The last massive protest we had in Nigeria, was in the year 2012, tagged “OCCUPY NAIJA”. The protest was a response to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s removal of the fuel subsidy at a time that was considered insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. Citizens had traveled for the Christmas Holidays and by January 2012, when majority of the citizens were preparing to return to the urban centres where they reside, the rude shock that met them was the announcement of removal of Petrol Subsidy by the Federal Government; which saw to the increase of petrol pump price, and in turn affected cost of transport as well as many other sectors of the economy.

Nigerians cried and cringed and eventually poured out into the streets of Lagos, Abuja and other major cities in Nigeria to protest the government decision. While it was alleged that Powerful oil moguls affected by the Federal Government’s decision to remove petroleum subsidy, sponsored the protest, it was obvious that the then Opposition Politicians totally hijacked it and had a field day with the protest.

From that protest onwards, the then opposition party built and capitalized their propaganda machinery against the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Even when he later recalled the full subsidy removal and announced a partial subsidy, it was already late. The damage had been done. The perception that his administration was an insensitive government, had been cultivated in the minds of Nigerian Youths and the Opposition watered it down the citizen’s thought process and made sure it remained so on their minds. The opposition went from there to making bogus promises to Nigerians of what they will do if elected. They called for the resignation of President Goodluck Jonathan, they insulted his person and that of the office he was occupying. The barrage of propaganda attacks and obnoxious accusations the opposition was making against the administration of President Jonathan were overwhelming and indefensible. Unfortunately the media team of the administration were either a no match against the media forces of the opposition or were simply overwhelmed by the attacks, and hoped on Nigerians to read in-between the lines and deduct the truth. But they forgot that “when a lie is told over and over again, it begins to appear as the truth”. Most of the citizens actually believed most of the lies and propaganda traded by the then opposition, and the media aides of President Jonathan failed to effectively dispel them and repel the attacks in a more convincing way.

In all, the opposition took advantage of that protest and rode on the support and goodwill they got from Nigerians; and by the time the 2015 General election came, they dislodged the Jonathan administration by winning him at the polls. President Jonathan didn’t fight the outcome of the election, nor did he hesitate to concede defeat. Across the nation Nigerians were happy. Yes Change has come. The Change we yearned for; as we hoped and believed that our New President elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, will wave a magic wand on all our problems as a Nation and make it all go away at once, so we can all begin to live in the Nigerian El-dorado of our dreams.

Two years into the first tenure of our New President’s administration, we weren’t seeing the results of the Change we voted for. When early speakers spoke up, they were asked to be patient that the rot in government foisted by the 16 year rule of the ousted PDP, were not a one day task to get over with. The Mantra all over the country was that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was fighting corruption and that corruption was fighting back; thereby inhibiting President Buhari from implementing the desired change he promised Nigerians. A barrage of propaganda and media gimmicks was unleashed to back this claim so as to make it believable by Nigerians.

Towards the end of President Buhari’s first term in office, it began to appear clearly that the change wasn’t forthcoming and may never come again. Many Nigerians became angry, a lot of politicians in the President’s party, the APC, defected to the once ruling and now opposition party, the PDP, citing and alleging various instances as to why and how the ruling party (APC), has failed to deliver on its promises to Nigerians. By the time the 2019 elections came, the contest was once more between the APC and the PDP.

 The entire politics and electioneering campaign was polarized along ethno-religious lines. Tensions were high in the country; allegation and counter allegation of corruption, incompetence and bad leadership were rife on both sides of the parties in contest. The Ruling APC in the 2019 election campaign promised NEXT LEVEL, and a consolidation of the achievements of President Buhari’s first term. As usual, they promised heaven and earth to Nigerians, while the candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar simply tagged his campaign “LETS GET NIGERIA WORKING AGAIN”; sighting the mis-governance and economic woes Nigerian now found itself in, under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Worst still the President’s health challenge was an issue of debate as the President was mostly out of the country on health reasons for a better part of his first term in office. The Opposition PDP drew the attention of Nigerians on that, stating that a President, who wasn’t medically fit, cannot administer the affairs of state effectively, which was a burdensome task. But the APC were quick to dispel the allegations and by the time the elections came, we went into that election highly polarized and divided like never before since the Civil war. Eventually President Buhari and the ruling APC emerged victorious and he returned elected for a second term of four years in office.

From 2015 till date, the biggest victim in all the politics and bad governance experienced across the country, are the Nigerian Youths. They form the highest voting population in the country; some of the youths are used to perpetrate election malpractice and electoral violence during election; and at the end, are the biggest unemployed population of citizens in the country.

 Amidst all these, many of the Youths have been thrown into confusion. The cloak of propaganda and political deceit was bearing heavily on them across all sides and board. There was increasing poverty and youth unemployment in the country; hopes were getting marred on daily basis, people were suffering and smiling and a lot of youths were opting to leave the country en-masses in search of greener pastures abroad. In all these, the Youths were resilient, still hoping for a better country, whilst many had talked of a revolution that will one day sweep across the country and reset the bad governance being experienced. But nobody knew of how or when the revolution will happen; talk more of being triggered by a unit of the Nigerian Police force.

The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari from the inception of his administration had taken a hypocritic stand on the things he once did and saw as fair in a democratic setting. For instance; while he once protested against bad governance in the country, and called for the resignation of a setting president, he has shown lack of tolerance for those protesting against his government or asking for his resignation. Under his watch, the Police, Army and DSS have continually quashed protesters with brute use of force and live ammunition. When the publisher of Sahara Reporters and former Presidential Candidate of the AAC, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, called for a #RevolutionNow protest across the country, against the government of President Buhari, citing bad governance and corruption, and requesting for the President’s resignation; he was accused of treason by the government of President Buhari, and the DSS were quickly ordered to arrest him on the eve of the protest. He was eventually detained for weeks before he was charged to court for treason.

It seemed as if the administration was passing a clear message to everyone that; “If you try to protest or speak against this government, we will make an example of you”.  Infact while the President and his then opposition party, the APC, enjoyed a freedom of protest without harassment under the then administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the reverse was the case when the PDP and its members embarked on similar protest march across the capital city of Abuja. Before the eyes of the whole country and the international community, they were tear-gassed and the police moved to dispel the protest march. After those two incidents, there was palpable fear in the country as nobody could summon the courage to protest except Yele Sowore, and his call for #RevolutionNow Protest which he stubbornly went ahead with, after being freed by the court and subsequently released by the DSS.

Nobody had expected that one day, Nigerian Youths will raise in unity to protest, and nobody saw it coming until it just happened. A Unit of the Nigerian Police Force called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), created years ago but of most recent have gone wild, evolving into an rouge unit and organized criminal enterprise that abducted and extorted Nigerians, killing extra-judicially and clearly going beyond their Standard Operational procedure (SOP), and mandate for establishing the unit. For years, Nigerians cried and complained in anguish of the series of abuse, injustice and killings experienced in the hands of this rouge police unit, but the authorities weren’t listening and nothing was being done. While citizens like Mr. Segun Awosanya, popularly known as SegaLink, as well as other well meaning Nigerians intervened on individual capacities, the government was adamant and the rogue unit carried-on their atrocities unabated.

On October 3, 2020, a video started trending on social media showing a youth, allegedly shot by SARS officers and abandoned in a pool of his blood in front of wetland hotel Ughelli, Delta State. The video immediately caused public outrage on social media, especially Twitter with the hashtag #EndSARS. And even when the Police finally put out a statement regarding their own account of the incident; how the victim was arrested and while taking him to the station, he jumped out of the police vehicle and the Police upon sighting a mob of citizens chasing after them, abandoned the victim and fled for safety. And they finally produced evidence that the victim was alive and receiving treatment in a hospital where he was rushed to by follow citizens. But then, the video had already caused outrage and it was obvious that the people have had enough of the Police Brutality and extra-judicial killings.

On Thursday 8th October 2020, a physical nationwide protest began with youths pouring out on the streets of Lagos, Abuja and other cities around the country, demanding for the government to scrap the Rouge Police Unit and bring an end to police brutality and police extra-judicial killings across the nation.

The Protesters which started in small numbers of gatherings, mainly consisting of youths and remains leaderless have spread like wild fire across the country with thousands of youths joining the protests and demanding for a total scraping of the SARS police unit. On social media, the hashtag #EndSARS have generated over 28 million tweets and just yesterday the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey created a dedicated Twitter Emoji in support of the #EndSARS Protest.

The protesting youths have put forth a 5 point demand to the police and federal Government as a criterion to ending the protest. See image below:

Although the Police and Federal Government has acceded to the demands, and disbanded the SARS unit, the youths are yet to end the protest as they insist that they want to see actions on their demand happening before they leave the streets. More-so some are insisting that the President should come out and address them and assure them that their demands will be met before they leave the streets.

Its quite unfortunate that days since this protest began, the President hasn’t found it important to meet with the youths, hear their grievances and address them directly. While many have called out the president for his lack of empathy, insensitivity and slow responses, others are demanding that he resign.

However, there are messages that this nationwide #EndSARS protest has sent to the Nigerian State, some of which are;

  1. The consciousness of the Nigerian Youths has now been awoken. The long suppressed resilience and resentment are now over
  2. A wind of change is blowing across the country; the docility of the youths in matters of how they are governed have now been broken and it’s a good time to be a Nigerian youths
  3. The Youths are putting forth a statement loud and clear, saying; we will no longer be pushed around or be reactive, rather we are going to be proactive in issues concerning us, as we are now ready to take our destiny in our own hands.
  4. The success of this protest will give birth to more protest and more demands. The youths have tested their strength and especially the use of social media to effect social change, and it all came out positive. They will try again and make more demands if the government continues with mis-governance.
  5. The crux of this whole youth revolution will culminate in the upcoming 2023 election. Its not going to be a smooth ride for candidates who would be contesting in that election as the youths will demand more and better leadership.

As the protests continue across the nation and the government continues to use under-hand tactics to quash the protest, it only ends up inflaming the protest and the number of youths turning out to join the protest. Its obvious that the government’s response to crisis resolution is poor and its approach towards the youths to either sit, discuss, or negotiate with them remains rigid. The upcoming days into this protest remains critical as reactions on both sides (Government and Protesters) are unpredictable. But meanwhile, the youth protesters are in high spirits, resolute and relentless in their demand for reforms in the police; justice for victims of Police brutality, and good governance in the country going forward.

Authored by;

Chris Eruba

Editor; INTEL News

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