END SARS: Calm The Frayed Nerves Of Protesters, Please!

According to an African proverb, “If the keg of palm-wine is not quickly snatched from the hands of an exuberant drunk, he may drink himself to stupor.” A similar proverb also says “If an overzealous child is not assisted by his elders when roasting yams in the farm, he may innocently set the farm and the hut ablaze”.

There is no denying the fact that the foregoing African proverbs succinctly illustrate the repercussion of the ongoing protest that has compelled Nigerians, mostly the youth population, to take to the streets calling on the government or rather the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed A. Adamu to ban the controversial police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), accused of brutality.

The protest which is simultaneously being carried out across the country is no doubt boomeranging with casualties being recorded.

For instance, the IGP while condemning the attack on policemen and damage to police operational vehicles and other assets by the protesters in Ughelli, Delta State, on Thursday, 8th October, 2020, said there was need for the protesters to shield their swords. According to a statement issued by DCP Frank Mba, the force public relations officer, force headquarters, Abuja, “the incident which resulted in the death of one Police officer, Corporal Etaga Stanley attached to 'A' Division, Ughelli, Delta State who was attacked and brutally murdered by the protesters also left another, Sergeant Patrick Okuone with serious body injury sustained from gunshot by the protesters. The protesters also carted away one (1) service AK47 rifle with breach no 56-2609008 and 25 rounds of live ammunition that was with the deceased at the time of the incident”.

In a similar vein, a yet-to-be identified youth in Oyo State protesting against the activities of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was shot on Saturday. Witnesses said the man was shot by the police, but a police spokesperson denied the claim. As gathered, the man was shot in the leg when protesters arrived the Owode Police Station in Ogbomoso, after the youth had in the early hours of Saturday, October 10, 2020 stormed major streets in the town to demand the ban of the dreaded police unit. However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said police did not shoot anyone, and added that the police only used tear gas to disperse the protesters when they arrived the station. He explained that the decision was taken in a bid to forestall an attack on the police station.

He further added, “It was not true. I spoke with the Area Commander and he told me that nothing of such occurred. They did not shoot anybody. The police allowed them to protest for over one hour.

“But, at a point, they wanted to force themselves into the police station. They only used tear gas to disperse them so that they will not go into the police station and destroy the police station.

“By the time they have access to the police station, they can go and destroy some things. That was the information I got.”

Against the foregoing background, it is very glaring that if the nerves of the protesters are not calmed that the protest may boomerang to the detriment of everyone and further subject Nigerians to unprecedented spate of insecurity. Or have we forgotten so soon how “One Million Boys” and “Awawa Boys” criminally held residents of Alimosho, Agege, Ojo, Ilamoshe Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo as well as some parts of Ogun State during the Stay-at-home order that was necessitated during the prevalence of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic? It will be imprudent for us to allow armed robbers and hoodlums take criminal advantage of the ongoing protest calling for the disbandment of SARS. As it is, it is very obvious that if not well managed that it may create a hydra-headed security challenge that may make the challenge we are protesting against look like a child`s play. It is possible for some unscrupulous protesters to resort to fomenting trouble instead of patriotically conforming to the normative values of the protesters.

I must confess that when I watched the clip of the activities of the protesters on a private television station, that I was shocked to the marrows. While watching the clip it dawned on me that it is just a matter of time, if not well managed, before the seemingly unappeased protesters would resort to violence just like the Arab Spring that was instigated by dissatisfaction, particularly of youth and unions, with the rule of local governments in Arabic countries.

Given the agility and exuberance that the youths demonstrated as I watched the clip, it is very obvious that if their frayed nerves are not calmed that they would be capable of throwing the entire nation into a security challenge that would be beyond imagination.

Apart from the need for the governments at all levels to resort to expressing pacifying communication strategies in calming the nerves of the protesters, and ensure that their demand are met, it is equally expedient that traditional rulers and opinion leaders in communities where the protests are going on should find persuasive ways of dousing the flame of the protest and ensure that what the protesters are demanding for are met as soon as possible.

Gratifying enough, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, October 9, 2020, says he has directed the IGP to address the concerns of Nigerians about police brutality.

While he accused the SARS operatives of human rights abuse for provoking Nigerians to troop to the streets to demand the disbandment of the unit. Buhari said he had instructed Adamu to bring erring police officers to book.

To me, it would go a long way if leaders across various departments of governments at all levels begin to use appease words that can douse the tension, and find ways of meeting the demand of the protesters. Leaders that hold position across political, religious and traditional sectors of the economy should both individually and collectively begin to bring the wisdom they are endowed with to bear in this crisis and ensure that mutual appeasement is achieved, after all, an African proverb has that “A quarrelsome chief does not hold a village together”.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor