#endsars Protest: Just Before A Revolution

By Kingsley Ohajunwa

Kolade Johnson was a young man who like others had come out to visit the football viewing centre or just enjoy the cool evening breeze when his life was cut short by a bullet from Olalekan Ogunyemi a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operative in the Mangoro / Onipetesi area of Lagos on Sunday 31st March 2019.

The incident raised so much call for this Police unit to be reformed or better still, scrapped.

To a large extent one can say this was the beginning of the current call to end SARS and put a stop to Police brutality. For several weeks Nigerians sought to know how the relevant authorities will handle it. It took the visit of the Lagos state commissioner of Police and arrest of the officers involved to pacify the already embittered public.

Although there were several cases such as that of Kolade before the sad event happened, sadly there have also been several other cases after then. More evidences have constantly been dug out relating to how Nigerians, especially the young folks are reportedly slain at the slightest instance by men of the Nigeria Police.

The last straw which broke the camel’s back and was the detonator was the reported gruesome murder of a young man in Ughelli Delta state by the dreaded Police arm, SARS. Shortly afterwards Nigerian youths have taken to the streets in their thousands in major cities around the country to demand the immediate dissolution of the unit in what is now known as the #EndSARS protest.

A change of name from SARS to SWAT hasn’t been welcomed; perhaps it’s seen as mere cosmetic effects. Reported arrest and dismissal of several officers including senior ones hasn’t still pacified the peaceful protesters. Infiltration of thugs strategically commissioned to cause mayhem and disrupt the protest also didn’t deter the protesters. Shooting at the protesters by men of the Nigerian Police even in the face of the peaceful protest didn’t work. Meetings with the top echelon of the Police by a few representatives of the youth haven’t in any way been re-assuring. It is even worrisome that an apology from the Vice President didn’t douse the tension. The matter don pass “be careful.”

What then can the issue be?
It will be wise for the authorities to understand that there is more to the #EndSARS protest. There seem to be bitterness in the hearts of so many towards the government. Within this protest period several people have been emboldened to share their sordid experiences with the Nigeria Police. This of course represents just an infinitesimal number of those constantly harassed by these men in black. It is therefore expected that the number of those who have chosen to keep quiet and allow their scary experiences fade away can only be imagined. What then would the experience have been with other arms carrying institutions, especially the non-military ones? Infact you’ll earnestly pray never to experience such. O boy na that time you go know say “oyo” and “o.y.o.” na two different things.

The truth which many fail to admit is that the activities of SARS portrays a microcosm of the entire Nigerian state. People wield and misuse power at every given opportunity. Pay a visit to some government owned hospitals, refuse to tip any of the staff and watch how you’ll spend several hours just to see a doctor. If you complain, it gets worse; you can be further delayed or told to come the next day because the doctor has some patients to attend to. If you escalate the issue to their authorities, you may not be attended to anytime in the nearest future. Your file simply disappears to oblivion. If dem tell you say “there was a mix up somewhere” wetin you wan do?

In most Nigerian tertiary institutions you’ll be subjected to several ridiculous practices both by academic and non-academic staff of your department and / or faculty. Speak up and you may not graduate with your peers. The system will somehow effectuate it. Just dey pray make senate or panel no table your matter.

There’s a vehicle document called “road worthiness certificate.” Without this document your vehicle can be impounded and the driver penalized. But then are the roads vehicle worthy? Have a brand new car driven in Nigeria for six months and watch how pitiable your hitherto admired machine may begin to look. You sef go pity for your moto.

How transparent are elections? Victory seems to be a reward for anyone who has the financial muscle to penetrate the hearts of his people often times with paltry sums, someone who can handsomely mobilize thugs to indulge in violence and one who is in the good books of the godfathers. Na the pattern be that.

Nigerian legislators are some of the highest earning politicians in the world. The children, relatives and associates of these politicians live in stupendous affluence. Juxtapose their earnings with that of a university Professor and get the consternation of your life. Come to think of it, the same Police men whose welfare are not taken care of, are also expected to in turn take care of our security? How laughable. Surely this is not to make an excuse for the Police but a point to provoke deep reasoning.

In Nigeria whether you’re given power supply or not, you must pay. Attempt to resist the crazy bill by not paying and then your power supply gets disconnected by the power holding officials, you’ll still pay. At the time prepaid meter was launched it was reportedly to be distributed free-of-charge or at worst at a give-away price. Today people pay heavily just to have it. E come be like say na o.y.o. we dey.

Several Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) have gone under due to multiple taxation. Most of which are carried out by illegal officials. Can you attempt getting the attention of the relevant authorities to such menace and not grease their palms? It’s seriously doubted. If you no co-operate you go tey for where you dey.

A while ago, publisher of a news agency, Sahara Reporters and Presidential aspirant in the 2019 general election, Omoyele Sowore was arrested for attempting #RevolutionNow protest. A number of pundits opined that he missed it based on semantics with the use of the word “revolution” which wasn’t well digested by the government. Perhaps his aim was to peacefully change the order of things in the Nigerian state but the message was misconstrued.

Today what he seemed to have attempted doing is being done by these set of young, peaceful and co-ordinated Nigerians. In most climes around the world a change in the order of events and administrative pattern were started by protests. Two things are clear; the protest clearly goes beyond ending SARS or Police brutality and of course history has been made.

While it is clear that the issues which have plagued the Nigerian state are so numerous, the underlying message which the protesters seek to pass across is for the government to immediately sit up and urgently reform the country. Will the authorities listen and act accordingly? Only time can tell.

Kingsley Ohajunwa is a Nigerian writer. His areas of interest are on socio-political and economic happenings in Africa and other parts of the world. Reactions to this and other articles of his can reach him via email on [email protected]

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