Nigeria has, at different times been described as a nation of no consequences due to the fact that failure of leadership, indiscretion in governance and deliberate wastage of people’s goodwill have not, on most occasions, attracted condign punishments whether through the implementation of the laws or collective resolve of the people who ought to check such irresponsibility by their voting power. As we recycle same set of delinquent politicians whose mastery in governance is self-aggrandizement and wanton gluttony, the nation has remained prostrate as a reclining giant.
Due to this, without any form of pretense to clairvoyance or supernatural powers, I warned in my earlier writings of the time when the masses would rise up, which process might be overwhelming beyond what the ruling class might be able to control. In “Egungun Be Careful” (See my column in the Daily Sun of April 16, 2020, https://www.sunnewsonline.com/egungun-be-careful), I warned that discontent in the land was reaching the peak as the level of indignation among the masses was assuming the crescendo. In that paper, I said “Unfortunately, the leaders are not helping, with some of them still being profligate and haughty. Their lifestyles, the manner of communicating with the masses and their nonchalant attitude are exacerbating the situation.
“Our unemployment figures continue to soar and idle hands for engagement in the devil’s workshop are pullulating. If only our political leaders can read in-between the lines, they will know they are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Did I hear someone remind me of the Arab Spring? Not an impossibility.”
No one thought the events in the past few weeks were immediately approaching, notwithstanding the glaring presence of the objective conditions compelling, at every minute, a disrupting uprising. By the time the youth of the country woke up, it was not only sudden but quite unexpected to the ruling elite. It would not be unexpected to the discerning as it is a question of foresight over astonishment. The youth, rising from a seemingly perpetual lethargy, changed the lexical landscape of Nigeria by addition of new words, slangs and lingo like “soro soke,” which compelled the leadership to rumble through its muffled response to national yearnings.
The #EndSARS campaign is a long-expected event for anyone competent enough to read the patent signs without necessarily casting the augury beads. In the pantheon of Yoruba proverbs and idioms, there is one meant to predict consequences of disastrous nature when heedless people are hellbent on a predictably destructive adventure. It says, “kangun kangun kangun, a kangun si’bi kan.” It is bound to have consequences. In “Nigerians, please, on your mic” (See my column in the Daily Sun of July 30, 2020, https://www.sunnewsonline.com/nigerians-please-on-your-mic), I called on Nigerians to ‘on their mic’ and speak out: speak out against the indolent self-congratulations of a failing system; speak out against the system that is swallowing their future today.
The response from the #EndSARS campaigners is still reverberating across the land but, unfortunately, the echoes of the protests from the youths of lower consciousness is rather deleterious beyond our expectations. Arson, looting, wanton destruction, pillaging of both public and private properties became the consequences from the so-called hoodlums who are also creatures of the system. These are street urchins and thugs nurtured and preserved by politicians for rigging elections and terrorizing political opponents up till this time. It is part of history that keeping a retinue of thugs and warlords is an ancient feature of society the moment it transcended beyond the band level to the tribal stage. Political leaders would keep retinues to fight wars and, at peace time, would rather pamper their idle fighters. The account of Jerome Blum about the Viking elite in the first millennium AD was that Prince Vladimir kept his retinue through the booty he amassed in wars and while the retainers complained of being fed with wooden spoons rather than silver spoons, Vladimir was said to have responded with an immediate order of a multitude of silver spoons, saying, with silver and gold he could not secure a retinue but with a retinue, he was in a better stead to secure silver and gold.
The Nigerian elite have kept these urchins off schools and the educational radar, made them not only unemployed but unemployable and would rather pamper them with filthy lucre whenever their services are needed to retain political power through stolen mandates at the expense of public good and comfort. They were never meant to be economically viable, otherwise they would not be available for the nefarious business of subverting political decisions of the masses anymore. The same thugs and urchins have resorted to their trade when the crumbs no longer fall from the tables of the political leaders.
The anarchy that rained recently saw to the destruction of landmarks, including the Lagos High Court with a history of more than 170 years of records. In the disheartening events was the desecration of the judicial system by a young man who stole and adorned a judge’s robe and wig with a machete in hand running wild in and out of the court premises. A friend named the little devil “His Lordship, Justice Anarchist,” while we saw tens of BRT buses go up in flames. Several parts of the nation woke up to this pattern of orgy, violence and destruction, as if it was coordinated and premeditated that the nation should be subjected to this unpleasant worry by young men and women in whose hands its future is meant to be.
In Lekki, the matter got out of hand when soldiers were drafted to disperse protesters with bullets, notwithstanding that the protesters had sustained the longest and most peaceful kind of protests in recent times. The government knew that violence had been reported in other parts of Lagos. It did not consider it important to attend to such other places but felt that protesters sitting on the floor, waving the flags of the nation and chanting the National Anthem, should rather be shot at.
The dispute as to the number of casualties is not only unfortunate but rather disappointing. Shooting into a mass of unarmed protesters, even if blank, is barbaric enough and the attempts at characterising the #EndSARS protests as a phase of sheer criminality is not only mischievous but dishonest.
While the violence perpetrated by thugs on the police and the general public is condemnable, it is the case too that a nation that fails to heed warnings of consequences would contend with untold consequences. Some political actors have characterised attacks on their class as machinations of their political opponents. This is still a manifestation of the fact that “a straying dog will never hear the whistle of its owner.” The constant wrong diagnosis that has characterized public discourse from the angle of the political class is rather foretelling another terrible pattern of consequences. Little wonder the cry of the Senate President on the possibility of a repeat.
The state has halfheartedly and pretentiously woken up to its duty of maintaining law and order by arresting and prosecuting the supposed hoodlums. It is certain that most of the people arrested are not party to the crimes but victims of the usual police aftermath arrests of anybody in sight after the real culprits had escaped. There are video footages of the perpetrators of the looting and arson but the government is not carrying out thourough investigation to unmask these elements, since they are going to need them for the next elections. The people arrested and arraigned are probably more of the innocent who pay for the culpable. This is buttressed by the recent release of more than half those arrested.
The irony is the recent report that the prisons rejected those who were ordered by the court to be remanded. The prison is over-filled beyond the brim and there is nothing the officials could do other than to reject further intakes. Despite all our lamentations about the state of the prisons, the government has not done anything to make the pigsty truly correctional and reformative save to enact a cosmetic change in the name of legislation that bothers more with nomenclature. See my paper titled “Whatever you sow, you reap” in the Daily Sun of August 20, 2020, (sunnewsonline.com/whatever-you-sow-you-reap). As at date, government at various levels continue to treat the issue as that of criminality, which is a wrong diagnosis. As remarked in “Reaping the fruit of our labour” (See my column in the Daily Sun of November 5, 2020, (https://www.sunnewsonline.com/reaping-the-fruit-of-our-labour), they are not criminals per se but amalgamation of the poor, the untrained and uncared for youth. Beyond this, as opined by some leaders of thought like the Vice-President of the nation, Pastor Adeboye, Pat Utomi, Rev. Father Kukah, Femi Falana, etc, in so far as the inequalities in the system prevail, peace will continue to elude the nation.
We certainly need to address the injustice in the nation. It is certain that, from the wrong diagnosis that the government has made of the #EndSARS protests, they have started on a wrong footing in addressing the future. It is unfortunate that the government lost the opportunity in re-directing its attention to how to bring about effective reforms and curtail an otherwise dangerous monster in the way it handled the protests by unleashing attacks on the protesters.
It is certain that where intelligent and brilliant young men and women who organized a most effective protest campaign like this are not allowed to peacefully engage and reform the system, the result is going underground and that would be most deadly. The same approach the government gave Yusuf, the leader of Boko Haram by killing him, brought about the monster that is ravaging the whole of the north-east of the country today leading to loss of thousands of lives and a whole region destabilized. It is now certain that every part of Nigeria has its own “almajirai” section of the youth and that of the south could be more devastating if not properly handled. It is better we make a good diagnosis in order to attain good treatment. It will be good if our leaders could halt their illiteracy as I said in my paper titled “Impact of illiteracy on public office” in the Daily Sun of 10th September 2020 https://www.sunnewsonline.com/impact-of-illiteracy-on-public-office. The members of the political class had better come off this high horse of arrogance and self-conceit as it rides to nowhere but terrible consequences. . As far as this wrong diagnosis is assumed, we might not be able to forestall probable debilitating reoccurrence of the ugly event, as erroneous prognosis will result. My expectation since, as it will happen elsewhere by way of diagnosis, is that the Government at all levels beyond probing the activities of the defunct SARS men, would have established a fact-findingpanel that will interrogate factors that could have led the so-called hoodlums into the criminal acts they perpetrated. In this wise, panel of behavioural pattern experts such as psychologists, criminologists, sociologists, security operatives and their likes would have been assembled. It is they that can interrogate the deviant behaviours and explain to us the factors that might have propelled the criminality and the antidotes. Certainly, something must have motivated a young man to wake up and set ablaze buses meant for his use, or other facilities meant for his comfort. It is an extra ordinary event beyond the capacity of the various established judicial panels in the Country. It is not too late, otherwise, a devastating repeat is inevitable.
By Muiz Banire, SAN