#EndSars could be the best thing that ever happened in Nigeria.The youths have risen to become political vigilantes.
For so long, our youths had laid back, and partisan politics that knows no virtues had held the country by the scruff of the neck and dragged it backwards.
EndSars could be a rebirth. Politicians had won elections but never represented the people. Generally, the common good was mouth but their actions were informed by personal interest and pathological greed.
They took the power of the people from the people and used it against the people. The predominant political culture became opportunism and impunity. For the first time in our democratic experience, the youths aren’t just asking questions they are forcing answers. Politicians and kings are visibly fretting. The old order of imperturbability in the corridors of power is crumbling.
EndSars would end well if the youths can find tact and stamina. The race they have chosen to run can be run like a sprint but it would be best run as a marathon. It is heartwarming that the inquest has started in the right place—the police.
The police took predatory policing to a whole new level and made the youths endangered species. If the police are properly fixed then many of the other rots will begin to heal.
But the youths must not be fazed by their dizzying triumph. The spontaneity of the protests gave them authenticity and unpredictability. Two good qualities. But made them rudderless.
It has worked thus far, but it is time to step back and articulate the problems of policing in Nigeria with some sobriety. The End of SARS will not automatically birth a new policing culture; will not civilize a poorly paid, poorly trained police force operating in a society that has thrown away all its taboos.
SARS has been abolished, but the evils of the defunct SARS cannot be avoided by cosmetic changes in police structure or a mere naming ceremony. Police reforms must be thoroughgoing. They have to be clearly thought through, and all sections of the country carried along. #EndSars youths must pursue the prosecution of police officers that have brutalized, maimed and killed citizens.
They must seek compensations for victims of police brutality. EndSars, however, must think police recruitment, welfare and training. The youths must rethink policing. Given our political structure, community policing with a priority on police welfare looks the only solution to police brutality and inefficiency.
A police force answerable to the local community would, in all likelihood, be better funded. A Mushin police financed and controlled by the Mushin community cannot make youths in dreadlocks their prey.
A Festac police whose policing priorities would be set up by the local police council where some youth bodies would be represented cannot swoop on youths whom they find with laptops in back-packs.
Impatience could be a virtue but EndSARs must find tact. Besides policing, the country has a multitude of problems. The youths must seek a change in our political culture. I will not foist a prescription on them. It’s good they have shed their apathy.
They must contain their exuberance. Blocking the Lekki tollgate permanently prevents some children from going to school while other children in the rest of the country are in school. Blocking the Lagos toll gate affects the poor much more than the rich. Freedom will come at a cost but not at an avoidable cost. EndSars youths can picket the National Assembly and state legislatures.
They can picket government houses and governors lodges and get more attention. They can obstruct major roads once in a while but building permanent roadblocks won’t help. The youths must know that they are engaged in a contest for the hearts and minds of other people who are yet to join the protest.
The youths should show to the suffering masses the sensitivity they expect of politicians. The aims of the protest can be achieved without bringing avoidable anguish to languishing folks.
The youths must keep the protests alive. Their target must be an overhaul of our national politics by 2023. The movement must find a leadership. Being leaderless is exciting but they must find genuine leaders who can think. But they must be on their toes.
In their midst are political chameleons, vultures dressed as eagles, anarchists and nihilists. They must make guard the steering wheel of the EndSars vehicle jealously. They must shed mob mentality because they have to set new standards. They must be methodical. They have the energy. They have found networking. They have discovered their power.
They need not rush. But they must not relent. They can shock the country back to life if they persist in principled ways. Failed and bitter politicians will infiltrate them, but they must resist contamination. Those who want the dismemberment of Nigeria have taken front seats, but the youths must stand up and condemn them.
One other thing they must do is own part of the blames for the failures of the past. In Lagos in 2019, over six million PVCs were collected. Those who voted in the governorship elections were less than 1.4 million. Just as in 2015, about 5 million people stayed away on election days.
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Amongst the 5 million would be over 3 million people aged between 18-40 years. They abdicated their responsibility. If the options on election days weren’t rich enough, then they could have enriched it by putting themselves forward. Lagos should be turning out over 5 million votes routinely. The youths should be deciding winners of elections all over the country.
Apathy is no excuse. Nigeria is their fatherland. They can’t sit around like tourists or guests and throw sophisticated tantrums at rots . Electoral violence is no excuse; if the youths turn out en masse they will contain thuggery.
2023 is here. While the youths are holding the government to account, and holding carnivals on the roads, they must think massive active participation in multiparty politics. That is the real intervention. We have loitered in the political wilderness. Are our Joshuas finally awake?
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