrifying reflections of their former selves. These, once bastions of erudition and intellectual excellence have deteriorated to lamentable centers of mediocrity, cult violence, intellectual lassitude and sexual harassment. The stealing, sharing and salting away of billions of dollars by the ruling elite reduced a disproportionate number Nigerians to poverty, ignorance, insecurity, ill-health, wretched housing, homelessness, etc. The list of our woes is endless, and our troubles are glaring, palpable and blatant.
To change this unconscionable status quo, aluta continua – the struggle must continue till all the demands of EndSARS protesters are agreed to and implemented by the government. The changes must include: dramatic decrease in the monthly security votes of state governors; severe reduction of the salaries and allowances of federal legislators; the financial independence of state legislatures; the independence of local governments from state governments; at least, the doubling of national budgetary allocations to education and health; an end to government-financed medical tourism; etc. Until all these conditions are met, the agitation should continue.
It has been written that: the greatest force in the world is an idea whose time has come. The time has come in Nigeria for change – substantive and far-reaching changes – because we are totally disillusioned and disgusted with the system. Nigerians are tired of tolerating the intolerable, stomaching the instomachable and suffering the insufferable in the hand of an evil oligarchy, unrivaled in its catalog of avarice, corruption and brigandage. With their protests, the youth are speaking for the generality of Nigeria, and are, essentially, saying: Enough is enough.
Ultimately, President Buhari has no choice but to bow to the legitimate and collective demands of Nigeria, as encapsulated by the demands of the protesters. For those giddy with power and obfuscated by megalomania, and are, consequently, unable to realize that the terror of the gun cannot extinguish the awakened aspirations of the people, I have a suggestion. I suggest that they flip through the pages of modern history for some didactic readings on the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Sani Abacha of Nigeria.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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