Categories
Nation-Building and Active Citizenship

#EndSARS Protests: A Call for Nigeria Police Reform

THE BEGINNING OF SARS

SARS, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, was a sub-unit of Nigeria Police Force under the State Criminal and Anti-Robbery Squad. The purpose of this squad was to investigate, apprehend and detain criminals who bore illegal firearms, robbed the masses, and kidnapped children and adults in the nation. For a fluid operation, they were allowed to serve as undercover agents.

However, over the years, various individuals and groups accused SARS operatives of violation of human rights, illegal arrests and detentions, manhandling of Nigerian youths, sexual harassment and rape, and extra-judicial killings. So far, Amnesty International has documented 82 cases of police brutality between 2017 and 2020. Yet, the bad eggs within the squad seemed to be beyond control.

CITIZEN’S OUTCRY

In 2017, the government responded to the public as regards SARS by stating that the unit would be reformed however the killings continued. On 8th October 2020, Nigerian celebrities such as Falz and Runtown took to the streets to protest against police brutality in solidarity with victims of the same. Following this, organized protests began all over the nation for the disbandment of SARS. The protests were called #EndSARS (End Special Anti-Robbery Squad) protests; this name was culled from the online protests which began in 2017 on Twitter to end the squad.

According to Wikipedia, about 28 million #EndSARS tweets were made on Twitter. For about two weeks, Nigerian youths protested against police brutality with no pronounced leadership. They marched in every state in the nation chanting, “Enough is Enough! Sorosoke! (Speak out!)”

On 11th October 2020, SARS was dissolved! DCP Frank Mba, Force PRO, stated 5 things for the general public to know about the dissolution of SARS:

  1. The Inspector-General of Police has dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across all the 36 state commands and the FCT with immediate effect.
  2. All officers and men serving in the unit will be redeployed to other police commands, formations and units.
  3. A new policing arrangement for tackling the offences of armed robbery and other violent crimes will be unveiled to the public soon.
  4. A Citizens’ and Strategic Shareholders’ Forum will be launched to provide an avenue for citizens to regularly interface and advise the Police Authority on issues touching on the general public.
  5. To deal with the report of crimes committed against citizens, an Investigative Team will be constituted which will include Civil Society Organisations and culprits will be punished.

In response to the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Youths made 5 demands – #5for5. They are as follows:

  1. Immediate release of all arrested protesters.
  2. Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
  3. Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days).
  4. In line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
  5. Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

On 13th October 2020, the Presidential Panel on Police Reforms met and okayed the 5 demands made by the Nigerian Youths. The protests did not stop as the Nigerian Youths determined not to give in until their demands were implemented.

Later, the protests were not just about #EndSARS or #EndPoliceBrutality; they were about something bigger – #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria.

LEKKI MASSACRE

I raised my hand, clenched my fist and started walking back shortly. They were shooting at me.

Aisha Yesufu
#EndSARS
Aisha Yesufu

Unfortunately, the #EndSARS protests degenerated into a bloodbath on October 20th 2020 at Lekki tollgate as the Nigeria Army allegedly shot at unarmed protesters. In an Instagram live video of the shooting by a Nigerian celebrity, DJ Switch, protesters sat on the floor and lifted their flags in a bid to call for peace. The protesters sang the Nigerian National Anthem in agony and solidarity. The picture of a man who was shot during the massacre went viral as he was being helped by DJ Switch. His wounded legs were wrapped with the Nigerian flag.

According to Amnesty International, before the massacre, cameras at the scene – Lekki tollgate – were removed and billboards were switched off. Till date, the one who gave the order to massacre the unarmed protesters has not been apprehended. However, human rights activists like Femi Falana have set up private investigative panels to look into the killings of the protesters.

GOVERNMENT REACTION

After several days, the Nigerian President delivered a 10-minute speech to the nation. However, the speech did not address the matter of the Lekki massacre, rather, it focused on youth empowerment and the termination of the #EndSARS protests. The speech was widely condemned due to its apparent lack of empathy.

Initially, the Lagos State Governor denied that casualties were recorded at the Lekki massacre while the Army denied their presence at Lekki toll gate on October 20th 2020 and stated that the live videos were “photoshopped”.

DJ Switch openly testified that the Nigeria Army arrived the scene of the massacre without any warning and shot at unarmed protesters. Thereafter, a CNN journalist held an interview with the Lagos State Governor where he exposed the Nigeria Army and admitted that casualties were recorded. This sparked an outcry for the exposure of the one who ordered the shooting. The Army reacted by saying that they were at the venue of the incident to ensure that the curfew placed by the Lagos State Governor a few hours earlier that day was obeyed.

INTERNATIONAL REACTION

Joe Biden (The US President-Elect), Hilary Clinton (The former US Secretary of State), Africa Union Commission, etc. all condemned the killings, called for an end to violence and urged the Nigeria Government to negotiate with the protesters. Many international celebrities voiced their displeasure about the turn of events.

Although the protests were halted abruptly and the hearts of Nigerians were broken, there is still hope for the nation. The #EndSARS protests can be seen as a stepping stone towards the liberation of the nation from bad governance. Now, people must be educated on becoming and choosing leaders that can effect positive changes in the nation. Lead Resources trains people with hearts and track records of leadership for a national takeover in a programme called Mainstream Successor Generation. At no other point in history has this solution been more useful to the nation. Those interested may simply contact Lead Resources here.

2023 is near. In a jiffy, your vote will either be a life-jacket or a bullet. Vote wisely!  

AUTHOR

Osatohanmwen Osadiaye Osabuohien is the Executive Director of Nerve Empowerment Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of Benin, Faculty of Arts, Department of Religion. He is a research analyst by profession and he has a strong interest in analyzing societal challenges.

Categories
Nation-Building and Active Citizenship

En Route the New Nigeria

But from the beginning, it was not so…

In the year 1960, all eyes were upon Nigeria – the most populous nation of Blacks in the world. Nigeria – which seemed to churn out high-flyers in education, business, leadership, etc. – just got her independence! In Africa, only Ghana rivalled Nigeria in leadership but after Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a coup, the gaze of the world shifted to Nigeria’s Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, etc. Considering the encompassing growth of Nigeria, it was unwise not to be her ally.

It is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.

Richard Whately

Very quickly, Nigeria lost her glory due to  the succession of failed administrations, the military misadventure up to 1993, the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections, the structural adjustment programme that destroyed the local economy, endemic corruption in the nation, ceaseless looting of the national treasury, lack of public accountability, overdependence on oil revenue, religious and ethnic bigotry, insecurity, amongst others! Unfortunately, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, became the world’s poverty capital. Till date, the nation has not been able to recover.

Yeee! Birthpangs…

And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:13-14

Over time, attempts have been made to solve the foundational issues of the nation. Yet, most have failed grossly. In October 2020, 60 years after Nigeria’s independence, the war for the soul of Nigeria intensified such that the “lazy Nigerian youths” who never bothered to vote for good leaders arose to fight police brutality on a grand scale. You need to google how organized and productive these protests – #EndSARS protests – were. The crazy thing is that these protests had no apparent leaders!

I didn’t go to OAU to be on the wrong side of history. It can’t happen.

Fatimah Oyelami

Fast forward…On Friday, 20th October 2020, while Nigerian youths gathered for the #EndSARS protests, many of them were massacred at Lekki toll gate, Lagos, by Nigerian soldiers on assignment. It is appalling that these youths were killed for the very cause that they were protesting against – police brutality! Although the massacre of these youths was streamed by certain courageous patriots and watched by millions of Nigerians, till date, no one has confessed to giving the order to kill the peaceful protesters. In fact, the Nigerian President has never mentioned this in public.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

A few days ago, an acquaintance gave me a historical account of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  He explained that when baby Jesus was born, it was prophesied that Jesus of Nazareth would become the king of the Jews. When the king in power heard of it, he ordered the massacre of all male babies within the age range of the baby Jesus. However, the biological parents of the baby Jesus received intel about the plan of the king and escaped. My acquaintance believes that history repeated itself in Nigeria. In order to kill the saviour king, all who were in the age range of the saviour king were massacred. Selah.

Sorosoke to Japa

Well, the protests were hijacked by thugs. Curfews were declared all over the nation. Families wailed for the loss of their beloved. The President addressed the nation some days after the massacre, however, he did not expressly address the Lekki massacre. Like a wave, after the Presidential address, the generation which mustered themselves and chanted “Sorosoke” (Speak out loud) began to chant “Japa” (Disappear). Each man feared for his life, and jokes about traveling out of Nigeria to Canada began to trend.

We cannot afford to keep sinful silence when the youth of our nation are being oppressed by a Nigerian state that is supposed to protect them.

Tunde Bakare

Furthermore, a number of peaceful protesters were incarcerated during and after the #EndSARS protests. Also, the bank accounts of people who supposedly sponsored the protests were frozen. Recently, deliberations about the restrictions of the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have been ongoing. This stems from the supposed spread of false information by Nigerian youths about governance, police brutality and the Lekki massacre to other nations and continental unions in the world.

Engagement is the breeding ground for idea fermentation.

Kehinde Sogunle (Paraphrased)

Social media has proven to be the most potent tool for citizen engagement in the 21st century. With this tool, people of various cadres express themselves freely. Apparently, government officials cannot hide from the public comments of the common man. Although this tool has its flaws, no great nation is built without conversations – heated ones. In fact, the better place to find solutions is on the negotiation table not the streets.

Over the course of various interactions, I have outlined eight segments of our national life that I describe as constituting Nigeria’s political power blocs…namely: The council of state and the thirty-six state governors; retired generals; traditional institutions; political dynasties; the private sector (including the media); religious leaders; the Nigerian Labour Congress/Trade Union Congress; and foreign partners. My position has been that any individual or group that seeks to be reckoned with politically in Nigeria must not take any of these for granted. I would like to state, at this juncture, that there is a ninth power bloc that must not be taken for granted; it is the Nigerian youth with the power of social media.

Tunde Bakare

As opposed to the steps which the government are attempting to make towards infringing the basic human right to freedom of expression, measures could be taken to curtail its abuse, such as the provision of incentives for appropriate dissemination of information such that it discourages dishonourable use. Youths can also spearhead productive conversations on a grand scale – with local and international civil society organizations – and collaborate with social media platforms to flag dangerous content.

The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.

Benjamin Disraeli

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.

Job 14:7-9

Alas, our time has come, and nothing can stop a nation whose time has come.

Quickly and thoroughly, Nigeria must restructure her administrative systems. Our problems began with autocratic leadership, succession of failed governments and ill-suited administrative systems. The rot began from the head and spread to the entire body. Nigeria needs to create administrative systems where her fundamental values determine her laws. The local, state and federal administrative setups must be structured such that no man (including the president) is above the law.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Unfortunately, autonomy has not been given to our law enforcement agencies. Anyone who exposes the bitter truth suddenly disappears. If bad leaders can be exposed by the press, arraigned by the police and incarcerated promptly, excesses will be curbed. Scapegoats should be made of those who engage in corrupt acts in the pursuit of power.

Prospective leaders should be put forward on the basis of track-records and merit not popularity. The men with the best hearts and minds – not location – should be given the chance to lead. This rotational leadership thing is good but inefficient.

As deep-rooted as our problems are, our freedom will begin with conversations and negotiations among the best and brightest. This is why we must allow for freedom of expression. It is in the heat of engagements that golden ideas are fermented. This is how we find the best. Hence, the inability to air our views will only keep us in bondage.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Let’s focus on the people now. Yes, it is true that most of us sell our votes in the agony of poverty. However, like Esau, we sell our birthrights for a meal, and suffer for years…

Note that there will be an attempt through hidden wisdoms to bring banished ones back. Political figures who have been rejected will be attempted to be forced on the people again through subtle means. They will be reintroduced in a way that it would seem as though we have no choice but to accept them. If we accept them back, days of uncertainty are upon us.

Kuti Olusola

The people must be willing to vote and vote wisely! Voter education – especially for the unlearned – is one of the most strategic steps we can take towards the new Nigeria. We must be made to understand that when we do not vote, we are part of the problem, and when we choose one of two devils, we have collaborated with murderers.

New Nigeria
Vote Wisely

Now, if it is wisdom we seek, the youths must be careful not to despise the tutelage of the elders. Leadership is a continuum and wisdom is deep. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Ironically, our youths must be groomed by wise elders for sustainable development. We cannot make progress without the input of the aged.

The #EndSARS protests have proven that there is a time for aluta and another for negotiations at the table. The impact of men like Sam Adeyemi upon the forward-thinking youths of the nation evince the need for tutelage in the matters of Nigeria’s destiny. LEAD Resources runs a programme called Mainstream Successor Generation which provides mentorship and support for grassroot organizers, potential executive council leaders, potential legislators, policy makers, party functionaries, etc. Now that 2023 elections are loading, we must be intentional about training and creating our options. We must also be willing to use our bullets – our votes – to choose the best!

Nigeria and Nigerians will be known all over the world for corruption. Your name – Nigeria – will stink of corruption but after a while, a new phase will come – a phase of righteousness. People from the nations of the earth will hold a Nigerian and say, “We want to follow you to your nation to go and learn righteousness.”

Pa Elton, 1986

What is the New Nigeria? The New Nigeria is:

  1. A Nigeria where life is sacred.
  2. A Nigeria where the streets are safe.
  3. A Nigeria where no one is marginalized.
  4. A Nigeria where no one goes to bed hungry.
  5. A Nigeria where each man is his brothers’ keeper.
  6. A Nigeria where there is quality health care for all.
  7. A Nigeria where there is uninterrupted power supply.
  8. A Nigeria where every child can access quality education.
  9. A Nigeria where every youth is employed or self-employed.
  10. A Nigeria where innovative ideas are fermented and birthed.
  11. A Nigeria where our leaders are chosen wisely and votes count.
  12. A Nigeria that is exalted by righteousness according to God’s will.

The dreams of the new Nigeria are the realities of other nations made up of humans just like us. If we can keep hope alive and infiltrate the source of our rot – poor leadership – we will get there. Dubai did it. Ghana did it. We can do it. We must do it!

REFERENCES

The Youth of a Nation are the Trustees of Posterity by Dr. Tunde Bakare

Nigeria is Still Struggling at 60 but Hope is Still Alive by Prof. Sheff Folarin

The Only Way Forward for Nigeria by Dr. M. M. Wokili

AUTHOR

Tomiwa Babajide is an Associate Solutions Architect at LEAD Resources, a charismatic administrator, an SDGs advocate, a creative writer and a graduate of Microbiology. She is adept in transdisciplinarity, novel and adaptive thinking and virtual collaboration. She is zealous to provide real-time solutions to challenges in the polity. She loves to eat crackers and drink yoghurt, and she can pray and go on road-trips for Africa.

Categories
Human Capital Development Nation-Building and Active Citizenship

Rebuilding a Nation One Citizen at a Time

The character of a nation comes not from the character of its leader, but from that of the citizens. A nation falls not because of governmental atrocity, but because of the citizens’ indifference to that atrocity.”

Abhijit Naskar

Just as a mobile phone needs updates for an increase in efficiency, effectiveness and/or speed, we have come to a defining moment in which a ‘reboot’ is pertinent in the nation. This time, the energy and actions required for rebuilding nations must be inspired, operated and sustained by citizens. In nation-building, citizens are the founders, builders, makers, users and engineers of the nation. One citizen might appear insignificant, however, in the words of Ralph Emerson, “…all history resolves itself easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.” Indeed, history is but the biography of great men.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Nation-building is not always about the majority at the onset. It is about the influence that comes from an enthusiastic, informed, collaborative, determined, obsessive and unstoppable minority. When the minority arise, the majority will adjust their world, adapt to the status quo and submit their resources willfully to the obviously superior movement, even if it is to the end that they may be counted amongst a people who pushed a worthy cause.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing stories of citizens who set the world on the journey of newness, freshness, effectiveness, efficiency and speed when the world needed an update, a reset, a reboot. They are citizens who “hit the reset button.” I call them “Model Citizens.” In this episode, I will begin with Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks: A Genuine Citizen Hero

Rosa Parks, also known as “The mother of the civil rights movement,” was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and, in 1943, joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African-Americans, the coloured people, were required to sit at the back rows of public buses and also give up their seats to Caucasians if the seats at the front rows of the public buses got filled up. Parks was in the first row of the section for coloured people when a Caucasian driver demanded that she gives up her seat to a Caucasian man. Parks refused. Although her refusal was spontaneous, it was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend. In fact, history.com says that local civil rights leaders had been planning to challenge Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion.

Parks was arrested. Learning of Parks’ arrest, the NAACP and other African-American activists called for a bus boycott by black citizens on Monday, 5th December 1955. Word spread through word-of-mouth and fliers, and the activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association. The first day of the bus boycott was a huge success! At night, 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a large crowd gathered at a church saying, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for rights.”  Subsequently, King emerged as the leader of the bus boycott. He received numerous death threats from the opponents of integration. At a point, his home was bombed but he and his family escaped bodily harm.

The boycott went on for more than a year, and participants carpooled or walked miles to work or school in the absence of other means of transport. Since African-Americans originally constituted 70% of the Montgomery bus ridership, the municipal transit system suffered gravely during the boycott.

On Tuesday, 13th November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama State and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On Thursday, 20th December 1956, King declared, “The year-old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” The boycott ended the following day. Of course, Rosa Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses. So, Martin Luther King Jr. and his nonviolent civil rights movement won the first great victory. Indeed, there would be many more to come!

Through her courage and by her example, Rosa Parks (An African American) helped lay the foundation for a country that could begin to live up to its creed. Her life, and her brave actions, reminds each and every one of us of our personal responsibilities to stand up for what is right and the central truth – that our greatness as a nation derives from seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Barack Obama

Park’s name became permanently etched in American history because of her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. That was not the first time Rosa Parks refused to acquiesce to the racist system – the Jim Crow system. The same bus driver who had her arrested had thrown her off a bus the year before for refusing to give up her seat. Her solitary act of “civil disobedience” became a call to action. Her arrest led a relatively unknown pastor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to organize a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. That boycott lasted 381 days but eventually culminated in a landmark Supreme Court.

We can tell from history that there is sense to rebuilding a nation one citizen at a time. Perhaps, this is the only lasting strategy for true reform. No wonder Nelson Mandela said, “It is not the kings and princes that make history but the masses…” This evinces that quality investment in people is critical to rebuilding the continent. People are the most significant resource a nation needs for its rebuilding. However, citizens must acknowledge that without them, a national dream is merely wishful thinking. People are superior to programmes, policies, and constitutions! As important as programmes, policies and constitutions are, they don’t implement themselves. They require the correct allocation of skilled, motivated, moral, patriotic, and healthy human resources for results.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Neil Armstrong, on the Sea of Tranquillity, 1969

Transformation for a nation begins with the effort of at least one citizen such as a producer of goods, a farmer, an educator, a researcher, a cleaner, a conductor, a transporter, an artisan, a counsellor, an advocate, a policy-maker, a singer, a writer, a nanny, a thinker, a reader, a student, etc. at any given time. Today, that citizen should be me. That citizen should be you. In the long run, it should become all of us. It can become all of us! When the dream of one citizen becomes a reality, the entire nation benefits. This fact cannot be overemphasized. It is the critical idea of this episode – that rebuilding your nation begins with you!

Perhaps, the recent #EndSARS protests have propelled the drive for active citizenship in Nigeria. However, there are many steps beyond the first step towards the national dream. Lead Resources is one innovation hub that provides the knowledge and skills required to develop people and organizations for sustainable national development. For more information, insights and development programmes, contact Lead Resources here.

References: history.com, Citizen Shift by Elkanah Oluyori.

AUTHOR

Elkanah Oluyori
Elkanah Oluyori

Elkanah Oluyori is a Digital Economy and Innovation Evangelist who is passionate about nation-building and community organizing. He has authored several relevant publications to this effect. Currently, Elkanah is an Associate Solutions Architect at Lead Resources, where he delivers Management and Development Consultancy to citizens, enterprises and the government. Owing to his vast experience in working with local and international development agencies, he leads Strategic Partnership at Reformers of Africa and coordinates West African Network on Peacebuilding (WANEP), FCT.

You may reach him via the following links: