In Africa, leaders hardly care about good governance. Politicians play politics before the election, during the election and after the election.
The vicious circle continues all year round. The people they are supposed to serve become their victims. The ruling elites are the oppressors while the ruled become the oppressed. The struggles for good governance are regularly hijacked by the elites who share crumbs among the agitators and indoctrinate their frontliners into the upper-class, and then the movement dies. How long do they think this will continue? The tables are bound to turn one day.
The youths have been underrated for so long. They have been teased about being interested in frivolities like the popular Big Brother Naija reality show, without showing interest in developmental issues. The youths are only engaged in politics for electoral reasons. Most of the ignorant ones are armed with guns and they end up wasting their precious lives for politicians who keep their children safe in developed countries.
The fact that Nigeria is a religious nation also makes it easier for politicians to loot the treasury dry without fear. Religion preaches tolerance, endurance, patience and supernatural solutions to life challenges. Politicians inflict tremendous hardship on the people and then urge the poor masses to turn to God for blessings. As a matter of principle, I have stopped praying for Nigeria. You can’t put developmental funds in your pocket and expect infrastructural facilities to show up miraculously. God is not a magician.
Just when the leaders thought it was business as usual, the EnSARS wave of protests targeted at the abolition of the rogue unit of the Nigeria Police Force named the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. The crisis should have never happened if the past leaders paid attention to the rot in the police force. But there is a deficiency of integrity in Nigeria. The ruling elites have become inspirational figures for corrupt police officers, internet fraudsters, unscrupulous businessmen and other budding thieves. You really can’t give what you don’t have.
The anger of the youths was triggered following incidents of police brutality and extrajudicial killing in Port Harcourt and Delta State. President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration failed to take strategic steps that would appease the anger of the youths. What happened to visiting the family of the 20-year old music artist, Daniel Chibuike, aka Sleek, who was killed? What about the immediate arrest, dismissal and public shaming of the officers involved? The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu could have also been queried or suspended to give people the impression that the government cared about the protection of human lives, which is the primary aim of government, according to the Social Contract. The government’s calculation pointed at the usual inactivity. It was simple; ‘let us allow the issues to trend on social media and in the online media till they die natural deaths’. This never happened. A few youths got tired of the conventional social media talks and they stormed the street to protest. From a small number of protesters, the numbers increased across Lagos State and started spreading across the geopolitical zones.
The protests were very organic and highly organised. The leadership structure was decentralized and this constituted a blessing as well as a curse. A blessing in the sense that the government’s tactic of usually arresting and detaining the arrowhead under the guise of being a threat to national security, was rendered useless. Every protester was like a leader. The wave of protests attracted more young intellectuals who knew their onions. As the days went by, the protests grew stronger. People stood their grounds against the oppressive antics of the police and other security agencies. The government reacted later by disbanding SARS and then promising further reforms. But it was late!
The protesters wanted to fight on, they started demanding for good governance. The organization of the protests was topnotch. Banners were printed with brilliant inscriptions, they had a security team, medical team, logistics team, media team and they explored crowdfunding to gather money. Nigerians abroad felt the needed change was near. They closed their eyes to the present economic hardship caused by the coronavirus in Europe, America and Asia and kept funding the campaign. The international media perceived another Arab Spring could be brewing again in the most populous black nation in the world. International coverage reinvigorated the high spirits of the protesters and the infectious feeling kept spreading faster than coronavirus.
Public trust in government has always been perpetually low in Nigeria. There were signs of hope when Buhari took over in 2015, but he later convinced Nigerians that he was just like the previous leaders, with no workable blueprint to take Nigeria to the next level.
The government panicked and started employing dirty tactics to derail the largely peaceful protests. This is like a case of a father waging a war against his children, any pain he inflicts on them automatically reflects on his own body. At first, some fifth columnists were employed to discredit the protests in the media. That never worked.
Twitter became a driving force of the protests. Even though the mainstream media didn’t initially give full coverage of events, they soon realized they were producing contents that lacked patronage. People wanted to discuss EndSARS and monitor the progress of the protests led by youths named the ‘Soro Soke’ (speaking up) generation. Some Pro-SARS protesters soon emerged but their spirit reflected the low remuneration behind their actions. They couldn’t match the energy of the teeming youths against SARS. They soon left with their tails between their legs.
The government allegedly started hiring hoodlums to attack peaceful protesters. Cars were destroyed and bodily injuries were recorded at different locations. The protesters raised an alarm that they were under attack, but they were accused of crying foul. In this digital age, everybody is a journalist and social media is the general publishing house. Youths soon uploaded videos of alleged government officials conveying thugs to protest grounds to attack protesters. A video of hoodlums being conveyed in a police vehicle was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The government wanted the protests to become chaotic to prepare a ground for the use of maximum force to quell the movement.
While this was going on, the apex bank of Nigeria, CBN, started freezing the bank accounts of the conveners of the protests. This is a bank that has struggled to successfully track the cashflows of the Boko Haram terrorist group in over a decade. The youth soon started transacting in cryptocurrencies to evade any restriction from the government.
Then the worst happened, on the 20th of October, soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters who were only armed with Nigerian flags and the national anthem. The number of people that died has become a mystery till this day. The government has denied sanctioning the operation even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
A 20-year-old journalist, Pelumi Onifade, was reportedly shot on the leg by the police, in the line of duty, despite wearing the press vest. Efforts by his colleague to identify him as a journalist also led to his arrest. Pelumi’s corpse was later found in the morgue after a rigorous search by his family. How did that happen? This mirrors the brute force unleashed on peaceful protesters and members of the general public by security operatives during the crises. Lagos State only cares about the public infrastructures that were destroyed, the human lives don’t matter. This is Africa!
As Nigerians grappled with the scars and pains occasioned by the crises, Buhari addressed the nation. He acted like a wicked school teacher, who doesn’t mind beating his pupils into silence after making them cry aloud. The vacuum of leadership in Nigeria has always been wide, but in recent times, it has expanded immensely and is competing with the size of an ocean.
The latest development is that some of the EndSARS movement leaders have been barred from travelling out of Nigeria. One Modupe Odele who helped in freeing arrested EndSARS protesters, using her expertise as a lawyer, was prevented from leaving for the Maldives to celebrate her birthday. The Nigeria Immigration Service has struggled to issue a decent denial or explanation behind the ban on the poor woman. Other figures are said to be suffering the same fate too.
The government didn’t stop there, it further mulled the regulation of Nigeria’s social media space. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, even suggested the possibility of an IT structure that could help shut down social media in the time of crisis. Like seriously? In a democratic dispensation? You want to take away the freedom of expression from people whose futures you have already taken away? Why don’t you just kill them and bury them in mass graves?
From the surface level, the government appears to have won the fight with the protests ending abruptly. People are picking their lives up again and taking up the next challenge. Using military force appears to have worked. But the government remains the greatest loser. The underhand tactics used by the government have further eroded the microscopic trust the people have in the government. What is the essence of a Social Contract without trust? If Nigeria was a data-gathering country that regularly publishes the approval ratings of leaders, that of Buhari would have been at an all-time low. But the leaders in Africa don’t care. Their followers see them as ‘legal thieves’ and they love the tag. They never fail to throw some crumbs at the hungry followers when the need arises. The country has gotten so terrible that it is the dream of everybody to leave the country for better lives abroad.
One would notice that the news of Buhari’s rumoured death and replacement by the fictitious body-double,’Jubril Al Sudani’ surfaced again after the presidential address. Even the best minds bought the story as they couldn’t connect with the present leader. They felt he wasn’t feeling their pulse anymore. Buhari acts like he doesn’t care. He went as far as warning the international community, by telling them to ‘get their facts right’ before interfering in local issues. This is a typical African leader who believes he doesn’t need the electorate anymore, as he is not seeking re-election. The baggage of the EndSARS crises will be carried by those with presidential ambition within the All Progressives Congress. Already, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is getting the short end of the sick. An attempt by the former Lagos golden boy, Babatunde Fashola to interfere in the crisis made him a subject of mockery on social media with the infamous ‘Camcorder Saga’.
The government’s victory was stolen and remains largely pyrrhic. A father that stole from his children doesn’t need to celebrate. He is a bad egg and remains a shame to the league of fathers and the society at large. In hindsight, even in victory, the government remains the biggest loser. But since the government doesn’t exist to pursue the general will of the people but selfish interests, nobody cares. We move!
Written by Osayimwen Osahon George.