Nigeria: Endsars Protests - the Truth That Must Be Told

31 October 2020

Ring true

Phone number 08054699539

Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

The EndSARS protests and the resultant violence/looting left me depressed and horrified for days. I was shedding tears; tears for a country brought to its knees by criminals who had an illicit agenda for the protests. Tears for a country whose leaders persistently fail to protect lives, property; they fail to enforce law and order. Anarchy reigned for several days in my beloved Nigeria because security agents disappeared from our streets and communities. The criminals had a field day, leaving deep scars across the country. Abuja controls the security agents but there was no proactive response from the seat of power. Our secret police (the DSS) went to sleep. The NSCDC men were nowhere to be seen. The National Security Adviser went AWOL. Our soldiers slumbered. Policemen could not even protect their stations. IG Mohammed Adamu was issuing orders that were not practically implemented. The result? Innocent people killed, shops looted, assets burnt. It was horrendous.

It is even more painful that most of the assets looted and in some cases, burnt by the hoodlums masquerading as protesters, belong to private sector players.

Entrepreneurs that have struggled for years to stay afloat suddenly lost their businesses. What is the justification for these? Many of these Nigerians with nothing to do with government may never recover. They are all victims of a government that has failed to protect its citizens.

Burning and looting assets of politicians is not vengeance. I have heard some people saying it is good for these politicians to be dealt with because they are stealing our money. This is most unreasonable and not the way to go. We should be talking and working on how stolen assets can be recovered and used for the good of the people; not destroying and re-plundering them. The looters and arsonists are simply criminals. They are as guilty as the politicians that have stolen this country dry.

Arsonists and looters should be made to face the law.

For me, the Buhari government should bury its head in shame for this security laxity and clumsiness. It struggled to come up with an appropriate security response to the anarchy. It is this same ineptitude by government that has prolonged killings by Boko Haram and bandits. I was not shocked that President Buhari failed to show capacity to tackle the looting and killings while the country he supervises is in a state of anarchy. There was no structured response from the federal government while violence, deaths, ruin pervaded the country. Buhari has never shown capacity to handle any disaster in all his years as President.

Now to the genuine EndSARS protesters: I am not sorry to say that they messed up. At a point during the protest, they got it wrong. No doubt, the agitations are just and reasonable, but they rubbished everything when they failed to retreat at the right time and lost the essence of the agitations. EndSARS protesters got the ear of government at the right time but still refused to ceasefire. For the first time in a long while, government shifted. SARS was disbanded, arrested protesters were released, wayward policemen put on trial and panels to investigate police brutality set up. They got all these and the process for resolving them started. The new issues raised were also getting attention. At that point, EndSARS protesters needed to pull back.

Then, the protesters started changing the rules in the middle of the game and shifting the goalposts. Protests cannot be endless without deteriorating into a bigger crisis. Besides, campaigners must have leaders and actively negotiate with government. There is no way proper negotiation can take place with a mob. The EndSARS guys eventually abused the right to protest. The tendency of the protest turning into anarchy was obvious. This is peculiar to our setting. That was exactly what happened and we are still counting the losses.

Government responded appropriately to all five demands, yet, the protesters persisted against wise counsels. Wicked, Godless and senseless people, some of them elders, were urging the protesters not to retreat. What has happened to the moderating influence of seniors? Those elders urging them to continue did a great disservice to this country. The blood of the people killed remains on their head. Their talk about youths taking over is preposterous. So, elders should surrender the country to youths?

Some of these impractical elders clamour for youths to take charge as if there is any country in the world turned around by youths alone. Let them cite an example. It takes the wisdom and tenacity of both elders and youths to turn around any system for good, goes a popular saying in Yoruba land. These so-called elders urging youths to take over have suddenly forgotten that those who plunged Nigeria into a civil war that claimed over two million lives were largely youths. The military guys who destroyed our beautiful First Republic were largely youths. Most times, youthful exuberance is a killer.

What about those spreading fake news about the protests and killings? They ought to be in jail by now. There is one Lagos DJ that spent days spinning falsehood about the "attack" on protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. There is no point mentioning her name. She does not deserve it on this page. Her lies caused a lot of destruction. This DJ's hopeless story kept changing. Her submissions were most unreasonable and illogical; yet, many believed her and reposted. Mob mentality took over. What has happened to critical thinking in this country? It is so sad many are not interested in interrogating issues around the alleged Lekki gate "killings".

The likes of that desperate DJ stoked the killings, looting and arson witnessed for days with mountains of lies about what transpired at the Lekki toll gate. It's so shocking that many were easily deceived by these specious narrations. Yes, there were shootings at the Lekki gate, which ought not to have happened. It was absolutely unnecessary. Those responsible should be fished out and dealt with according to our laws. The protesters could have been professionally dispersed without any gun shot. It is very painful that two people died in the hospital from injuries sustained during the stampede. However, there was nothing like "mass killing" at the Lekki toll gate. It never happened. It does not make sense playing politics with human lives.

Let's flip over to the real issues behind EndSARS. The arm of the police feared by criminals, particularly armed robbers across our country is the SARS. They are the ones with the capacity to checkmate criminals. That was why criminals joined the campaign to disband them. I know what I am saying because I mingled with the EndSARS protesters in hot spots in Lagos like Ikorodu, Ketu and Mushin. The agenda of the criminals was to end the squad hindering them. So, when the squad was disbanded, criminals partied in some areas in Lagos. Don't get me wrong, there are some really bad guys in SARS. These are the guys that should be pulled out and punished. Every system has its bad eggs. With a good command and control structure, the squad could be reformed and made accountable.

Now, there is a huge SARS gap across Nigeria and the criminals are having a field day. They are still moving up and down, looting, maiming and killing. In Lagos, criminals now mount roadblocks and collect tolls. Many fell for this cry to EndSARS, not knowing the real agenda. I can understand a campaign to end police brutality or to reform SARS. I can understand a movement to ensure punishment of recalcitrant SARS and other policemen mistreating innocent people. A call to end SARS completely is a call for criminals to take over our land. This is exactly what has happened. Government has surrendered this country to criminals by scrapping the police unit. Urgent steps must be taken to pull back Nigeria from total destruction. A Libya and Somalia scenario combined is now facing this country.

The issue of the military helping to disperse protesters must also be analysed. I have heard some saying the Nigerian military has no business tackling protesters in a democracy. This is a big lie. When anarchy sets in and the police are overwhelmed, military helps. President Trump invited the military to disperse unruly protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstration in the United States. President Macron called out the military to disperse Yellow Vest protesters in France. This is the global standard when lawlessness sets in. We should be talking about our military doing the job professionally as seen in the countries mentioned, not saying they have no business dispersing violent protesters. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, did not commit any offence inviting the military to help.

Let me also address unemployment crisis. An army of unemployed youths is a time bomb. That has been my message for years but those in government refused to listen. The time bomb finally exploded with EndSARS. Majority of the protesters are jobless youths. Economic issues largely motivated the crisis this country went through in the last few weeks. This bomb may explode further if governments at all levels fail to take proactive steps to reduce unemployment. To reduce tension, it is pertinent to start seeing good governance and improved service delivery immediately. Years of bad government put this country in this mess. Then, Buhari came, inflicting pain on people with draconian policies and clannishness. Governments must be seen fighting poverty; not this lip service we are seeing. More people must be moved out of poverty. "Area boys" must be forcefully moved out of our streets and trained.

I would like to see government paying unemployed people at least N20,000 monthly as social security. A genuine government must be people-oriented. Let's see marked improvement in security. The current leadership of security agencies must make way for result-oriented ones. Let's see a responsive police force. Let's see substantial reduction in payments to political office holders. Let's see a genuine war against corruption. Let's see devolution of power and true federalism in practice. Let's start seeing respect for our Federal Character law, with Buhari halting his clannishness. This is the way forward for Nigeria.

Let's Oppose Plans to Concession Airports

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika is still pushing his evil plans to concession the nation's most viable four airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. These airports have of recent gulped billions of Naira in the name of modernisation, including huge loans from China. This country is yet to recover the cost. Suddenly, government is working on giving them out to their cronies. I guess loans expended on them would be repaid with public fund if this malicious plan materialises. Patriots must all resist this evil plan aimed at lining the pockets of government's allies.

This minister has a personal agenda in this regard and we must rise against it. My source alleged he's planning to bring his Arab friends for the concession deal and that they are aiming at grabbing the Lagos and Abuja airports. I will like to see Sirika defend this allegation.

The Nigeria Labour Congress recently wrote to President Buhari, disagreeing with the planned concession, urging him to consider other viable and sustainable ways of managing these airports and attracting new capital for expansion and development. It said due process, as prescribed by our Public Procurement and Concession laws and the laws governing the Nigerian aviation sector had been "flung to the dogs by the peddlers of this toxic pill designed to shortchange, enslave and pillage the Nigerian people."

My take away from Labour's letter is the Green Field Concession suggestion, whereby investors are invited to make fresh investments in clearly delineated areas of deficit at the airports' infrastructure, including terminal expansion, runway expansion and upgrading of critical aviation equipment and facilities. It suggested that such investments should be recouped from the additional revenue accruing from the use of the upgraded facilities.

A serious government should also be thinking about commercialising the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN. They should be thinking about granting this agency autonomy, so that it can operate optimally and generate money for government.

Some of the best airports in the world are managed by government agencies, as seen in the case of Ethiopia. This idea of selling the country's wealth to government's buddies must stop.

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