By Chidinma Nnamah
“Sorry for the inconvenience but we are trying to change Nigeria”- Mike Edwards (1st runner up BBN Season 4).
Hey you. Can you read the hand writing on the wall? Do you need magnifying glasses to see it?
The real change is here. 2020 is indeed the year of unexpected outcomes.
It started with the Edo people taking a bold stand against godfatherism in politics, and has shifted to the demand to end to police brutality with the #ENDSARS protest. The youths have decided to seize their future which starts now not tomorrow.
The air is different, can you feel it?
98% of Nigerian families have had an unpleasant experience with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Unit popularly known as ‘SARS’. Everyone knows someone who has been a victim of police brutality. These officers who were employed for the purpose of protecting lives and property have abandoned the mandate of the security. There has been allegations of harassment, extortion and extra judicial killings on innocent citizens carried out by the Anti-Robbery Squad.
The #ENDSARS movement is not new to the Nigerian government. Though there were protests in past with regards to this trending issue, no good came out of it. Even the Human Rights Commission has had little impact on the prosecution of human right abuses carried out by SARS.
The Nigerian government has mastered the act of only being reactive to national issues after much prodding and disgrace. It gives the notion that the government does not give a damn about its citizens.
This lackadaisical attitude was evidenced when the world was at the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, leaders all over the world kept assuring its citizens that their governments had strategic plans to safeguard their lives. While citizens of those countries were speaking against their government for not taking the right action or expecting more from them, Nigerian citizens were pointing torchlights in every corner looking for its leaders.
The officers of SARS unit have been operating as if they are not answerable to any authority and that is why it is common to hear phrases like “I will shoot you and nothing will happen”. These officers have the audacity to make such statements because they know the system is so corrupt. So corrupt that leadership, accountability and discipline are non-existent which by default guarantees their job security.
We must oppose this permeation of injustice and that is why in addition to the disbandment of SARS as a unit of the police force, there must be an overhaul of all security outfits in the country.
The youths solely decided to take on a peaceful protest against the injustices they had suffered on account of the SARS officials. They took on a fight that the government had cast a blind eye on for so long. In addition to the peaceful protest, they have presented a 5 for 5 demand on the actions the Federal government is expected to take in response to the #ENDSARS protest.
The protesters who mostly comprise of the younger generation,were infamously nicknamed “lazy youths” by a government that failed to cater for them. Sarcastically, the ‘lazy people’ have owned the name andused their creativity to show their impact in tech spaces, art, music and the Nigerian hustle spirit. Same action which has now made them targets of the SARS officers.
The creativity of the youths can also be seen in the how they pooled resources, talent and education in the fight for this common cause all over the country. It has led to crowd funding of the peaceful protests with monies in Naira, foreign currency and even digital currency (BTC). These funds have been used to provide food and drinks at protest venues, private security, hospital bills for the gravely injured victims, first aid treatments for minor sustained injuries, legal services for arrested protesters, data for online protesters, funeral arrangements and condolences for the dead.
The same generation that spent its money voting for its favorite Big Brother Naija housemates has channeled this same energy towards funding the #ENDSARS movement.Little drops really does make an ocean.
With their collective voices, the Nigerian youths have made the international community aware of their distress in Nigeria.Even going as far as reporting those found wanting to the International Criminal Justice system for prosecution.
The world is a global village with the internet, who understands this concept better than the youth who spend most of their time on electronic gadgets.
The government must realize that in order to quell this protest, it must approach these issues tactically in an accountable and transparent manner. Band-Aid solutions that had worked for the past years in no longer feasible.
The focus of the Nigerian government at this point must be restoration of justice. It starts with the prosecution of officers like CSP James Nwafor, Sunday Okpe Eyoh Aniette, Promise Nwosu, Carol Onyeka Afegbai and many others who had been fingered as the master minds of the alleged human right abuses.
It also extends to carrying out investigation at the locus of the SARS offices nationwide as there have been allegations of shallow graves containing the bodies of innocent Nigerians. Locations like the Akwuzu SARS in Anambra State and the SARS Abbatoir in Abuja comes to mind. This investigation must seek to provide justice to the families of Ifunaya Amadike, Tina Ezekwe, Ibrahim Momodu, SeyiAkinade, IkechukwuAmadi, JimohIsiaq, and all others who have been negatively impacted by the SARS officials.
Lastly, the protesters have also demanded for a mandatory psychological evaluation of SARS officials. Let it be clear that this particular demand is not to be taken as a mere procedural step. Rather, it must be seen as part ofrestructuring the police force in the sense that if after the psychological evaluation and certain persons are found to be unfit as members of the SARS unit, such persons must be summarily dismissed or offered an option of early retirement.
We cannot have people who are mentally imbalanced wielding guns in the public, it is dangerous to every Nigerian and defeats the purpose of the police force which is to protect lives and property.
A new Nigeria has indeed arrived, the youths and the future generations’ yet unborn stand to enjoy the benefit of this movement. This is our dawn.
NIGERIAN YOUTHS ARISE AND SORO SOKE
Chidinma Nnamah writes from FCT, Abuja
Email: [email protected]