In the past few days, Nigerian youths have demonstrated that they are a force to be reckoned with. They have shown that any government that ignores them does so at its own peril. They have also shown that they can be creative and can be organized and can also contribute to national development if given a pedestal to stand. They have spoken by words and actions and I believe that the government has heard them and that the government is working hard now to attend to their problems and the issues they raised during the End SARS protests.
It is no longer in doubt that we have all learnt some useful lessons from the EndSARS movement across the country. The first lesson, not in any particular order, is that issues concerning the youths cannot be taken for granted or be ignored any longer. Another lesson is that the present centralized policing system is no longer adequate to guarantee security across the country. Perhaps this is the right time to think of decentralizing the Nigeria Police Force. In a federal system of government, centralized policing is anathema and does not work effectively.
The breakdown of law and order that followed the hijack of the EndSARS protests by hoodlums and criminals has underscored the need for state police, which prominent Nigerians and groups have called for. The mindless destruction of properties has shown that the present policing system is deficient and cannot provide security of lives and property, which is indeed the primary function of government. The ongoing looting of warehouses is an indication that something is wrong with our policing system. There is urgent need for a change of the nation’s security architecture, beginning with policing. This is one issue our leaders must frontally tackle now. Nigeria is now ripe for state and local government police.
Our policing system should take a cue from the United States (US) where we borrowed the costly presidential system of government without is major tenets. The US has several layers of policing, federal, state, and county. Some cities have their own police as well as institutions. The American policing system can be replicated in our country. We should stop running away from issues. One other lesson from the youths’ revolt is that Nigeria is long overdue for restructuring or reconfiguration or whatever name anybody can give it.
Many Nigerians have written and said so much about restructuring. Even the APC government has a template on restructuring. The time to restructure Nigeria is now. I have written so much on restructuring that there is no point repeating myself in this article. The present structure, comprising the federal government, 36 states and 774 local governments is lopsided and unbalanced and expensive to run. It contributes so much to the high cost of governance in the country. It is also part of our underdevelopment recurring crisis of nationhood.
That is why some wise Nigerians have suggested that we go back to the parliamentary system of government. Some other Nigerians have also suggested that we go back to the regions, though not exactly the four regional governments of the 60s. Some Nigerians have suggested that we use the extant six geo-political zones as the new regions and devolve more powers to them while the federal government will be allowed to handle a few items. The present system in which everything revolves around the federal government is unitary in nature and only federal in name. That is why it is suffocating and not working the way it should.
Let nobody delude himself that the present system is advantageous to him or his people. Rather, the opposite is the truth. The regionalization of the polity is so much recommended because it has worked for us better in the past. We witnessed rapid economic development and competition among the defunct regions during the first republic. We had good and visionary leaders. They were selfless and patriotic. They were not perfect but their period was better than now. The regional system did not fail Nigerians. The only problem is that it was not allowed to grow and mature. It was terminated so early in our political life.
The EndSARS protest has shown that Nigerian youths can indeed speak with one voice, especially in the south and middle belt. In other parts of the north, the movement was muted or suppressed for some obvious reasons. The EndSARS is also about ending bad governance, injustice and abuse of office. For peace to reign, there must be justice and fairness to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or creed. Our unity must be based on justice, equity and fairness.
However, the scramble for CaCOVID-19 palliatives and sundry looting of warehouses all over the country show indeed that we are the poverty capital of the world. Although the looting of the CaCOVID-19 palliatives warehouses cannot be justified, it is immoral for some state governments to hoard the relief materials donated by private concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. The argument by the Nigeria Governors Forum that the palliatives were kept in anticipation of the second wave of the pandemic is hardly convincing. That logic is not persuasive enough.
Some of the items of the CaCOVID-19 palliatives such as garri and a few others had reportedly expired. For instance, garri cannot be stored in a warehouse for a long time. There is need to probe the distribution of CaCOVID-19 palliatives in view of the emerging facts that they were not given to the people who needed them most. The fact that we have so many CaCOVID-19 palliatives warehouses across the country is an indication that the distribution was either politicized or hijacked by a few privileged Nigerians while many Nigerians wallow in abject poverty.
The probe must cover the 36 states and the 774 local government areas. While hunger can be responsible for the scramble for CaCOVID-19 palliatives, what will explain the mindless looting of windows, doors and roofing sheets of some offices and the looting of NAFDAC office in Kaduna where vaccines and expired drugs were reportedly kept?
While sociologists have argued that every human being is born a deviant, I think that the general poverty and unemployment in the country can be held responsible for the ongoing looting. It can explain the mad rush for warehouses with CaCOVID-19 palliatives. The picture of Nigerians struggling for CaCOVID-19 palliatives is pathetic and shameful. It shows that we still have a very long way to go in terms of good governance and caring for the people. Those in government must appreciate that government exists to attend to the welfare of the people. No government can exist without the people.
It is good that the federal and state governments are coming up with new measures to alleviate the poverty level in the country; the local government can as well do something in this regard to reduce rural poverty. They should walk their talk and hit the ground running. The government must start working with available statistics on growing unemployment and poverty as released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Every state must have a list of its unemployed youths so that they can adequately plan for their future. I plead with the youths to give the government the time to attend to their demands. The mindless looting of warehouses should also stop. Let the government ensure justice for the victims of the Lekki Shooting and those their properties were destroyed.