Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has described the ongoing protests by Nigeria youths as a clarion call to test the progressive credentials and response of political leaders in APC to growing demands both within the party and by Nigerians.
Salihu, in a statement he issued in Abuja, argued that the protests highlight some levels of citizens frustration, especially by young people in relation to engaging initiatives of government aimed at resolving societal problems.
“Being a progressive party should be expected to make the party and our leaders easily accessible to citizens based on which negotiating and engaging APC’s progressive initiatives of governments shouldn’t be a problem.
“Without doubt, the current ongoing youth protest across the country, calling for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police otherwise popularly known as #EndSARS protest, highlight some levels of citizens frustration, especially by our young people in relation to engaging initiatives of government aimed at resolving our societal problems.
“The protest and its popularity among our young people are indication of the urgency for our politics to become more responsive and oriented to attract wider citizens participation. Intuitively, the ongoing protest is a clarion call on our political leaders in APC to respond to growing demands both within the party and by Nigerians to ensure that the progressive credentials of APC is oriented based on commitment to promote radical politics.
“What is the requirement for radical politics? How can commitment to radical politics resolve the problems of our young people?
“Our youth have woken up to the challenge of political engagement to address problems affecting them and have taken over our streets and the airwaves. At best, government and all of us actively involved in politics are doing catch up. For more than a week, across all our media, both locally and internationally, news about Nigeria is all around the protest by our young people.
“The protest is very popular, and the leadership appear very determined to continue with the protest. Being the party in government, are we going to painstakingly work for democratic resolution? Or are we going to opt for authoritarian measures to end the protests?
“The options are daring and challenging. Interestingly, the organisation of the protest doesn’t make these options any easier. With amorphous leadership, the protest is taking all the advantages of modern technology to earn the trust and confidence of all sections of Nigerian youths.
“The trust has enabled them to mobilise funding, and they are deploying it to provide welfare services to the protesters. At another level, it will also appear that our young people have found themselves stranded such that by the amorphous nature of their leadership, they are unable to effectively negotiate their demands with government.
“Some of the conventional protest leaders have been chased away by the protesters. In the absence of recognised leaders, how can government engage or negotiate with the protesters?
On how to end the protest, the PGF DG said: “How can government win the trust and confidence of our young people and get them to vacate the streets? The message from our young people is that there are challenges that require political responses. Police brutality, insecurity, unemployment, etc. are contending political issues.
“Citizens’ participation in responding to these challenges is a critical requirement to win the trust of Nigerians regarding initiative of government.
“The truth is, the crisis facing us as a nation as much as it affect everyone, it is more destructive to our young people. For instance, access to educational opportunities is abysmal, the small openings lead to very dark tunnels that may only provide glimpses of hopeless reality.
“Public education is in worst state such that both teachers and students have to look outside the classrooms for the new society, if any at all. Any wonder, therefore, our youth are on the street, campaigning for an end to a problem they consider very deadly? Graduate unemployment is today the new normal.
“Without any doubt, every patriotic Nigerian should at the minimum be able to accept these fundamental challenges, which is the root cause of today’s protest by Nigerian youth. We should therefore strongly appeal to our leaders to kindly respond to the protest by fundamentally taking the necessary steps to accelerate the process of reforming the implementation of especially government welfare initiatives.
“Already, government has effectively responded to the specific demands of the #EndSARS protest. The reality is that meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protest alone cannot end the protest.
“What is clear is that the ongoing protest is beyond the problems of SARS, although it is the trigger. This is why the announcement for the disbandment of SARS by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, did not win the heart of the protesters. Instead, new demands calling for release of arrested protesters, compensation for victims, setting up independent investigation, etc. emerges.
“This basically calls for reform of the Nigeria Police. In response, government through both the Nigeria Police Force, National Economic Council (NEC) and all state governments have acceded to all the demands, but the protest is still going on. This has produced further claims that the protesters are demanding for the reform of Nigeria, whatever that means,” he suggested.