Without doubt, the #EndSARS protest which engulfed the country is a metaphor that encapsulate everything wrong with Nigeria, which, in the long run, would reshape the contours and structure of power and governance in the country.
As most will agree, what started off as an online protest against the notoriety of SARS— a police unit, in brutalizing innocent Nigerians has evolved, quiet subtly to a cry against decades-long maladministration in post-independence Nigeria.
The technologically-charged 21st century has beckoned! Again, globalization has proven to, unwittingly strike a cord or balance on how nations can learn, act and behave in unison, in the pursuit of justice.
From the Arab Spring in 2010, to the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, in 2014, and, most recently, the Black Lives Matter, BLM in the US; citizens continue to speak out, in search for justice freedom and equality.
The #EndSARS movement has begun to revolutionize our collective ways of thinking and ignite the debate on national questions, like; structures of power, policy formulation, security and uneven distribution of resources.
Most of the developed Western economies we adore attained these milestones via an elaborate and transparent process of, an uneven distribution of wealth, by creating the middle-class and provision of socal security.
The #ENDSARS had reawakened the laziness in the youth, it has revived the dying resilience and doggedness which accompanied youthful valor. And, most importantly, it has revved up a dying psyche, especially of youths in my region— North.
Described as the land of plenty, the North is an epitome of decorum, peace and harmony.
Richly endowed with mineral deposit, fertile and cultivable land, the North has an enviable cultural heritage and values despite its diversity. Simple and accommodating, these and many more, are features which characterized northern Nigeria, and it is well documented.
But at the turn of the century, the North has become the theater of intra-tribal and ethnic clashes, banditry, kidnappings and other forms of criminality.
How did we end up here, what eroded the tranquility within which the North is identified with? The mindless bloodletting is worrisome and mind boggling.
From incessant massacre and sacking of communities in the North-west, to the constant clashes between Fulani herders and crop-growers in North-central, and, the unending Boko Haram attacks in Northeast and the fringes of the Lake Chad, the scenario is grim and scary.
Conversely, these are some peculiar malaise the North, as a region had to contend with, and are outrightly, our plight. In all spheres, every regions in the country has unique or particular challenge.
As such, when the majorly southern youths started the #EndSARS, it was uniquely a malaise bedeviling their region. The excesses of SARS operatives has been one major problem they resolve must be but to an end.
The North’s seeming pro-SARS stance had caused ripples especially in social media space. To a southerner, the North hadn’t shown solidarity enough to give the protest a national, or global appeal.
The thinking in the south is; the North has been the stumbling block in reaching true federalism and statehood, because, what they consider a “national protest” has not really gain momentum up north.
The North, as espoused earlier had it’s peculiarities which is combating insecurity in the region. That is not to say, the North has completely failed to aligned with the south at the point of need.
Last June, a group of northern youths under the auspices of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, organized protest in Katsina ostensibly to draw the attention of authorities to halt the senseless killings in the state. Similar protests were held in Zamfara and other Northern states.
Unlike the #EndSARS protest, the Police, DSS and other security agencies rounded up and detained the leadership of the protesters.
These protest were under-reported, and the national outlook was nothing close to the #EndSARS. But, on the whole, the conscious effort by these northern groups were stifled.
The visible distinct which played out between both region is; while the Southern youths had their celebrities, political and religious leaders staunchly on their side; on the flipside, the Northern youth has not.
Infact, most political and religious leaders in the North are quick to castigate and refer to protesters as miscreants and other unsavory names. Some clerics went as far as alluding to as, un-Islamic, any form of protest or revolt against established authorities.
The #EndSASRS had obliterated the yoke, which had hitherto held the Northern youth down. It has proven that, power truly resides in the hands of a united majority. And the youths are in the majority.
Buoyed by all these, hashtags and other online movement had begun to emerge from the North. #ENDINSECURITY IN THE NORTH, #SECURENORTH, #ACHECHIJAMA’A, #NORTHERNLIVESMATTER—these, and many more are emerging realities, and peculiarities associated with the North. And, people are speaking up.
Protest against killings in the North are springing up daily in major State capitals across the region. That in a way, is a Northern solidarity with #EndSARS largely in the south.
But, there is a caveat — both protest, whether in the North or South has to be clearly defined, structured and articulated. One cannot demand his right, while trampling on another’s.
These protest must be defined — like, having a time frame, points or places of protest. The blockage of major roads and highways are utterly huddle.
A protester must bear in mind, the universality of opinion, no one MUST aligned with his opinions or worldview, as such, some might be against the very reason he or she is protesting.
People must be allowed free movements and, access to their places of work and businesses. Major blockade on highways and government building is not the way to go.
Again, structures of the protests must be known, which would provide leadership, and direction for eventual negotiations.
All protests world over has got leadership structures that constantly dialogue with authorities. Essence of protest are to drive home a demand, and, eventually both parties meet. Unfortunately, #EndSARS has begun to assume a dangerous dimension.
Just last week, OYO Governor escaped assassination during the protests, that clearly proved the motive of the protest is eroded. Hoodlums, criminals, political jobbers and, more dangerously, the international actors (both state and non-state) are subtly taking over.
Protests are largely a window which reveals what we are, and how we are, in the eyes of the world.
Weird looking near-nude pictures of protesters are all over the space, funny looking and, vulgar captions were flown around. Machete- wielding youths were spotted protesting which, further demonstrate the dangerous dimension it took.
Days into the the #EndSARS protest, we ought to see some positive signs from the protesters as government on it’s part acceded to all demands. SARS has been disbanded, the 5 on 5 met, that should put an end to, or, subdue the protests, that way, non-protesting citizens could go about their respective activities.
Protesters should converge in an isolated venues like Parks, Stadium, Squares etc; to allow civility and normalcy return. The protests cannot be endless, there must be timeframe which would ultimately allow for negotiations. World over, protests and agitations usually end up at the negotiating table.
#EndSARS must assume same. If for any reason the protests must continue, it must be in an isolated areas which would allow an unhindered freedom of movement and association for protesters and non-protesters, while negotiations are ongoing.
For those angling for change of government, it’s rather too brash! You cannot change a legitimate and democratically elected government. Government of the day’s legitimacy reverberate amongst Police nations of the world, (5 permanent members of UNSC).
Therefore, it’s better to stay focus and true to the course, which in my thinking is beyond just SARS — but a deep and systemic question of bad governance, uneven distribution of wealth and above all — Hunger!
Government must allow citizens the right and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. It rather should concern herself with how to tackle myriads of problem raised by #EndSARS, #SECURENORTH, #ACHECIJAMA’A.
Security operatives must be tactful and professional in handling protesters, that way, it’s imminent they’d arrived at a win-win situation with zero causality.
To my Arewa brothers, while on #ENDINSECURITYIN NORTH and #Achecijama’a, we must do things differently while driving home our demands in a more unique, and civil manner.
Government on her part must desist from intimidating and harassing protesters using Yandabas, street urchins and hoodlums.
Afterall, these atrocious tendencies brought upon the protests.
Mohammed is with the Department of Political Acience and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria.
He writes from Kano