In the wake of the EndSARS protest hijacked by hoodlums who caused chaos leading to wanton destruction and looting of property in the country, some stakeholders, who spoke to Funmi Ogundare, explained why it is imperative for the government to invest massively in functional education that will lead to the creation of jobs for the development of the economy and other life enhancing opportunities, as the move will go a long way in curbing youth restiveness
Three weeks ago, protest against police brutality began after a video went viral on social media showing Speacial Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers abusing a victim in Delta State. For years, the unit has been accused of abuse of power and committing crimes such as killing of innocent youths, extortion and intimidation that they were meant to put a check on.
There were promises and moves to reform the police by the Nigerian government, especially with the change of name from SARS to Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT), but protesters made up of youths said nothing had changed.
Rather than back down, hundreds of youths took to the streets across the country to protest.
Organised under the hashtag #EndSARS, they spoke with one voice and initially campaigned against the notorious police unit to be disbanded and officers prosecuted for extortion, rape and murder.
Thereafter, the demonstrations quickly evolved into a broader movement against inequality, corruption and nepotism, exploding into the public consciousness through the social-media-driven campaign.
In a calculated move aimed at dispersing the protesters, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had on October 20 imposed a curfew on the state. Unfortunately, the evening of the same day, witnessed the alleged massacre of dozens of unarmed youths and many injured at the Lekki Toll plaza by security forces.
The shootings further heightened tensions which degenerated to wanton destruction of private and public property, as well as massive lootings across the country by hoodlums who were said to have been created from a bad, uncaring and ungodly leadership in the country to hijack the peaceful protest.
Some experts, who have been monitoring the system, explained to THISDAY why it is imperative for the government to invest massively in functional education which can lead to creation of jobs for the development of the real sectors of the economy and society, rather than neglect it to create helpless individuals who would go into crime.
In his submission, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) branch, Dr. Dele Ashiru described the EndSARS protest as a reaction to age-long anger of political maladministration and wanton corruption occasioned by the wickedness and recklessness of the ruling elites whose kleptomaniac inclination has reached unimaginable proportion.
He regretted the total neglect of the education system which has created a group of helpless individuals who have no choice than result to crime.
According to him, "the people we now call hoodlums are the creation of the same unproductive, parasitic and decadent ruling elites who use and dump them during election."
He argued that government deliberately neglected education because educated people are difficult to oppress as has been demonstrated by the protesters.
Ashiru said the only way to help the system is to deliver a more egalitarian society where there is life more abundant for all citizens, including the hoodlums.
The President of the union, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi in a statement made available to THISDAY, regretted that the future of young people in Nigeria is threatened as a result of the massive exploitation of the country's common wealth by the ruling class who do not contribute to production.
"Young people in Nigeria are living in conditions of hopelessness, disintegration of families and despair about the present and the future. So long as the prevalent deprivations persist, lacking a hope for a better satisfying, it is expected that they will lose confidence in the present set up.
He said the protest by the youths was a challenge to those who hold political power to urgently and rightly address the core issues of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, poor education and lack of access to social services such as adequate healthcare, good roads, housing and electricity for majority of Nigerians.
"The youths are carrying the burden of resistance, a burden which they have taken on behalf of other classes of the Nigerian society. The labour movement, professional groups, peasant farmers, artisans and the intellectuals must defend the rights of the people as guaranteed by the constitution as the youths have done with the peaceful protest. It is a challenge to all those who want genuine change in Nigeria. We must intervene in manners that bring lasting impact; lest the genuine struggle of our youths is hijacked by self-seeking opposition politicians and miscreants as already happening," the don stressed.
Ogunyemi therefore called for a series of public programmes of economic and social welfare as provided for in chapter two of the 1999 Constitution (amended), which states the provision of state-funded qualitative, mass employment, as well as other life enhancing opportunities that characterise a welfare state.
While commiserating with the families whose children and wards' lives were cut short, as well as those who are nursing various degrees of injuries in the course of the #EndSARS protest nationwide, the president stressed the need for the ruling class to continue to engage with the citizenry especially the youth population and the working class so as to deepen Nigeria's democracy and guarantee lasting peace in the country.
In an effort aimed at calming frayed nerves, President Mohammadu Buhari had on October 23, held a virtual meeting with former heads of state and Presidents of Nigeria, in Abuja, where he reiterated that the government will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism in the country.
He recalled the demands of the protesting youths saying, "we accepted all the demands and proceeded immediately to scrap SARS and started the process of addressing the other demands. Unfortunately, the protesters refused to call off the protest and engage the government to address their grievances.
Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent."
He pledged his administration's readiness to continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected
In their response, the former heads of state were of the view that generation of employment and growing the economy including through direct foreign investments are critical to checking youth restiveness.
They also called on youths to pursue peaceful means in seeking redress through engagement with government and encouraged further conversation with the youths and other stakeholders in the country.
One of the youths, Miss Catherine Udeh, popularly called DJ Switch, who was at the forefront of the protest livestreaming the activities on Instagram handle, expressed displeasure about the hijack of the protest by hoodlums to cause chaos resulting in arsons and destruction of property.
"According to her, "I condemn any sort of violence. I condemn the burning of buses or people's livelihood. I know we are very angry, but the most powerful weapon we have is peace.
"We must continue to move. If we stop, I swear it will probably be another 60 years before we talk about this again. We must continue, but continue peacefully."
She stressed the need for accountability in the system, saying that people have to be brought to book, else the injustice will continue.