October 20, 2020, remains a day Nigerians will ever remember. It was a day that will go down in our national history as that of rage and blood when suspected security agents murdered the innocent with live bullets during a peaceful protest against bad governance.
The Tuesday massacre of innocent protesters cannot be said to be the first of such gruesome murders by security agents. As a matter of fact, it appears to be the tradition and mindset of those in government that wickedly, foolishly and criminally believe that the lives of the ordinary citizens, does not matter, as much as that of security of tenure in a political position. Every aspect associated with most Nigerian politicians is laced with deceit, callousness and insincerity. A typical Nigeria believes in indecency, lawlessness and greed. He believes is accessing power by all means including waste of human lives. Most of them are cultists and bloodthirsty beasts.
I was a victim of a threat by one buffoon from a state in the North Central zone who lacked every quality to be in the Green Chamber in 2019. In line of duty, I exposed the tricks of the idiot to scuttle his efforts to electoral victory. In return, the beast in him threatened to terminate my life. It was a wrong and comedy threat because he displayed crass ignorance of my person. I took the threat to his doorstep to teach him a lesson of his life. At the end of the show, he regretted his action. The rest is history but I removed the beast out of him.
The several killings across the country during the #EndSARS protests, is unique in every respect, because most of the protesters were said to be holding the national flag which is our symbol of freedom and liberty. It is a time tested tradition that even an enemy holding a national flag of a country will not be shot at by that country’s army for the respect of the flag. Even though the government has tried to deny ordering the shooting, everything about the attack bore the hallmarks and characteristics of the state. First, the type and calibre of weapons used bore eloquent evidence that it was carried out by security forces of the state. Secondly, the light at the Lekki toll gate was allegedly switched-off with the possibility that the mounted security cameras also tampered. Then there was the blood of the innocent following which cannot be credited in this case to the Nigeria Police but to a superior power.
But how did we get to this level of outrage that the youths hitherto dismissed as just lazy and internet scammers, “Yahoo Yahoo Boys” could muster everything to achieve this objective of demanding accountability by the political class?
It is true that there has been police brutality and repression targeting the youths and the poor without concern by the government because the young and the poor have been labelled as criminals. It is only in Nigeria that it is a heinous crime to be poor, forgetting that almost of those in leadership positions and captains of industry are from poor and wretched backgrounds.
Again, there is no doubt to the fact that there glaring evidence of bad governance, corruption, recklessness by government officials and their collaborators who live in obscene opulence in the midst of grinding poverty.
Over the years, the government found it convenient to deploy brute force and repression to cow citizens and has continued to use coercive force of the state against perceived opposition and dissenting views and honest criticisms. The evidence of bad governance is everywhere for all to see and feel; unemployment, insecurity and haemorrhage of the economy as elected officials siphon and loot public fund to foreign banks. The country has been driven to breaking point thereby driving the vulnerable to the streets spontaneously in response to intolerable violence of the state on the citizenry using the only tool they have, social media employing their handsets for the job.
#EndSARS protest is simply a metaphor for the demand for good governance and just the simplistic conclusion by some analysts that it is just to put an end to the bloodthirsty and criminal acts of the Nigeria Police Anti-Crime outfit which the police management refused to address due to complicity of its high command and pervasive corruption that affected respect and credibility of the organization over the years. The level of corruption within the Nigeria Police is beyond human imagination coupled with poor remuneration, low morale and lack of working tools and requisite training. But if one is at liberty to ask, how does the Nigeria Police utilize its yearly budgetary allocation that Divisional offices are offered on N20-30 piecemeal as monthly impress? How can such an amount oil the engines of the Division? Can the proposed reform restore the lost glory or disbandment for replacement?
A discreet investigation reveals that it was the rapacious thieving political elite who instigated the protest from their ostentatious living styles in the ocean of poverty that is the lot of the majority. Our lawmakers award obscene salaries and allowances to themselves and oppress the governed, chasing them out of the roads with overblown sirens in defiance to traffic rules.
The government should know that the youths’ campaign is an idea that has come of age and whether the government controls it temporarily or not, it will surely change our behaviour forever in response to future popular demand of the people, the governed. It is a familiar lesson of history that an idea that has come of age cannot and has never been killed. The counter-revolutionary and reactionary elements with bogus postulations that is just enough for the youths to limit their demand to #EndSARS and nothing more, and government having granted their demands, they should vacate the streets, is balderdash!
In any case, there is nothing wrong in extending the scope of their demands when it is legitimate, and good governance is a genuine demand by those concerned. We have spiralling unemployment and recession, yet the lawmakers whose salaries are the highest in the world are not making a concession to downsize their salaries. Instead, they conspired to impose electricity and gasoline tariffs on the helpless that are already choking and suffocating in poverty in the aftermath of Covid-19 economic burden.
There is glaring insecurity across the country which members of the top management of the various security forces prefer to fight in the media; dishing out bogus figures and statistics of their operational plans and successes.
The military is supposed to defend the Nigerian Constitution, our territorial integrity and protect lives and properties of the people. These primary and constitutional duties have become a tall order for them and they are unable to accomplish much due to bad leadership and cases of partisanship. The presidency has not deemed it necessary to either sack the service chiefs of give them a backup with a Presidential Security Committee to be chaired by a retired army General for optimum results.
Every honest and patriotic Nigerian will recognize the legitimacy of the revolutionary protest and demand of the frustrated young ones who have lost confidence in government. Raining bullets and hot lead on citizens on organized protest for the restoration of their rights and to address certain burning issues of national importance is morally reprehensible and those who ordered the extra-judicial killings have lost legitimacy of leadership. Sadly, the military leadership has demonstrated a total lack of civil training and responsibility.
There is blood in the hands of our leaders and at the most appropriate time, they will account for their stewardship. The infiltrators (hoodlums) who attacked legitimate protesters are sponsored agents of those in panic.
Sadly, some ethnoreligious jingoists branded the protest and demands making it a North-South dichotomy using the paint and brush of religion and ethnicity forgetting that poverty knows no religion or tribe.
Without distinction, Nigerian youths in Nigeria suffer same fate, north, south, east or west and most especially those in the north who are more deprived due to their attachment to the feudal system and ignorance of their inalienable rights to good governance.
It is only in the north that politicians who access power transform to tin-gods overnight and play god to those that rate them as ‘BIG MEN’.
On the other hand, it is a crime to destroy and cart away public properties in exercising a legitimate right because organized protests are to be peaceful. Prison break to release inmates is not part of an organized protest to be encouraged. Burning and destroying police formations is a criminal act that should be condemned. Breaking into residences of those rated as influential persons or occupying political offices is a condemnable act of barbarism.
On a final note, I doff my hat to Bauchi State Governor Sen. Bala Muhammed for doing the needful at the time of the protest. He was comfortable in his living room because he had no skeleton to hide. The items extended to the state to cushion the effects of the lockdown were evenly distributed months ago. He was free from blame and ridicule.
T the witnessed protest should serve as a lesson and a warning to the ruling class of the direction of future protests that they may not be safe if they insist on pushing the people to the wall.
They risk everything just everything and no coercive force of state will be able to hold the people back. The state cannot declare a war against its people and expect to win.
A stitch in time saves nine. God Bless Nigeria.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues