General Coordinator, Justice Development & Peace Makers Centre Osogbo)
The circumstance of emergence and the continuous evolution of the nationwide #EndSARS Protest has engendered a new understanding of the real political identity of the Nigerian People which hitherto appeared distorted, and to say the least non-existent in the posture and political attitude of policy-makers and even public policy commentators.
In fact, all citizens, leaders, foreign nations and peoples who have voiced out so far about the trend of the protest admit to be learning something new about the political identity, the power and voice of the People of Nigeria. In our view, the #EndSARS Protest is a remarkable development in the history of Democracy in our nation. It is most applauded as great development for the fact that this was conceived by the mind of the youths and carried all the way by their shoulders, proving completely that the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria had no clue of the identity of the majority of the citizens in describing them as Lazy Nigerian Youths.”
Understanding the Voice and the Cry of #EndSARS Protesters
From observing the attitude and response of the Government so far, we are not clear about the sincerity, the disposition to learn and understand or the political will government at all levels to responds adequately to the cry of the protesters. This is because from careful reflection on the background to the #EndSars course, an objective observer would find out that the brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force who have been abusing, brutalizing, and wasting the lives of Nigerians with blatant impunity was only the final trigger of a protest of the Nigerian People against injustice and corruption that had been waiting to happen.
Rather than admit to the above, the primary focus of the government since the protest began, seems to be to put an end to it. What rather results instead is the continuous widespread of the space, the scope and composition of the protest and protesters. In this regard therefore, we ask the government and all stakeholders to refrain from descending so low in judgement as to think and act towards the expansion of the list of demands by the #EndSARS protesters as act of nuisance. It should rather be approached as the gradual opening up of a painful and volatile heat trapped in the psyche of the Nigerian youths and people which could have exploded in a different way in such a violent manner that could threaten the continuous existence of the nation. Instead, the protest should rather be embraced as a welcome path towards the repositioning of the nation on the path to holistic self-realization.
#EndSARS in our understanding does not divide the nation into a polarization of the government and the governed. It rather calls the government and the governed to a roundtable where solutions to some of the most damaging problems of the nation can be overcome. We therefore think that a government with genuine intention to defend the good of this nation and further the growth of democracy should not immediately preoccupy itself with ending the protest. We expect the government to rather guide the process and follow it up as means to acquire a richer and holistic knowledge and understanding of the real problems of Nigeria, the hope and aspiration of its people and seek from them also the plausible solutions that would lead to the Nigeria of the dream and pride of all. We appeal therefore to the government to offer full protection to protesters and be completely open to their legitimate demands.
The government should, with objective and unbiased mind with no interest in self-defense or self-preservation begin to take note of all the grievances and demands from the genuine protesters without ever falling again into the dishonorable attitude of interpreting them as the voice of the opposition. We think it is completely dangerous and inimical to national development for the government to continue to interpret the voice of the people in a democracy as opposition.
We commend and are proud of the peaceful conduct of the protest and the sense patriotism manifested by them. They have kept the protest peaceful in spite of provocations by unidentified persons in most of the States, nationwide. Unfortunately the protest in Osun State has suffered continuous disruption due to violence perpetrated by unidentified persons protecting some other interests that are not clear. This escalated to the attack on the protesters even while the Executive Governor was in their company. Unfortunately, two lives were reportedly lost.
While we commend the calm, mature and peaceful manner in which the Governor had personally responded to verbal and physical violence meted on him in the company of the protesters, we wish to state that the continuous violent incidence which trail the #EndSARS protest in Osun is the result of poor management of crisis on the part of the government and the Law enforcement authorities.
It would be recalled that on September 15th , a violent youth protest erupted in Osogbo against SARS brutality when Idris Ajibola was chased to death the JTF agents while in the company of his friends. The government and Law enforcement agencies have since been silent about the outcome of the promised investigation and the pursuance of justice for the late Idris. We think that in this sense, this incident which stirred the emotions of many youths in Osogbo, being recent with wounds unhealed could create background of violence that may want to force its way into the legitimate #EndSARS protest. We expect the government and the law enforcement agencies therefore to have foreseen this and provide excellent intelligence and security framework to guard the ongoing #EndSARS protest from the possibility of violent disruptions.
While we charge the government to develop the humility and the required maturity to continue to learn about Nigeria from Nigerians, we reiterate with the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria that the true call of the #EndSARS is not just a call to disestablish a special Squad of the police force. #EndSARS should not be mistaken as thinking that Nigeria does not stand in need of a special security squad. The protest is a summon of the government and the political elites by the people to whom power belong to a roundtable. At the edge that Nigeria stands in history, we do hope that the voice would not as in the past be treated as insignificant.
Finally, the cry for a just national structure and system that offers everyone equal opportunity to fulfil their lawful aspirations in peace and in dignity worthy of their person, disciplined and effective public institutions that would develop and use the resources of Nigeria for the Nigerian people is the substance of the cry of #EndSAR. We call for a genuine listening from the Government at all levels.
God bless and prosper Nigerian Youths
God bless Nigeria our fatherland
Rev Fr Peter Akinkunmi
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