By Tochukwu Ezukanma
For long, we derogated Nigerian youths for their greed-laced indolence, civil indifference, and political passivity. With the #EndSARS protest, which started, almost spontaneously, in reaction against the brutality and bestiality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the youth earned the respect of the generality of Nigerians. For an ostensibly leaderless protest, the youth demonstrated impressive organization, orderliness, and peacefulness. Their speeches evinced knowledge and versatility, and their stated objectives were unassailable. They meticulously handled the logistics for the protest and carefully tended the sites of the protest. Many of us that, in the past, disparaged them, for once, had reasons to doff our hats for them.
I was at the converging points of the #EndSARS protest at the two Ikeja Underbridges: General Hospital and Computer Village. The two venues were crowded with protesters. They were boisterous but orderly and peaceful. The gatherings had an aura of a carnival. Music blasted from loudspeakers and was occasionally interrupted by announcements. The protesters, mostly youthful and very educated, romped to the rhythmical throbbing of songs by Nigerian artists. Some of the songs were just entertaining, with romantic and platitudinous lyrics. Others, though entertaining, had poignant lyrics that resonated with the protest. Their lyrics brayed against official oppression, irresponsible leadership, and social injustice. These included the songs of the indefatigable iconoclast, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, with their coarse, solemn and prophetic messages, and Idris Abdulkarem’s Nigeria Jaga Jaga; everything scatters, scatter; poor man dey suffers, suffer; etc.
But what could have been wrong with such a magnificent spectacle? Nigerian youths fired by patriotism, yearning for a decent life and longing for social justice, and totally oblivious of tribal, religious, political, and socio-economic divides, stood up in unionism in the exercise of their democratic right to peaceful protest. What was wrong with the youth – the flower and promise of Nigeria – demanding accountability and respect for the rule of law from the Nigerian Police Force and the ruling elite?
Evidently, it did not sit right with the forces of greed and insensitivity that have, for long, misruled the country, stolen and splurged her commonwealth, treated the people with horrifying scorn, and unleashed their tool of intimidation, repression, and extra-judicial killing (the Nigerian Police Force) on the people. These forces of evil – the Nigerian ruling elite – for long, maintained its stranglehold on the country by its artful manipulation of the masses: calling white black; evil, good; and setting us against one another, along ethnic and religious lines. The protest demonstrated unity, unity that straddled tribal, religious, and zonal fault lines. It evinced courage, moral courage to do what is right, irrespective of personal consequences. The ruling elite was disconcerted by this strategically directed unity and courage. They feared it will unravel their oligarchic grip on Nigeria.
Thus, there was the need to, first, discredit the protesters, and then, attack them. The hoodlums that infiltrated the protest were sponsored by government agents. There was footage showing them being dropped off by government-owned vehicles and being directed by men that cut the image of State Security Service (SSS) officials. The distinction between the protesters and the hoodlums were dazzlingly obvious. The police could readily differentiate the hoodlums from the protesters and could have checked their criminal activities if they so desired. They allowed the hoodlums a free hand because the ruling elite needed to cast the criminality of the hoodlums as part of the protest. To rationalize their planned attack on the protesters, they needed to tarnish their image.
Finally, on Black Tuesday, the Nigerian army struck, and murdered at least twenty seven and injured more than thirty protesters. That any government could attack those youths, an epitome of our best and brightest, and the cream and future of the country boggles the mind. It was an anachronism, repulsively out of sync with the time. After all, Nigeria is a democracy, and Nigerians have constitutionally guaranteed right to self-expression and peaceful protests. Not even in the darkest days of military despotism and obscurantism did Nigerians witness such a barbaric onslaught on the innocent. Never before in the history of Nigeria did a government turn the guns on peaceful, flag-waving, national anthem-singing protesters. The attack was so surreal and macabre; it seemed like a scene of a horror movie.
Outraged by the massacre and the shameless attempt by the federal and Lagos State governments to deny and disassemble the massacre, other Nigerian youths, less enlightened and more frenzied than the protesters – “the hoodlums” – took to rampaging through the streets of Lagos, looting, destroying and burning. They targeted government institutions, and properties and businesses of those suspected of having encouraged, or acquiesced to, the killing. Both the protest and the post-protest rampage were palpable vents of anger, long-repressed anger. Nigerians are angry, very angry at the status quo. They are angry at an evil oligarchy that, in its cruelty, cupidity, and sordid designs, misruled the country and systematically degraded her people.
If not urgently assuaged, this pent-up discontent and disillusionment can become explosive. For the good of the country, the power elite must recognize and address this smoldering anger. It cannot be addressed by quibbling and sophistry, denials and alibis, brutality, and repression. It demands unflinching resolve and determined actions at fundamental reforms that will ensure accountability, respect for the rule of law, severe curb on official corruption and theft of public funds, principled distribution of the national wealth, etc.
With their protest, the youths were speaking for Nigerians. Their message remains clear, loud, and unequivocal: we have, for so long and for so much, stomached the instomachable, tolerated the intolerable, and suffered the insufferable. Enough is enough.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
[Opinion] The Dangers of Social Media Distractions in Today’s Internet Age
Emmanuel Onwubiko: Winning war in terror is collective
Terrorism as a political lexicon defined by the WRITERS of Encyclopaedia Britannica as the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. The term was first coined in the 1790s to refer to the TERROR used during the French Revolution by the Revolutionaries against their opponents. TERRORISM as a term is a thing of terror to scholars since there is no unanimity among them on what exactly constitutes universal form or character. However, there are some commonality of elements such as the use of threats of violence to create a climate of fear all around the place. TERRORISM does not yet enjoy a Universally acknowledged legal framework of codification.
In this reflection, this writer is not out to discuss the academics of the concept of terrorism but to look at it from the prism of the popular belief that checking the activities of terrorists in any given society such as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, both the government and non-governmental bodies and individuals have a collective responsibility to work in synergy to attain the overall national security objective of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Apart from Nigeria, many debates have happened even in the Western Societies as to whether Islamic fundamentalists turned terrorists can be decisively defeated and if in the affirmative, what roles should civil social leaders play in the attainment of this overall objective.
The need to reflect deeply on the probing question of whether terrorism can be defeated and what roles should the civil leaders play in achieving holistic defeat of terrorism, has become necessary given the incessant calls for the Service Chiefs to be dismissed.
The frequent media-generated propaganda by Northern elders against the service chiefs concerning the protracted fight against terrorists in the North East of Nigeria was recently faulted by a prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which has asked the community leaders to play their own part in partnership with the armed forces of Nigeria so the counter-terror war can come to a quick conclusion.
Making the charge is the Nation’s prominent civil rights advocacy group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA ( HURIWA) which applauded the chief of Army staff LIEUTENANT GENERAL YUSUF TUKUR BURATAI for doing so much with so little made available given the complexity involved in waging holistic war on terrorists that have global affiliation to the Middle East based Islamic States’ terror network that is awash with secret sponsorship dollars from their institutional and private supporters.
“We hereby call on Northern leaders and elders to stop the well oiled calculated and orchestrated campaign of calumny and desists from the “beer parlour” criticisms of the war on terror and return to their communities to show leadership examples to their wards and children”.
HURIWA affirmed that: “These members of the terror network seeking the destruction of modern-day constitutional democracy in Nigeria are children and wards of these community elders who are now transferring their misdirected angst at the service chiefs. What the Northern elders need to do with all due respect, is to articulate position paper on practical measures to be adopted by them to dissuade and discourage their kith and kin from enlisting into the terror groups that are waging the war of attrition against the Nigerian state and the people of Nigeria”.
The Rights group said the Northern Elders supported by the central and regional governments should unfold and begin to implement community based enlightenment crusades to redirect the brainwashed Children and Youths of the North East of Nigeria to accept the universal fact that their future development and aspirations can rapidly be attained in a United, democratic and prosperous Sovereign Republic of Nigeria and not by any group of TERROR WARRIORS because: “As long as we are concerned, we think what is critical is for all stakeholders to stop playing political pranks with the war on terror being waged by the Federal Government but to contribute our quota.”
HURIWA cited highly scholarly paper by experts on how the constructively positive roles of community elders can help transform a war torn region into a peaceful and purposeful homes for all the good citizens of Nigeria thus: “One of the major challenges in our communities as narrated in the work titled ‘The role of community participation in combating crime’ is the increasing, high rate of crime. Government and law enforcement agencies, trying to control this phenomenon, have focused most of their efforts in combating it through repressive or police force related methods (Barreto2002 large and ornish 200″ believe that, the adequate solution for crime related problems must be based on community participation and citizens & involvement with each other and with their communities”.
“The most important element of community crime prevention, according to this scholar appears to be bringing about social interaction, whereby residents of the community maintain a degree of familiarity with each other. Such interaction and familiarity should at least, make it possible to detect strangers in the community. Such interactions may lead to a cohesive neighbourhood. The basic philosophy of community crime prevention is that social interaction and citizen familiarity can play an important role in preventing, detecting, and reporting criminal behaviour. Community participation is regarded as an important tool for crime prevention.”
HURIWA also asked the Northern Elders and indeed Nigerian Elders to redirect their agitations towards the National and State Assemblies so good laws are immediately made and effectively implemented to create a harmonious relationship between traditional institutions, community based credible groups and the government in such a way that constitutional roles and responsibilities are created for the community leaders and traditional institutions to amongst others carry out grassroots mass enlightenment crusades and programmes to win the hearts and minds of the youths and the generality of the citizens to be focused towards social responsibility roles of building a strong, United, Cohesive and Prosperous Nigeria whereby there will be no much rooms for groups to embrace terrorism or armed struggles in their attempts to destabilise Nigeria.
HURIWA recalled that the Northern elders operating under the auspices of Coalition of North East Elders for Peace and Development had expressed disappointment in the New Year message of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it does not align with the demands of calls for the sack of security chiefs over worsening security problems in the country.
HURIWA recalled that the elders, who said Buhari’s New Year message is disappointing and empty, charged the president to immediately do the needful by not only announcing appointment of new security heads but also ensuring that the new security management team was in line with Nigeria’s federal character principle.
HURIWA citing media reports quoted the Northern elders in a statement signed by its national coordinator Zana Goni as stating that they needed a gift of new service chiefs from the president, saying it was the only way the president can convince them of hope for positive results in the ongoing war against insecurity in the region even as they noted that the continued retention of the service chiefs many years after expiration of their retirement date in service was not only unconstitutional but that it had also weakened the morale of military personnel and the front line troops.
HURIWA said the frequent media propaganda against the hierarchy of the Armed forces of Nigeria is not useful but amounts to political distraction just as the Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said what is needed now apart from a well equipped, motivated and battle prepared combatants which the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has endeavoured to institutionalised progressively and rapidly, is the component of community participation in waging the counter terror measures to deal decisively with threats posed to the territorial integrity of Nigeria by Armed Islamic terrorists and other desperate armed non state actors.
Now let us look towards some security scholars on those twin probing issues of defeating TERRORISTS and Who can or should work in partnership to achieve that. Frank Gardner, a Security Correspondent of the highly respected British Broadcasting corporation did a vastly factually accurate report and I intend to narrate the entire scope of this report. The report was published on June 20th 2020 whereby this journalist just like this writer asked the intriguing question as follows: Will the ‘War on Terror’ ever end? Then his story follows subsequently.
“Last weekend’s deadly knife attack in Reading, west of London, has been an uncomfortable reminder that the threat of terrorism has not gone away. But what about the so-called War on Terror, as declared by US President George W Bush in 2001? Is it still going on? And if not, has it been a triumph or a massive waste of money?
Nearly 19 years on from the day America was attacked on 11 September 2001 thousands of US servicemen and women remain stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf and the Horn of Africa. Drone strikes in remote regions of the world continue to target suspected terrorist leaders; counter-terrorism budgets across the world have ballooned to astronomical proportions to meet a myriad of ongoing threats.
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Sasha Havliclek, the CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, has been following this war since its inception. She maintains there is a distinction between the rhetoric and the reality:
“The rhetoric was done away with the minute President [Barack] Obama came into office [in 2009] but in reality there was much more continuity than rupture in the tactics of the war on terror. Under the Obama administration it’s well known that they massively scaled up droning attacks, for instance, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And for all the talk of America First now.. and I think there is a wide perception that this is winding down… we’ve actually seen a continued expansion of US counter-terrorism operations.”
‘A determined group of enemies’
That’s a view largely endorsed by the man appointed by President Donald Trump as the US State Department’s co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, Ambassador Nathan Sales. I asked him whether this war – as originally conceived by the Bush administration – is over?
“No, the fight is very much ongoing, we’re winning the fight but we’re continuing to fight against a determined enemy or I should say a determined group of enemies.”
He points to the example of Islamic State (IS) where a vast, multi-national coalition successfully eliminated the last of the jihadists’ physical caliphate at Baghuz in Syria last year, as well as its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Yet IS affiliates and networks, he concedes, are still very active around the world.
On Wednesday, the State Department releases its annual Country Terrorism Reports.
To some in Washington, it must have all seemed so clear-cut in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US.
Announcing the start of the “War on Terror” back then, President Bush declared that you were “either with us or against us”. There was no middle ground, no allowance made for the subtle nuances of the Middle East with its ever-shifting alliances and allegiances. In Iraq, which the US and Britain invaded in 2003, this uncompromising position turned potential allies into enemies, laying the foundations for today’s ongoing global jihadist movement. Mina Al-Orabi is the Editor of the UAE newspaper The National. She is originally from Mosul, Iraq’s second city, which was devastated during the battle to dislodge IS from its streets.
“‘In Iraq,” she says, “there were clear instances where the United States undercut the Iraqi state. Of course in 2003 the decision to dismantle the police and the military, the decision to put tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of young men out of work… with the idea that they should be completely excluded from the country, that became the nucleus for al-Qaeda in Iraq and then the nucleus of IS.”
‘Far from over’
Other policy mistakes have also been made as a part of this war that, although later reversed by President Obama, continue to have consequences today.
The detention of hundreds of suspects without trial in Guantanamo Bay, the practice of “extraordinary rendition” – blindfolding terror suspects and flying them across the world to CIA “black sites” where they were subjected to prolonged and “enhanced interrogation”.
These have all been used by critics of the West to undermine its moral authority. Ambassador Sales from the US state department says that “the world has learned a lot of lessons about what works and what doesn’t and we’ve incorporated those lessons into our current approaches”.
He is particularly irked by those critics of Guantanamo Bay, including Washington’s Western partners, who have now abandoned their citizens in desolate camps strung out across Syria and Iraq. He says these countries should take them back.
It is impossible to pin down exactly how much the “War on Terror” has cost but most estimates put it well in excess of US $1 trillion. The vast bulk of that has been spent on “kinetic” military action, as well as intelligence-gathering and drone strikes. Only a tiny fraction has gone towards prevention – steering people away from the path of extremism. Shiraz Maher from Kings College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation believes this war has helped spawn many of today’s other problems in society.
“If you look at things like the wider Islamic State and Syria and Iraq or these types of thing,” he says, “then that fuelled a degree of xenophobia in Europe, that fuelled a degree of suspicion and hostility towards Muslims, which translated into animosity towards refugees and the refugee crisis that was a result of Syria. So you can see a cascading series of consequences. So I think it’s fair to say that the ‘War on Terror’ is far from over in many senses.”
So will there ever be an end to this amorphous campaign? Will there be a decisive “Mission Accomplished” moment that brings the so-called War on Terror to a close? It is unlikely. Because, like crime, terrorism can only be reduced to what officials call “manageable levels”. And today there is already a newly emerging threat, that of far-right extremism, something that will likely breathe new life into what appears to be a War without End.”
From the benefit of hindsight, what must be emphasised is that tackling terrorism would demand collective responsibility of the government and leaders of community-based platforms such as traditional rulers and civil society stakeholders. The Service Chiefs should however remain focused and do the job of clinically finishing the war on terror which I think is winnable if NIGERIANS WANT IT TO END.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria firstname.lastname@example.org;www.emmanuelonwubikocom;www.thenigerianinsidernews.com;email@example.com
#EndSARS! The generation that said Enough
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
Surely some revelation is at hand…
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming (1919)
The poem quoted above: “The Second Coming” by Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1919) is probably one of the most adapted and quoted poems in world literature, and in politics and culture, to describe moments of anxiety, uncertainty and seeming “slouching towards” chaos and anarchy in any community. Written in 1919, in the context of the Spanish flu, after the First World War which ended in November 1918, and at the beginning of the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921), W.B. Yeats’s poem helps to encapsulate the horror, confusion, the disarray, the despair that has overtaken Nigeria in the last two weeks, in the wake of a revolt by Nigeria’s Generation Z, a generation that insists that they can no longer tolerate the failure of the Nigerian state and leadership. They are saying “Enough is Enough”, and they would not be deterred until they see concrete assurance that the change that they demand is on the horizon. The “slouching beast” of their protest is a notorious unit of the Nigeria Police: the much dreaded, now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS was known for its brutality, its indulgence in the extra-judicial killing, and the lives of many innocent Nigerians which its members deleted with impunity. Police brutality is not the only beast: the youths of Nigeria have since identified more beasts: a problematic foreign exchange rate, cybercrime and fraud, fuel price hike, legislators who are underworked and overpaid, terrorist herdsmen, unemployment, bad roads, a failed leadership elite – all of which combined threaten the future of the average Nigerian youth. They want to take charge of their own future. They want to take their country back as they now say – “#one-step-at-a-time”.
For the past two weeks, however, the street protests that have been staged by the youths have assumed a new life, resulting in a great disruption. The protests have spread like wildfire, fuelled by innovation, creativity, and “passionate intensity”. One striking feature of it is how it has taken the shape and form of community transmission, especially in Lagos where every neighborhood feels obliged to organize its own version of the protest. On Monday, October 19, the state of Lagos was practically on lockdown. Every major street junction was blocked by angry youths playing music, wielding placards of protest, and asking motorists to either join the protest or return home. At the Lekki end of the city, the Lekki toll gate has been shut down since the beginning of the protests. That particular spot has emerged as the nerve-center of youth revolt, and a cultural melting pot where solidarity is the normative code, and rebellion is the spirit of the congregation.
In Abuja, critical road arteries were also blocked, effectively shutting down the entire Federal Capital Territory. The road to the International Airport was occupied. Northern Youths under the aegis of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) are also protesting across the 19 states of the North. The difference between the protests in the North and the protests from the Middle Belt to the South lies in the emphasis by the Northern groups on the need to end insecurity in the North. Essentially, there is a meeting of minds among Nigerian youths, North or South, that something terrible has gone wrong with our country that needs to be fixed. The other exception that we have seen are those “rented” youths whose sponsors are yet unknown who attack the protesters in Abuja and Lagos, those who steal from youths who are fighting to save Nigeria, and those youths who are giving the emerging revolution a bad name by engaging in acts of violence.
The sad part of the protests so far is the degeneration into violence. What was conceived as and which began as a peaceful protest has now turned bloody? It has now been overtaken by the Nigerian factor. It would be most unfortunate if the protesters lose focus or they are pushed to do so. Amnesty International reported last week that about 10 persons had died in the course of the protests. The number has increased since hoodlums infiltrated the protests and policemen who had been warned by the Inspector General of Police began to shoot at protesters. The emerging picture is frightening. In Osogbo, Osun State on Saturday, the convoy of the State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, was attacked. The Governor insists that it was an attempt to assassinate him. In Abuja, more than four deaths have been reported within a week. Yesterday, Benin City went up in flames. Police stations and vehicles were set ablaze. Prisoners jumped the fence at the Benin prison and escaped. Just as we defend the right to protest, any act of violence is also condemnable. It is in order to prevent this that the Nigerian Civil Society has been very vocal in insisting that the police, the military, and other security agencies must not turn their guns on protesters, or arrest or detain or harass them. It is also in part why the decision of the Nigerian Army to launch Operation Crocodile Smile VI in the middle of a nationwide protest has been criticized for its bad timing. The explanation that the Operation has nothing to do with the #EndSARS protest has been dismissed as insincere. Soldiers have now been seen on the streets of Abuja, confronting #EndSARS protesters. Things are clearly falling apart…
The protesters claim that they are being provoked, or blackmailed, but as the days go by, it is difficult to identify a coherent strategy despite the gains that have been recorded. In the absence of an identified and structured leadership, the protest is at best amorphous. The Northern anti-insecurity protesters appear to be better organized. Every zone has a leader with published details. In the South, every man or woman who goes out to protest is a leader in his or her own right. This has resulted in internal bickering and much in-fighting. Each member of the protest would seem to have an agenda of their own: from the adoption of protest as a newfound vocation, or the enjoyment of the carnivalesque ambiance of the protests. What needs to be watched also is the manner in which the protest in full flight is beginning to alienate those who should naturally be part of it. The organizers should also watch out against inflicting emotional pain and psychological violence on the same persons whose interests they are fighting for. We are all involved in the struggle to save Nigeria. There is no Nigerian who has not suffered a form of police brutality or the other or the impunity of uniformed state officials. The various stories that have been told convey our collective pain and the depth of our anguish, and the drowning of our innocence. But when protesters block a major highway and all arterial roads from dawn to dusk, they inflict pain on innocent persons.
For days, people living in the Lekki part of Lagos have not been able to go to work or go about their daily business. When people go to work on the Island from the Mainland, they are not sure of what awaits them on the road. Protesters take over the roads and harass motorists. The Lagos Ibadan Expressway has been shut down repeatedly in the last two weeks. Transporters are put under enormous stress. The supply chain between Lagos and other parts of the country is disrupted. The economic impact of the on-going protest is huge. A newspaper investigation reveals that since the protests started in Lagos, the closure of the Lekki toll gate alone has resulted in a loss of about N234 million. When all this is over, is there any guarantee that the managers of that toll gate will not take it out on the young people who work daily at that toll gate? And there have been reports as well of persons who died in the last two weeks because they could not be rushed to the hospital because the roads have been blocked. All schools in Lagos have been shut down over #EndSARS protests. My point is this: while the right to protest is sacrosanct, it needs not to extend to a violation of other people’s rights.
Nigeria faces a dilemma. How would the present crisis be resolved? The Federal Government has accepted all the five demands placed before it by Nigerian youths, North and South. It has dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It has announced the establishment of a Special Weapons and Tactical Unit (SWAT), which has been roundly laughed off because of its peremptoriness and lack of originality. A total of 37 officers have either been reprimanded, demoted, or dismissed from the Police for having been involved one or the other in the abuse of office and privilege. In Lagos, four officers have been named and are likely to face prosecution.
At the last National Economic Council meeting chaired by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, it was agreed that every state government and the Federal Capital Territory should set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate all cases of police brutality and extra-judicial killing and ensure that justice is done. By yesterday, six states have set up the panels as agreed, and two – Lagos and Kaduna states- have inaugurated them. In addition, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has personally offered Nigerian youths an apology. The First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari has also called on the Nigerian government to “rescue the people.” Yesterday, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare after a meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa reported that the President has appealed to #EndSARS protesters to give the government time to address their demands; they have spoken and he has heard and that the reforms they are asking for will happen.
Indeed, the protesters have achieved a lot in two weeks. They have demonstrated the power of solidarity and the importance of their voice. This generation of protesters is not ready to “off the mic”. They insist on being heard. Their voice is so clear, it has been amplified across the world by celebrities, governments, and Nigerians in the Diaspora who have taken to the streets in about 10 countries of the world to draw attention to the Nigerian crisis. We have seen impressive displays of character and humanism as the story of the revolution continues to unfold, the physically challenged like Jane Obiene and Charles Nama – victims of police brutality – who joined the protest and got the support and adulation of others. The nursing mothers who took their children to join the protest. The elderly mothers protested on behalf of all mothers who lost a son, a daughter, a husband, or a relative to police brutality. An 89-year old citizen, Professor JTK Duncan showed up at the barricades, waving the Nigerian flag. Aisha Yesufu remains irrepressible. The Feminist Coalition, which has coordinated donations to the cause and the setting up of helplines is the very definition of responsible citizenship. We have also witnessed a harvest of creativity: new songs by Davido, Asa, Fikky, Kabex, Ripple Effect, Falz, and M.I. Abaga which define the protest; many more are emerging: short skits, paintings, memes, ingenuous tweets…an online SORO SOKE radio platform, Nollywood movies in the making…The protest has been teleological, technological, poetic and physical.
But when and how will these protests end? The real protest is in the mind of every young Nigerian who has been disappointed by the Nigerian state and who prays for a better country. No one can put a final date to that. The youth of Nigeria will not begin to trust their governments because of a few concessions and fine rhetoric. When their country changes for the better, they will be the first to know. But protest as an event cannot be an end in itself. I believe that with the present outing, the time has come for an audit and a review of strategy after two weeks. The protesters must resist the temptation to be turned into shooting targets by a state that is becoming overwhelmed: in Lagos protesters reportedly took over the international airport; in Benin, prisoners escaped, and in the face of all that, some government officials are beginning to tell us that the government of Nigeria will not stand by and allow anarchy to reign. To whom it may concern: The time has come for a review of strategy and tactics.
As for the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari should step forward and address the angry youths of Nigeria at home and in the diaspora. He can no longer afford to speak through proxies and third parties. The protesters won’t listen to such persons. They don’t trust anyone at all at this moment. The Falcon can no longer pretend not to hear the Falconer. This is the time to change the narrative of the on-going protest, and only you, Mr. President can do it. Talk directly to the youths of Nigeria. Then sack one or two guilty persons to show that you truly believe in the principle of fairness. Seize the moment. Now.
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