By Stanley Olisa
TUE, OCT 13 2020-theG&BJournal-If you’re familiar with my articles, you’ll have discerned that I hardly ink my perspectives on paper when it comes to public affairs or run commentary on polity developments. But I just can’t help it in this situation. I can’t help it because I’m a youth who believes in a thriving Nigeria. I can’t help it because I can’t feign ignorance of the atrocities which have been perpetrated by the officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
I can’t help it because we the youth and, in fact, the entire hoi polloi have had it to peak with the unabating excesses of SARS. So, I can’t help joining forces with other Nigerian youngsters in propelling this vigorous campaign against SARS. I may not be protesting, but I thought I should support this historic movement through effectively inked comment. Let it be registered in the annals of history that I lent my voice to this campaign against SARS, brutality and extra-judicial extermination of young Nigerians by police officers with unquenchable hankering for unprovoked killings.
I can bet that when this protest setsailed, nobody envisaged that it would blow up to this magnitude. To the pleasure of history, Runtown and Falz are considered the personas that lit this candle and ever since, a preponderance of Nigerian youth have kept the flame alive, with the candle getting bigger each day. With the consistency, oomph and persistence that have been exuded by my fellow youths, it is evident that they are not smiling. And it is no longer business as usual.
I think it’s a bold statement of history. I see it as a strong resolve to prove wrong those who tagged the Nigerian youth ‘lazy’. I’m sure you can recall the ‘lazy youth’ mantra that trended in April 2018. This protest is showing that these youths are not lazy, after all. They’ve never been. Perhaps, they’ve not had the right trigger. But SARS is looking like that trigger and the youth can no longer take it.
There exists plethoric evidence to justify these growing protests for the scrapping of SARS across major cities in Nigeria. I have not been buttonholed by SARS. But I have friends who have. And family members. They lost money and other valuables to these disguised armed robbers who should actually be nabbing the real armed robbers, going by their statutory nomenclature. Those are possessions lost. What about the precious lives? I can’t belabour this enough because media reports on this abound.
On a daily, SARS officers are cutting short the lives of Nigerians with unfaltering impudence and nauseating haughtiness. They’ve become gods who you dare not challenge or try to assert your fundamental rights. They tell you they’ll ‘waste’ you and nothing will be done to them. That’s the kind of police force our system has allowed to prosper. Police officers with questionable background. This draws attention to the enlistment and training modus of the Nigeria Police Force. But that’s a subject for another discourse.
The youth are not smiling. They’re fed up with the jejune rhetorics that have endlessly characterised government’s response to mitigating the evils being passionately and arrogantly executed by the SARS officials. This ongoing protest may just be a snapshot of an imminent youth renaissance, a virile campaign to challenge the status quo. That’s how the Arab Spring kicked off. Like we say in pidgin, ‘like play, like play, e go happen’.
As you’re aware, the Inspector-General of Police has announced the dissolution of the SARS unit. But what exactly does that mean? Nigerians apparently take this publicised dissolution with a pinch of salt and I know why- this is a government reputed for empty promises. The speeches of Mr President no longer dovetail any meaning to the average Nigerian, even though we literally beg him to address us on burning issues of critical national importance. Nigerian youths are tired.
Mr President, seeing that the announced dissolution didn’t assuage the protesting Nigerians, coupled with pleas for an address, finally spoke to us, promising extra-judicial killings investigation and police reforms. But is that what we want to hear? No. We need Mr President to issue an executive order to give more verve to the IGP’s dissolution. So, it’s one of two things: it’s either Mr President and the IGP are playing some hanky-panky with their responses to the protest or there’s a palpable disconnect between the people and the government.
Nigerian youths are not smiling. We have been described as docile, slow to act and lazy. But this is the moment. Entertainers, corporate brands and the international community have joined the movement to end SARS. There’s a strident call to reform the police. It’s dominating media agenda. But, unfortunately, the government hasn’t shown laudable promptitude in dealing with it. Mr President should rise to the occasion because the youths I watch on TV and social media will not stop.
It’s like they’ve been fired up to fight the injustice they’ve been putting up with for so many years. They need a clear action from the government, not wishy-washy speeches. We need Mr President to initiate quick wins in this situation as this is degenerating daily. Apart from the executive order, Mr President should send a government delegation to visit the families of those killed and maimed by SARS and give them significant sums. IGP says SARS has been dissolved but we still have SARS officers on the streets harassing and wrecking mayhem on innocent Nigerians. Mr President should give us the ‘change’ he had campaigned with.
I commend the youths for sustaining the #ENDSARS campaign and charge them to keep it peaceful. This is a no-nonsense statement to the political elite. At least, they can now accept that we’re not lazy. That a lion is seated calmly doesn’t mean it is weak. We are not weak. We are not lazy. And we are not smiling.
Stanley Olisa is a Media and Communications Consultant who wrote from Lagos.