By Ben Okoro
The events of the last few days of the ENDSARS protests have once again exposed the rot and bad governance being witnessed in Nigeria. I still cannot understand why President Muhammadu Buhari did not personally take charge and address the protesting youths, thus allowing things to degenerate. It is surprising to see some well-meaning people and institutions begging the President to address the nation and speak directly to the demands of the youths.
The protesting youths need the assurance and commitment from the Number One Citizen that he would drive the concrete actions needed to actualize their genuine demands. Considering past promises by government on SARS brutality that have not been implemented, this is not too much to demand.
Rather than do the needful, government resorted to violence by sending soldiers to attack the peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. This appears to be the lowest of the lows. It is unbelievable that soldiers were drafted to kill and maim Nigerian youths who were merely protesting peacefully and lawfully. The attack by the security forces appears to be premeditated and is an oddity in today’s social media-driven democratic world. The hands of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces are stained by the blood of the murdered and injured youths. Prior to that incident, the government and the Nigeria Police made no efforts to protect the unarmed and peaceful ENDSARS protesters, especially from hoodlums who attacked them at will nationwide. Mr. President, the buck stops at your desk!
To the youths, I salute your courage for taking your destiny in your own hands. I sympathize with you on the loss of your fellow compatriots in the struggle. You had been stigmatized, abused and impoverished by the mind-boggling bad governance that we are witnessing in Nigeria today. However, I appeal to you all to pause the protests to de-escalate the tension. This is key, considering the fact that the authorities are looking the other way as hoodlums are attacking and killing protesters and damaging property all over the country during this period. The youths should use the opportunity to review the successes achieved so far and consolidate their leadership and demands. There is need to re-strategize and avoid mixed messages.
The government must take concrete and well-thought-out steps to address key issues bothering the nation. Ending SARS and police reforms, including decentralization of the police are just the pre-cursor to an implosion that may occur if the government continues to be in self-denial. Several citizen-friendly measures must be taken simultaneously to salvage the situation. For example, the fat in Abuja needs to be leaned urgently in the midst of the glaring hunger facing the ordinary citizens all over the country. The lyrics in Bob Marley’s song “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” is a reminder.
A Concerned Citizen in Lagos.