WEEKEND ARENA

ENDSARS Protests revealed 10 incontrovertible facts about Nigeria

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No be small thing o. The events thrown up by the EndSARS protests were palpable. For today’s Nigerians, it was news. For the future generations, it will be history. Remarkable was the fact that it happened as the nation was celebrating its 60th Independence anniversary. Is it a coincidence that the 6th and 60th years after Independence have been tumultuous in nature? Read about the events of 1966 and weigh them against the happenings of 2020.

As the nation activates the ‘rebuilding mode’, there are 10 glaring facts; one can soak-in from the events of the past few days. And these are:

  • Many Nigerians are angry at the government: Whenever, I hear spokespersons of governments at various levels, whitewashing the frustration amongst the people, what comes to my mind is Helon Habila’s phrase, ‘smiling sadly’ from his Caine-prize winning collection of short stories, Prison Stories. Nigerians are not smiling and when they do, they are ‘smiling sadly’. Although the protest started as EndSARS, many Nigerians endorsed it with the hope that it would bring about reforms, especially in governance. Nigerians are seething with anger about the ruling class’ insensitivity at their plight, where they pocket fat salaries and allowances. The aggression meted to policemen and members of other security agencies came because those were the government that people could see. The destruction of federal facilities is a pointer to this.
  • Nigeria Police Force lacks manpower, ill-equipped to perform optimally: While the various security agencies observed restraints following the global outrage over the Lekki shootings, the police was overwhelmed by what happened and lacked the gadgets to hold back the crowd even in their various territories. With 370,000 men for 200 million people, Nigeria is grossly under policed and the IGP must follow through with his plan to strip many VIPs of police escorts. While planning to bridge the manpower gap, the government needs to urgently deploy technology to aid the police.
  • Nigerians are hungry: The several videos from the warehouses are a confirmation that hunger pervades the land. Statistics have alluded to this with some inglorious honours, including Nigeria being the new poverty capital of the world, but watching people-old, young, male, female and disabled- scrambling for noodles and ‘expired rice’ proves that Nigerians have for long been ‘wearing Mary Kay’ to shield their misery. The images from Jos, an agrarian state, known for bountiful food harvests, where people had to climb the roof of the warehouse were unsettling indeed.
  • Power still lies with the people: Yes, power belongs to the people; they only lend it to the leaders through the ballot. The people can decide to take it back when the ‘lendee’ (leader) is not performing. From bad governance to insecurity, the people can decide that ‘enough is enough’ and it will be so. South East was once purged of hoodlums and criminal elements in 2000 when the people collectively rose against crime, leading to the formation of Bakassi. It only takes collective will.
  • The value system has been eroded: May be the harsh economic realities should be blamed for the soaring number of criminal elements in the society, but what about the death of our value system? The protests showed fathers and mothers, looting with their sons and daughters respectively. Private shops were looted and goods of other people carted away to homes were parents live. We will be waiting in vain for parents to report their wards for carting away other people’s goods.
  • Premium on life is low: The city of Nice in France witnessed a knife attack which had President Emmanuel Macron coming down physically to see things for himself in Nice; which is an indication of the premium on the life of a French citizen. We are yet to hear of any presidential visit following the crisis. People did no help matters with their attitude to corpses, some of which were beheaded, burnt and allegedly eaten!
  • Our fault lines have grown noticeable: This was why issues like ethnicity and religion were almost exploited by the politicians during the crisis. So many feeble-minded Nigerians actually fell for the narratives along these lines.
  • Nigerians lack faith in the union: The degree of faith the people have in our union can be seen from the looting of the federal facilities across the country. The image of people pushing away a broken down tractor as part of their spoils of the rage, signifies optimism that the country should be consumed by the crisis.
  • Social media is a threat to Nigeria’s unity: While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter could be put to good use it is evident that their usage is a huge threat to the unity in Nigeria. The ethnic war-mongers who claim to be leaders, when they are actually ‘social media influencers’ seized the opportunity to distribute their lies, fake news and hate posts.
  • The next uprising will be deadlier: Yes, what happened was scary, but truth remains that if urgent steps are not taken to address the economic challenges in the country, this thing may come upon Nigeria again. That private homes of politicians were targeted is an indication that the next time it happens politicians could be hunted down like they did to the policemen. The security agents may align with the people when it comes again, which is why our leaders must get to work to fix things now.