Tinubu to #EndSARS Protesters: YOU HAVE MADE YOUR POINT. GOVERNMENT HAS MADE ITS COMMITMENT TO YOU. PLEASE CALL OFF THE PROTESTS
‘#ENDSARS PROTESTS – THE REMEDY FOR NATIONAL MALADIES IS MORE, NOT LESS, DEMOCRACY’
For the past twelve days, our country has witnessed massive protests by youths in different cities, which were ignited by widespread disenchantment with the gross human rights abuses including torture, extortion, harassment, intimidation and even extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by members of the disbanded Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS).
The demands for fundamental police reforms by the protesting youths are in pursuit of our aspiration in our national anthem “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. Justice as one of our greatest writers has memorably noted is “the first condition of humanity”.
A society where those who are paid from the public purse to protect the lives and property of the people become themselves threats to the liberty, safety and dignity of the people; where human life is difficult to distinguish from Thomas Hobbes ‘State of Nature – ‘solitary, poor, nasty and brutish’ is not one fit for free and decent people to live in. Such impunity and lawlessness are incompatible with the values and tenets of a democratic society governed by the supremacy of the rule of law.
Society confronts challenges such as injustice, impunity, corruption, dictatorship and are forced to respond in resistance and struggle for emancipation.
The result is the triumph of justice over injustice, liberty over tyranny and right over wrong thus enabling the society to be elevated to a higher level of good, accountable, responsible and responsive governance.
It was through this process that colonialism, apartheid, and all forms of dictatorship, misrule and tyranny have been overcome across time and space. Our current democratic dispensation was borne of struggle in response to the challenge of military dictatorship.
The impunity of SARS was thus a challenge that the youth have responded positively and courageously to and has triggered the commencement of the fundamental reform of the country’s policing system.
The protesters must admit that the President Buhari administration has acted with commendable dispatch by not only scrapping SARS but also accepting the five-point demand that triggered the protests. This shows a laudable sensitivity to the grievances of the youths.
It is only fair that government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand.
If government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that that there is a positive change by government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency.
The protesters have made considerable gains within a very short period. But they should also be careful not to fritter away such gains due to lack of moderation and strategic thinking. For instance, it is unfortunate that hoodlums thugs and assorted criminals have seized on the protests to perpetrate violence, disrupt civil life and harass, intimidate and assault innocent persons going about their lawful business.
The intent of the organizers of the protests is to achieve stated objectives on police reform, which the government has in principle accepted. It can certainly not be their motive to cause generalized anarchy or effect regime change.
If they give the impression that that is their goal, then any government will necessarily have to act with the requisite decisiveness and force to restore law and order and preserve constitutional rule.
The vigour and vibrancy of the protests are an indication of the growing strength of the democratic culture in Nigeria. It is a demonstration of the beauty of democracy and its promotion and protection of people’s power.
However, the protesters must be careful not to set the stage for the erosion or destruction of the same democratic process that gives them the freedom and right to protest in the first place.
Their democratic right to protest must not be exercised in such a way that impedes the democratic right of other citizens to freedom of movement, expression and the liberty to pursue their livelihoods.
The fight for police reforms is surely to promote and protect the wellbeing of millions of Nigerians. It is a contradiction for the protesters to act in ways that will further worsen the economic well being of the very people they are fighting for.
The protests have forcefully demonstrated the reality and potency of people’s power and the new energy must be tapped and channeled to strengthen, not weaken the country’s democracy. Surely, the country cannot remain the same after this.
It is a good sign that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos and a number of other state governments have speedily set up judicial panels of inquiry into acts of police brutality over the years. I urge the state governments which are yet to do so to emulate this example.
Let me commend all our religious leaders, Christians and Muslims for their patriotism and high sense of responsibility at this sensitive time. I appeal to them to call on their teeming followers to call of the protests for now and give peace a chance.
Finally, I also strongly appeal to the protesters – YOU HAVE MADE YOUR POINT. GOVERNMENT HAS MADE ITS COMMITMENT TO YOU. PLEASE, PLEASE AND PLEASE, CALL OFF THE PROTESTS. GIVE GOVERNMENT A CHANCE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR DEMANDS. GOD BLESS YOU.