The nationwide protest group, popularly known as #EndSARS, has snowballed into a much bigger explosion of youth anger against bad governance, after the unfortunate killings of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate last Tuesday. My heart goes out to the families of the victims.
What initially was meant to highlight the high-handedness of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, has now become a nationwide platform for youth protest against the excesses of the governing elite across party spectrums. Things are looking dangerous.
#EndSARS is not about ethnic, religious or any shade of sectional interests, as some folks are trying to paint it. Whoever is shooting tribal arrows at these protests is wasting their time, as this is all about Nigeria and nothing else. The wanton destruction of public property by Area Boys must stop, as this was not the purpose of the protesters.
That said, I make bold to say that the protest, as it is, hasn’t gone well as it should, for a number of reasons. First, it is leaderless. For reasons of strategy, the organisers chose not to present their leaders. That’s valid, but wrong. A movement like this without a leader is like a ship without rudder, it may soon be lost on the high seas, especially when arrayed against violent storms. This is one of the signs we’re seeing now.
Not having a leader to talk to has given government an excuse not to respond vigorously to the demands of the protesters. And because the movement has no leader, their demand appears to be amorphous, incoherent and difficult to track.
Worse, hoodlums have intruded and are now causing mayhem, which has forced the government to attempt to disperse the protesters by imposing curfews in some states. This led to the tragic Lekki Toll Gate murders. Again, some Area Boys are trying to force a lockdown of the economy. Having just come out of one long, painful lockdown, forceful disruption of movement by the hoodlums is not sitting down well with the masses on whose behalf the #EndSARS folks are fighting.
It is wrong for anyone to force people to stay at home at this time. People won’t be able to bear it. Most Nigerians survive on daily economic activities and won’t accept any lockdown at this time. This would erode the support base of the protesters. The youth cannot afford any crack in their ranks.
A headless body has no face to identify it. That’s one major problem of #EndSARS. Let’s be clear about this. #EndSARS is not an end to common sense. Reason must prevail. We need to see a leader emerge immediately to give direction to this protest. They should have a spokesperson who speaks to the media and gives us information. This vital gap must be addressed.
Again, we can’t have endless protests. It doesn’t make sense. Over time, people would get tired, if no result is forthcoming. We need a timeline to get things done. Now, we are looking at different directions for information and action.
The momentum of these protests would be lost, if government succeeds in dispersing the gatherings eventually. And that would be too bad because the gains of the past weeks would be lost. God forbid! The governing elite are trembling at the spontaneous explosion of youth anger, but they have nowhere to run to. This is not a revolution or a coup, which requires no negotiation. It is street protest. Revolutionaries or coupists use violence to get power and make changes, protesters can only use the vehicle of dialogue because they have no belligerence capability.
These protests should not last for too long if they are to make sense. We need to tidy things up and present a solid charter of demands to government that reflects all the fault lines that need to be fixed. The movement should present their leaders before the end of this week and commence negotiation with the government as soon as possible.
What should be done right now is to do some rethinking. The organisers need to re-strategise and replan. The point has been made that Nigeria can’t continue like this. The ruling elite have now fully realised this. They now know that they are not as secure as they thought. Let it be fully appreciated that this writer is happy with the movement and wants it to succeed. It would amount to a disservice to Nigerians to ignore the inherent dangers in running a loose-end movement like this without a strong, focused leadership.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari should address the youth immediately. He should come out and talk to them about all the issues that have been raised. He is familiar with these issues and he should speak about them. We need to know what he intends to do to take this nation out of the doldrums of despair and lack. We need to hear from the President. Above all, he should protect the protesters. They need police coverage against hoodlums who may want to attack them. We need to see action!
Weekend spice: When conflict is handled correctly, we grow close to each other – Rick Warren
Ok folks, let’s do it again next Friday. COVID-19 is real. Stay safe. Stay motivated. #EndSARS, we love you.
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached on [email protected] and 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)