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By Yemi Adebowale
Now to the genuine EndSARS protesters: I am not sorry to say that they messed up. At a point during the protest, they got it wrong. No doubt, the agitations are just and reasonable, but they rubbished everything when they failed to retreat at the right time and lost the essence of the agitations. EndSARS protesters got the ear of government at the right time but still refused to ceasefire. For the first time in a long while, government shifted. SARS was disbanded, arrested protesters were released, wayward policemen put on trial and panels to investigate police brutality set up. They got all these and the process for resolving them started. The new issues raised were also getting attention. At that point, EndSARS protesters needed to pull back.
Then, the protesters started changing the rules in the middle of the game and shifting the goalposts. Protests cannot be endless without deteriorating into a bigger crisis. Besides, campaigners must have leaders and actively negotiate with government. There is no way proper negotiation can take place with a mob. The EndSARS guys eventually abused the right to protest. The tendency of the protest turning into anarchy was obvious. This is peculiar to our setting. That was exactly what happened and we are still counting the losses.
Government responded appropriately to all five demands, yet, the protesters persisted against wise counsels. Wicked, Godless and senseless people, some of them elders, were urging the protesters not to retreat. What has happened to the moderating influence of seniors? Those elders urging them to continue did a great disservice to this country. The blood of the people killed remains on their head. Their talk about youths taking over is preposterous. So, elders should surrender the country to youths?
Some of these impractical elders clamour for youths to take charge as if there is any country in the world turned around by youths alone. Let them cite an example. It takes the wisdom and tenacity of both elders and youths to turn around any system for good, goes a popular saying in Yoruba land. These so-called elders urging youths to take over have suddenly forgotten that those who plunged Nigeria into a civil war that claimed over two million lives were largely youths. The military guys who destroyed our beautiful First Republic were largely youths. Most times, youthful exuberance is a killer.
What about those spreading fake news about the protests and killings? They ought to be in jail by now. There is one Lagos DJ that spent days spinning falsehood about the “attack” on protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. There is no point mentioning her name. She does not deserve it on this page. Her lies caused a lot of destruction. This DJ’s hopeless story kept changing. Her submissions were most unreasonable and illogical; yet, many believed her and reposted. Mob mentality took over. What has happened to critical thinking in this country? It is so sad many are not interested in interrogating issues around the alleged Lekki gate “killings”.
The likes of that desperate DJ stoked the killings, looting and arson witnessed for days with mountains of lies about what transpired at the Lekki toll gate. It’s so shocking that many were easily deceived by these specious narrations. Yes, there were shootings at the Lekki gate, which ought not to have happened. It was absolutely unnecessary. Those responsible should be fished out and dealt with according to our laws. The protesters could have been professionally dispersed without any gun shot. It is very painful that two people died in the hospital from injuries sustained during the stampede. However, there was nothing like “mass killing” at the Lekki toll gate. It never happened. It does not make sense playing politics with human lives.
Let’s flip over to the real issues behind EndSARS. The arm of the police feared by criminals, particularly armed robbers across our country is the SARS. They are the ones with the capacity to checkmate criminals. That was why criminals joined the campaign to disband them. I know what I am saying because I mingled with the EndSARS protesters in hot spots in Lagos like Ikorodu, Ketu and Mushin. The agenda of the criminals was to end the squad hindering them. So, when the squad was disbanded, criminals partied in some areas in Lagos. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really bad guys in SARS. These are the guys that should be pulled out and punished. Every system has its bad eggs. With a good command and control structure, the squad could be reformed and made accountable.
Now, there is a huge SARS gap across Nigeria and the criminals are having a field day. They are still moving up and down, looting, maiming and killing. In Lagos, criminals now mount roadblocks and collect tolls. Many fell for this cry to EndSARS, not knowing the real agenda. I can understand a campaign to end police brutality or to reform SARS. I can understand a movement to ensure punishment of recalcitrant SARS and other policemen mistreating innocent people. A call to end SARS completely is a call for criminals to take over our land. This is exactly what has happened. Government has surrendered this country to criminals by scrapping the police unit. Urgent steps must be taken to pull back Nigeria from total destruction. A Libya and Somalia scenario combined is now facing this country.
The issue of the military helping to disperse protesters must also be analysed. I have heard some saying the Nigerian military has no business tackling protesters in a democracy. This is a big lie. When anarchy sets in and the police are overwhelmed, military helps. President Trump invited the military to disperse unruly protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstration in the United States. President Macron called out the military to disperse Yellow Vest protesters in France. This is the global standard when lawlessness sets in. We should be talking about our military doing the job professionally as seen in the countries mentioned, not saying they have no business dispersing violent protesters. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, did not commit any offence inviting the military to help.
Let me also address unemployment crisis. An army of unemployed youths is a time bomb. That has been my message for years but those in government refused to listen. The time bomb finally exploded with EndSARS. Majority of the protesters are jobless youths. Economic issues largely motivated the crisis this country went through in the last few weeks. This bomb may explode further if governments at all levels fail to take proactive steps to reduce unemployment. To reduce tension, it is pertinent to start seeing good governance and improved service delivery immediately. Years of bad government put this country in this mess.
Culled from ThisDay newspaper