By Ademola Yaya
On the 4th of October, 2020, a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officer was seen in a video, shooting a young motorist in Ugheli, Delta State. Having killed the young man, he pulled his dead body out of the car and drove off with the dead man’s Lexus SUV.
This particular police routine brutality was the spark that ignited the bottled frustration, anger, hunger, oppression and depression that evoked the #EndSARS protests across the land and the later killings, lootings, arson of both private and public properties by the hoodlums who hijacked the peaceful protests, aftermath of the shooting and the alleged killings of peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos by the military.
In Lagos alone, as at the time of writing this piece, the Chairman of the 10-man Special Committee set up by the IGP for damage assessment to police facilities and equipment during the protests, CP Abutu Yaro, stated that 37 police stations were attacked, with 100 AK-47 rifles and 2,600 pieces of ammunition carted away; 367 vehicles including 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers, saloon cars and Hilux vans set ablaze. It was a gory incidence that stands condemnable.
For the first time, the ruling elite conceded that the youngsters’ protests were legitimate and peaceful. It quickly scrapped SARS and was prepared to look into the other 5-point demands of the protesters. Again, for the first time, the ruling elite were caught off guard by the #EndSARS protests as they were only used to conventional Students’ Unions / NANS, Civil Society Organisations and organised labour protests and resistance.
Although, there had been some spontaneous protests in some parts of the country before now, none had surpassed the magnitude, level of organisation and coordination of the #EndSARS protests. Despite the fact that the protests had no leadership like the previous protests in the past which is a colossal drawback to the protests, the protesters were no fools.
Experiences have shown them that the leadership of such protests has the capacity to trade off their demands for personal aggrandisement. Don’t forget that the labour leadership refused to lead a protest to resist attacks on the welfare of the people such as increase in the price of fuel and electricity tariff as we were just stepping out of lockdown from COVID-19.
A Wiseman learns from a striking event. The #EndSARS protests should be a big lesson to the ruling elite. As a result of successive governments’ bad policies in terms attacks on the welfare of the people via neo-liberal socio-economic policies of commercialisation and privatisation of every area of lives, life has become unbearable for the vast majority of the people. Successive governments’ policies have so much widened the gap between the very few rich and the mass majority of the poor. When the military rule was fashionable, #EndSARS protests were more than enough invitation for a military coup that would have sent us back to dark era one million and one times.
Kudos should be given to the government for immediate disbandment of SARS, setting up panels of enquiries to look into police brutalities in the past with the view to bringing the culprit cops to book and compensate the victims/families, and looking at other 5-point demands of the protesters.
However, Nigerians cannot be taken for granted any long. The huge number of protesters shows the gargantuan number of unemployed youths. Government should not be deceived that the youngsters were mostly students as a result of ASUU strike action.
Yes, students participated but majority have graduated with no jobs. Right from time immemorial, hoodlums have always infiltrated genuine protests to loot and wreck havoc but their numerical strength this time around across the land is so gargantuan. Something must be done on time to arrest this situation.
Yes, the present Federal Government has made various social investment programmes more than previous governments but they are just a little drop in the ocean.
Nigeria population is projected to be 400 million people by 2050 with the youth as the majority. Based on this, the President has set up a National Steering Committee to oversee the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) to succeed Vision 20: 2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
In the short term, the President’s plan is to pull 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. However, one thing is good intention; another is its practical demonstration and delivery. We have heard of Vision 2000 in the early 1980s when we were promised education for all, water for all, electricity for all, heaven and earth for all by year 2000 tagged Vision 2000.
By the eve of 2000, the ruling elite suddenly woke up from their sleep staggering. They had thought that 2000 was so far away. They repackaged and shouted another sloganeering – Vision 20:2020. This is November 2020. Instead of the promised Eldorado, life has continued to become more miserable for the mass majority of the people.
Majority of the unemployed knows that there is dignity in labour and they are prepared to work to make a living. The army of the unemployed must be creatively engaged. It is high time we stopped lip-serve to economy diversification via mechanised farming with agro-allied industry which has the capacity to engage the unemployed – young and old. We need to reconstruct new path to development.
As at now, the free oil money is not enough again. In the proposed 2021 budget before the National Assembly, N4.3 trillion which is a third of the N13 trillion is borrowed.
The members of the ruling elite should also stop their constant stealing and looting of our collective wealth that is targeted to development. The elite in other areas of lives are also accomplices to this condition we have found ourselves. Where are Singer Nigeria Limited factories that used to produce Television sets, Radio, refrigerators, standing fans etc?
Where are over 150 companies owned by Oodua Group? Where is our textile industry that was the second employer of labour after government? The chief executives and directors of these factories and enterprises have collapsed and ruined them like their twin ruling elite do with Nigeria estate.
After the ruin, some of them joined politics to continue pillaging.If nothing is done on time, the ruling class may not be so lucky next time and our civil rule may be endangered and threaten the existence of Nigeria as a whole.
In the meantime, the police should retrieve all the guns and ammunition carted away by the hoodlums. Such amount of ammunition in wrong hands is a threat to the society.
Before now, there is arms proliferation in the wrong hands in the society but the police have capacity to mop them up.