So let us think about these issues:
- How do we separate causes and treat them in proper manners, one distinct from the other? I mean how do we deal with the issue of SARS or police brutality as different from mass poverty and misgovernance, so that we are focused and result-oriented?
- How do we ensure that protests do not go on forever, but we retain the culture of protest? If a protest does not have a destination, and drags the nation along with it, then the nation will not have a destination and it will be grief for all.
- How do we ensure that #EndSARS actually translates into a better deal for, and from the Police? How about they name these special forces, something like Police Tactical Service (PTS), a name that shows that they are service-providers and helpers to the public? Should anti-kidnapping and anti-cultism wings not be collapsed into the PTS? Why is government still training SWAT when the people say they don’t want negative names? Should the youths not have been more strategic by being present as a new police tactical service is being born – influencing or even insisting on the choice of uniforms, bodycams, kind of cars, modus operandi and the rights available for redress to citizens?
- Are we facing a case of counter-elitism from our privileged youths? Is it a temporary phase of being angry with society or is it something permanent? Are our youths blindsided by inexperience and innocence? When youths say ‘Nigeria is rubbish!’ do they remember that it is pretty tough to live in most countries? Do they remember their friends who work so hard in foreign countries, just to get by? Do they remember that even in Western nations everybody struggles for their own survival; that parents kick out their children at 18 years? Nigeria is certainly behind on too many issues but do our youths understand and appreciate that even the opportunity to sort out the mess that is Nigeria is a rare privilege that must be seized at the nearest opportunity?
- Have we Nigerians in general broadened our minds enough? I realised from interactions that some of the youths who wanted #EndBUHARI did not think of what next if their aims were achieved. When I asked if they wanted Osinbajo instead, they said No! When I said perhaps they want Ahmed Lawan, Senate President to take over, they were alarmed. Then the discussion drifted to how do we go forward if the entire government resigns. Also, most Nigerians who think we should #EndNIGERIA because they say it was established on fraud and injustice, seem not to know that every country is established on fraud and injustice for at least a minority within that country. Every nation on earth was established by internal or external oppressors. QED. It is what we make of our nation that matters. That is why the Americans talk of having ‘a more perfect union’. If a union is perfect, how can it become ‘more perfect’? The idea is to be positive about your nation.
- How do we ensure we do not go into a vicious cycle of destruction that will make even the lives of our youths who have businesses hell, or render those with work jobless? How do we ensure we don’t capitulate to the tyranny of poverty and enter into spiraling decline that will make us rue our fate and long for where we are today? A lady called me from her company a few days back asking if I was interested in buying properties in Lekki. In my head I was like ‘you can’t be serious! The same Lekki where EndSARS-2 is about to happen!’ Will we not see mass divestments from Nigeria at the end of the day? If we don’t separate causes and protests lead to riots, looting, arson, robberies, breakdown of law and order, murders etc, will we not have shot ourselves in the foot? Is there a point at which we call a halt in these matters?
- Same goes for when protests go on and on and become susceptible to hijacks. There are multiple players in every society. In the ENDSARS campaign, in no time we heard of #EndBuhari, #EndNigeria. The LGBTQ folks too tried to mainstream their own issues with society. What if polygamists also joined? Will LGBTQs be okay with it? What if Paedophiles showed up too? For each and every one of us, there are things we do not think is right. We don’t have to take cues from Western countries. We have our own minds to know what is good for our societies. I believe protests should not lump everything together and go on forever, while not even banking any gains.
- For those stoking the poor and encouraging anarchy, do you know that if we hand the reins of society to the poorest – such as the ones that wantonly destroyed cities thereby setting everybody back – even the man with a single shirt and a pair of shoes will be toast? The poor needs to be assisted, and constructively lifted from poverty (like they did in China, and lately, India) not further angered. The psychology of the poor also needs to be considered and helped. I know people who live in slums but spend money on parties like there is no tomorrow. Someone wrote about when he tried to organise a road to be paved in his area and some men appeared, claiming to be Chairman and Vice Chairman of the area. They insisted that he cannot pave the road until they are settled. It was either he handed the funds to them, ‘settle’ them, or forget it. People like this would rather live in poverty and underdevelopment. By fanning their embers, eulogising their angers, and hypocritically hoping for the day they will wise up, we are not helping anybody who is struggling through life. We are only instituting the tyranny of poverty. I recall feeling very angry when the Goodluck Jonathan government – in trying to push fuel subsidy removal – did adverts on TV saying to poor people ‘It is your oga that enjoys the subsidy, not you… It is him that owns 2 or 4 cars’. I said then that the advert was cheap and insensitive, and will anger people’s drivers, stewards, cooks and so on, to organise kidnaps, robberies, murder and all sorts. I believe we have to be sensitive ourselves today.
- What do we do about hypocrisy? I learnt of oil moguls who may not be making as much money as they were, joining the protests or giving support. I saw pastors who took breaks from flying around in their private jets to lecture Nigerians about inequality. Are we really ready to change or are we just angry at a particular government? I know that the performance of this government has been dismal, but should we institute a vicious cycle of arson and destruction on ourselves, and destroy institutions for that reason? Should we bring down the roofs on our heads because of Buhari?
- What do we do about leadership and style for subsequent protests? Should they have leaders? When protests have leaders, they are easy to dissipate. Leaders can be targeted, eliminated, bribed, threatened, compromised. But such protests are harder to hijack and usually stay focused. When there are no leaders, the protest will become rowdy, unruly, and directionless, even though it may sustain, and go viral – whether or not the participants know what the protest is all about. Every time there is free food and good music the protest grounds will be full.
- On the matter of style, should such protests not also be mindful of other members of the public who may not want to join the protest? If a protest closes roads to ambulances and other emergencies, or even to simple citizens trying to find their ways home after a hectic day at work, are the protesters also not as tyrannical and oppressive as those they are protesting against? Does the argument of ‘you have since been suffering, suffer a little bit more in our hands’, hold water? Why were people avoiding anywhere the EndSARS demonstrators were, rather than gravitate towards them.? When will we start being equitable, mindful and respectful in the way we interact with each other in Nigeria?