The nationwide burning and looting of public and private property by hoodlums after some soldiers stormed the #EndSARS protest at the Lekki Tollgate is unprecedented.
What happened confirmed the worst fears of many analysts, who had postulated that, because of the way the leaderless #EndSARS is structured, hoodlums could hijack their campaign. That has happened before our naked eyes, to the horror of disbelieving Nigerians.
It took the violent, senseless invasion of the Lekki base of the #EndSARS by a few soldiers to suddenly change the dynamics of the youth who went about their peaceful protest in a civilised manner.
A few shots at the protesters resulted in an unspecified number of deaths and all hell was let loose. Hoodlums took advantage of the public outrage that followed to unleash mayhem on the populace, burning and looting public property with reckless abandon. This is pure anarchy!
For the first time since the infamous operation “Wetie” in the old Western Region, public property and assets of prominent private citizens, shopping malls, government warehouses, business premises, big and small vehicles were all vandalised by angry youth. Worse, scores of innocent folks were maimed or killed before security forces brought the carnage under control.
People are still asking: how did this happens? What brought us here? Who are the people behind this tragedy? The answer can be found in decades of misrule by the greedy political class and their military cohorts who have pushed the Nigerian underclass to the limit of hunger and poverty. When people get dangerously on the edge, all they need is a little prompting before they go berserk.
After decades of reckless looting of our common patrimony, our governing elite never believed that a day of reckoning, as just witnessed, would ever come. Having perfected the art of using ethnic and religious sentiments to frustrate a united opposition by the underclass, they didn’t expect a group like #EndSARS to ever emerge.
#EndSARS came with a pan-Nigerian agenda; it is totally detribalized. The group’s protests are peaceful and decent. This group is not beholden to anyone, group, political interest or clique. All they want is good governance. This posture has not been seen in any pressure group in Nigeria before and that got our governing elite scared. The rich and powerful politicians knew that the game could be over, if something drastic was not done to disperse the #EndSARS group. That was the reason for the fatal march on Lekki.
However, they didn’t know that to forcefully dislodge #EndSARS from the streets could stoke youth anger on a wider scale. Nobody knew that the hoodlums could spearhead the kind of army of discontent that went about burning, looting and vandalising public institutions on this scale. Worse, this is the first time angry youth targeted prominent politicians who allegedly impoverished them.
While the violent reactions of these youth are wrong, totally unjustifiable and are as irresponsible as the crime of our political leaders, two wrongs do not make a right. #EndSARS is a great innovation. They tried to show us the way to national redemption through organized agitation that could lead to dialogue and genuine change.
The youthful #EndSARS protesters may not have been perfect in the way they went about the protests, but they have given us the right template for setting a national agenda. They have shown that we can tear the garb of divisive politics off the back of our politicians, and allow our problems to take the centre stage.
More importantly, #EndSARS shows that Nigerian youth are ready to stand up to the leadership challenge. For me, that’s the great takeaway from this crisis. If, to get here, we had to pay this high price in deaths and destruction, they are worth the price. Our politicians have inflicted incomparably worse damage on our collective psyche and left our nation impoverished, divided, and dysfunctional.
What is next for #EndSARS is not to retreat and surrender. They should pause for a while, and allow the hoodlums to be tamed. Now, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff.
#EndSARS has a recognised trademark. They are peaceful, well-behaved protesters who even clear the streets of the waste they generated. They help distressed folks around them, and march peacefully to government lodges to submit their charter of demands.
The hoodlums do none of these. All they are interested in is looting and burning as a way of showing their frustration with the very nasty ruling elite. Hoodlums are mostly area boys and girls, the underclass who have no hope. That’s the basic difference between them and #EndSARS protesters.
It is necessary that we allow the government and the masses to fully appreciate the difference between the villains (hoodlums) and the heroes (#EndSARS).
Now, #EndSARS needs to re-organise. They should now be ready to step forward and dialogue with government. That’s the next logical thing to do. Government appears to be ready to dialogue. Even terror groups dialogue. All wars end up being concluded at a round table. I strongly advice we talk.
#EndSARS. End violence. End bad governace.
Weekend Spice: God doesn’t play dice – Albert Einstein
Ok folks, thanks for reading. Stay safe, COVID-19 is real. Stay motivated.
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached on [email protected] and 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)