By Nnanke Harry Willie
#EndSARS Could Easily Become #EndTIMES For Nigeria
The noble struggle that #EndSARS represents has opened a new vista in Nigeria where all possibilities are now on the table. This includes the great; the worse and the dreadful.
It would be great if lessons have been learned across the board and actions are taken to forestall the need for another round of crippling protests. Ideally, we should be on the cusp of a new Nigeria but can our leaders smell the coffee?
Things would get worse if, like Pharaoh, the hearts of our leaders are hardened and they believe that they can continue to use the instruments of governance and coercion to ceaselessly enjoy their vulgar benefits and looting of our patrimony while raising the pains of the citizenry to more excruciating levels. Old habits die hard and usually, beneficiaries of a corrupt system often strenuously resist change until it is forced on them.
The situation will become dreadful if the citizens, having been pushed to the wall for so long, respond in ways that are far from noble as witnessed in Calabar, Cross-River state where the once peaceful state witnessed an uncanny level of arson and looting following the discovery of 3 warehouses with hoarded Covid 19 palliatives donated by the Organised Private Sector (OPS). Will the poor literally begin to eat the rich and agents of the government as witnessed in a sick video shot in Ibadan?
#EndSARS protests began as a passionate, emphatic response by a cross-section of elite Nigerian youth to save the youth specifically and the ordinary citizens in general from impunity: the cruel, dehumanizing and brutal antics and activities of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). From being an effective tactical arm of the Nigerian Police, SARS had over time morphed into a ubiquitous, extortionist killing machine. It made life for a good many Nigerian youth painful, brutish and short.
They appeared to be accountable to no one as they executed their heinous agenda with arrogance and a swagger that showed clearly that they wrote their own rules. ‘I go waste you and nothing go happen’ was a common speak among the operatives and incident after incident proved that it was no empty boast across many states in Nigeria.
Interestingly, however, the #EndSARS protesters also had empathy for the SARS operatives and other policemen as they insisted that the government should improve their wages and welfare as well as properly equip them to carry out their functions with dignity and efficiency.
The government quickly responded by announcing the scrapping of SARS and followed up with the typical promises that had been made previously when calls to scrap SARS had been made. The protesters refused to accept what they believed to be a cavalier response. They used the opportunity to press for a complete overhaul of the Nigerian system as they believed the SARS infamy was emblematic of the debilitating ills in the country…and that was when the politicians stepped in!
Clearly uncomfortable with the spirited yearnings of the protesters to use the #EndSARS campaign to bring sweeping changes across the land, all manners of sweeping machinations were contrived to unwittingly escalate the ‘protest’ which had been peaceful all along and bring it to a screeching halt by placing curfews in the states where the protests had been loudest.
Not done, according to Gani Adams, leader of Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), politicians mobilized thugs to commit syndicated arson attacks and wreak mayhem across the land; specifically targeting property of political rivals and numerous government properties and hapless citizens. Unfortunately, as usual, once started there was no stopping them as Nigeria witnessed a level of looting, destruction and carnage that had not been witnessed in recent history.
Things took a turn for the worse when hoarded Covid 19 palliatives were discovered across many states and long-suffering and hungry citizens trooped to the various locations to help themselves to what they believed was originally meant for them. The scenes showed the desperate conditions of Nigeria’s poor.
As the dust from all this settles, the ruling class has two clear choices. It can either shed its insatiable greed, save the country with quickly needed deep reforms and restructuring of the systems and country or it can continue with business as usual and self-immolate.
Clearly, if the ruling class refuses to make the desired changes, the citizens will…for better, or for worse. Let’s stop the drift to #EndTIMES For Nigeria!