I am like most Nigerians pleasantly surprised by the courage, skill and maturity of the #EndSARS protests across the country. It has wiped out most of my misconceptions about Nigerian youths, especially after their obsession with the frivolous BBNaija circus. I have just a few words for them.
Keep your struggle within the law: The #EndSARS protest is long overdue and, as the main victims of police brutality in Nigeria, you have chosen a proper cause to make your bold entry into the political arena. Be strategic, nimble and show leadership as you engage the authorities. The protests are not an end in itself but a means to extract the changes you want and desire. Explore avenues for dialogue, keep your gunpowder and stand ready to exert pressure when necessary and appropriate.
Get involved in retail politics: By this I mean register with one of the two major political parties, Don’t found a political party or movement. You will simply be easy targets to take down. You have the numbers, you may wish to join any of the two parties of your choice or both, get copies of their constitutions, follow the rules, infiltrate the local leadership. With time, you will take over and make the desired changes from within. You cannot change decades of inept and corrupt leadership without a long-term plan, and sustained action. Make it a “velvet revolution”. Trust me, there will be resistance from the old guard, but with time you will gently shove them out of the china shop with minimum damage.
Get more organised: You need some form of collegiate leadership based in every major town and city in Nigeria. Protesters go home after a while if they are not organised. You do not want this to be a flash in the pan.
Don’t stay too long on the streets: Do not give the authorities the pleasure to disperse you. Calibrate your street presence on any major issue and know when to withdraw on your terms. I know a lot of you would not like this one, but I know Nigerians and their attention span. Besides, you may lay yourself bare to “fake protesters” and those with other motives to fill your ranks, dilute your enthusiasm and resolve. He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.
Avoid “hot button” issues like “restructuring”, “devolution of power”, “fiscal federalism”: While these are desirable goals, which are long overdue, you will not understand the embedded politics that have made them simply “talking points” over the years. You may wish to return to these issues when you have taken over in your numbers as members of various legislative houses in Nigeria and at the centre. You are not equipped to dabble into them from your current positions. You will be distracted.
Keep your eyes on the ball: Stay focused on every mission you undertake and achieve results. This current effort is about ending police brutality and getting a citizen-friendly policing. Engage think-tanks and civil society groups and come up with workable ideas. Don’t leave the reforms to the authorities. They may not have fresh ideas on what to do and may secretly be wishing that you bail them out. It is possible. So, be resourceful and proffer common sense and practical solutions, which the majority of Nigerians can buy into and show yourselves as truly ready for leadership.
Get a face: You need to quickly have authorised spokespersons, official social media platforms and engage the mainstream media. This will enable you to quickly dissociate yourself from the activities of the fifth columnists in your midst who will attempt to commit criminal acts in your name just to discredit your efforts.
Resist violence: Resist every provocation to get violent. The environment is already toxic and there is too much violence and blood shedding in the country. Be sensible and don’t compound the already deteriorating security situation.
Avoid old soldiers: These are the pioneers of “the struggle”. They have paid their dues but the system has turned most of them into cynical operatives who survive as double agents. Accord them their respect but don’t work from their playbook.
Be prepared for the long haul: What you have embarked on may be the only chance for Nigeria to self-redeem. It is a historical movement. Don’t trivialize it. Be prepared for the long haul, the pain and the suffering along the way; but you owe it to yourselves and your children.
•Odom is a legal practitioner and former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria