#ENDSARS: MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS By: Prof. Usman Yusuf
1. Let us be clear, the #ENDSARS protests across the nation was nothing but an attempt by some selfish individuals to rattle the cage for the Presidential Ticket in 2023. Failing that, they planned to make the country ungovernable to make room for an undemocratic regime change or cause total anarchy in the land leading to the breakup of the country. These are the same people that have been reaping from this country, where they have not sown. None of them has sweated, bled or lost a comrade in the battlefield for the unity of this country we call home.
2. The planners, instigators and sponsors of these protests had a pool of ready recruits in impressionable, internet savvy youths who have been sitting bored at home out of Universities for months due to ASUU strike and also closure of NYSC Camps due to COVID-19 pandemic. Other ready recruits were jobless youths, Yahoo-boys, Internet fraudsters, criminals and members of the proscribed terrorist Organisation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
3. These IPOB hoodlums were unwitting recruits used as the brainless muscles on the streets and deceived into thinking they could achieve their dream of Biafra by killing, maiming and arson. They were egged on by the voice of their leader Nnamdi Kanu who is living comfortably in the safety of his hideout somewhere outside the country. In audio clips of his voice on Biafra radio, he could be heard urging his callers and listeners to kill Policemen and destroy properties. His chilling call to violence was reminiscent of such inciting voices on Rwandan airwaves in 1994 that resulted in the gruesome genocide in that country. I was shocked but not surprised by the belated condemnation of IPOB and it’s leader by Igbo leaders who have tolerated him for far too long. Now is the time for real leaders to speak up loud and clearly against this terrorist Organisation and its leader, not sit on the fence.
4. Nigerians and indeed the whole World have been sold the lie that #ENDSARS movement was a “spontaneous”, “leaderless” youth revolt against Police brutality. While no one can defend or accept Police brutality anywhere and no one can deny the pent up anger and frustrations of our youths about the state of our nation and their future, there is a lot more than meets the eye about these #ENDSARS protests. The call for scrapping SARS was in my opinion used only as a convenient decoy for the ulterior motives of the faces behind the masquerade. The rapid sequence of events and logistical support available to these protesters particularly in Lagos leave more questions than answers.
5. SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:
a). On October 3: The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye said from the pulpit; “Why Nigeria must restructure or risk breakup”.
b). On October 7: The Speaker House of Reps. announced new Police legislation in 30 days.
c). On October 8: #ENDSARS protests started from Lagos.
d). On October 11: The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) swiftly banned SARS and accepted the 5-point demands of the “leaderless” protesters.
e). On October 12: President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on #ENDSARS.
f). On October 13: The Lagos State Governor was flown into Abuja to meet with and present to the President the demands of these so called “leaderless” protesters.
g). On October 14: The Speaker House of Reps. announced on the floor of the House that he would not support the 2021 National budget if it does not contain compensation for victims of SARS.
h). On October 17: The Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, apologised to #ENDSARS protesters.
i). On October 18: The Senate President and Speaker House of Reps. met with the President on #ENDSARS
j). On October 22: The President addressed the nation again on #ENDSARS.
6. Nigerians will attest to the fact that the rapid sequence of events listed above is the fastest that this government has responded to any pressing national issue bedevilling this country. The explanation for this rapid-fire coordinated response by the executive and legislative arms of government may not be unconnected with the fact that #ENSARS protesters have powerful advocates in the corridors of power of this government that thousands of victims of the ongoing carnage of Banditry and Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria do not.
7. LOGISTICAL SUPPORT: The vast logistical support swiftly available to the protesters particularly those in Lagos debunks the lie that the movement had no sponsors. They were served sumptuous home cooked meals and drinks with some carrying logos of major national banks. Other support included branded Clothing, Drones, Ambulances, Online FM radio station (Soro Soke), Solar-powered Phone Chargers, Private Security, support of Entertainers and mobilization of local and international crowds. There was also support and funding arrangements by international Companies like Twitter, funding for national and international media coverage, outreach to foreign governments and World bodies,
8. CONSEQUENCES: The protests released an orgy of brutal killings, gruesome lynching of Policemen, arson of government and private properties, disruption of life and businesses, looting, ethnically biased insults, hate speeches, desecration of Oba of Lagos’s Palace and worsening of the ethnic and religious divide in the country. The degeneration of these peaceful protests into harvests of deaths and destruction in all the three geopolitical zones in the South posed an existential threat to our National Security and exposed the fragility of Nigeria as a single national entity.
9. “MASSACRE” AT LEKKI TOLLGATE: The current narrative to Nigerians and the rest of world is that there was a massacre by the Nigerian Army at Lekki Tollgate on the night of Tuesday, 20-10-2020. The questions on the lips of all well-meaning Nigerians are: where are the dead bodies of those killed?, where are the families of the victims?, where are the graves of the dead? and Nigerians have not seen any funerals. The Lagos State Governor visited all local hospitals but has not shown Nigerians any corpses in any of these hospitals. Could this be the first massacre without dead bodies? These and many more questions need to be answered in a transparent manner before any healing can begin.
A. The speaker House of Reps. made it clear that he would not support the passage of the 2021 budget if it does not make provision for compensation to families of the victims of SARS. The Lagos State Governor went around the city to assess the damage in the city and I suspect that he will ask the FGN to settle the bill.
B. I would call on all the Northern State Governors to set up a Panel of Inquiry that will do a comprehensive assessment of the cost inflicted to their people by Bandits and Boko Haram. This should include the total number of people injured, killed, women raped, villages razed, cattle rustled, number of people in IDP Camps, farm products lost, number of people still in kidnappers dens and ransoms paid to kidnappers. They should demand that the FGN pay compensation to all victims and their families because it is the failure of the FGN to live up to its constitutional obligation of providing security that resulted in their sufferings and losses.
C. Northern Governors should also demand of their Southern states counterparts to pay full compensation to their indigenes that were injured, killed or whose businesses and properties were destroyed during #ENDSARS protests. It is commendable that the Honourable Minister of the FCT while on assessment tour of the city, promised to pay compensation to businesses mostly owned by Igbos that were needlessly destroyed in the FCT during the protest.
D. It was heart breaking to watch video clips of the brutal and senseless lynching of Policemen. I call on the Federal Government to bring the perpetrators of these dastardly acts to justice and fully compensate the families of all the law enforcement officers that lost their lives during these protests.
11. It is commendable that youths in Northern Nigeria remained largely peaceful in spite of some provoking video clips of ethnically-tinged violence in the South East and South South circulating in the social Media. Peace in the region was brought about by the quite but swift and proactive interventions of Traditional, Religious and Community leaders. This is a testimony to why sane voices of respected community leaders must be heard loud and clearly very early in any crisis.
12. There were frenzied calls, mostly from the South for the President to address the nation which he did on Thursday, 22-10-2020. I must confess that I was one of many that was strongly against him addressing the nation because I did not think it would satisfy the nay sayers. Well, he spoke but as expected, he was criticised for not mentioning Lekki.
13. Let me put things in perspective for Nigerians to see why #ENDSARS protests or the President addressing the nation on it were not our priority in the North. About thirty percent (30%) of Katsina State, the President’s home state, is under siege by bandits, hundreds of people have been killed, women raped, villages razed down, cattle rustled, people kidnapped, people scared off their farms and Katsina, the capital city, is now a huge IDP camp. The President has never publicly acknowledged these atrocities and our sufferings, sent emissaries to the people, put in a call to the Emir or visited the state to condole the people and its leaders. He has never addressed the nation on the ongoing carnage in the North West but did so twice on COVID-19 and now twice on #ENDSARS protest.
14. A day after the Lekki Toll gate “massacre”, twenty (20) villagers were massacred in their sleep by bandits in Zamfara and many more are being killed every day all across Northern Nigeria from Adamawa to Zamfara. There was no acknowledgement of this massacre or outrage from anyone, not even the government that was bending over backwards to appease and apologise to #ENDSARS protesters. This sort of insensitivity of our Southern compatriots and the government, headed by our son, to the sufferings of the people in the region is a source of seething anger particularly among our youths.
15.THE WAY FORWARD:
I. A dose of humility: The President should see this moment as a second chance to reconnect with the sufferings of our people particularly the restive youths. He must listen to, be responsive to and speak more often to all Nigerians.
II. To all Governors, this should serve as a wake-up call because the youths have awoken and will not accept business as usual. You must start investing in the people by addressing corruption, unemployment, poverty, deplorable state of schools and hospitals, out of school children, Almajirai, drug abuse, banditry, insurgency, religious extremism, hate speech, fake news and many other societal evils.
III. Governments at all level must be proactive in their strategic intelligence gathering and tactical response so as to always nip this and similarly dastardly acts in the bud.
IV. Government must find a way of engaging youths by creating equitable employment opportunities for all. The current trend where only the children of politicians, top government officials and other well-connected Nigerians get employed in agencies like the NNPC, CBN, FIRS, Uniformed Services, Intelligence Agencies, the Armed Forces and other government agencies is simply unacceptable and a recipe for a more violent revolt by unemployed youths.
V. Industrial strike by University lecturers Union ASUU must be urgently resolved to allow resumption of classes in our Universities. NYSC Camps should also be reopened. In the light of these #ENDSARS protests, the government must guarantee the safety of all Youth Corp Members posted all across the country.
VI. Full investigation of the root causes of these protests, all lives lost (Civilians & Security Agents) and the extent of damages to public and private properties.
VII. Full investigation of the promoters and sponsors (foreign and domestic), instigators and perpetrators of arson and murders.
VIII. Government must reach out and make peace with the Police Force because they are aggrieved with very low morale with some of their comrades gruesomely killed. The entire Police Force has been vilified for the mistakes of a few. No nation can afford to alienate it’s Police and expect to live in peace and security. These protests have clearly shown us the distinction between no policing and poor policing. Police reforms should be holistic and strategic not cosmetic like just renaming SARS to SWAT.
IX. IPOB, Biafra Radio and Nnamdi Kanu: This terrorist Organisation and its leader are a threat to Nigeria’s National Security. The Federal Government should seek for Nnamdi Kanu’s extradition from his hideout to face justice. Also, any person, persons or group in Nigeria giving him or his proscribed terrorist organization any form of support must be made to face the full weight of the Law. All his foreign supporters must be unearthed and be dealt with according to appropriate international law.
X. Escaped Prisoners: Federal and State governments must make the apprehension of these escaped convicts an urgent priority because they pose a threat to our National Security.
XI. COVID-19 Palliatives: There is hunger in the land and the scenes of youths ransacking warehouses of foodstuffs meant as palliative for COVID19 say it all. Ordinary Nigerians now strongly believe that State Governors were hoarding these foodstuffs either to resell to in the markets or use them as political tool after rebagging the rice with their faces branded on the bags. Hungry people are not in any mood to listen to any other explanations from their Governors. The President will in my humble opinion, win back millions of hearts and minds of the people particularly the youths if he directs all Governors to immediately distribute all these hoarded foodstuffs to people because I can bet my life he does not know that foodstuffs meant for people are being hoarded. It is also in the best interests of all Governors and their security to give back to the people that which is theirs without delay.
XII. Healing: These protests have widened the ethno-religious chasm in this country, it has shaken the foundation of trust between our people and has laid bare the fragility of Nigeria as a single national entity. Healing will be slow and requires our collective efforts. Political, religious, community leaders, the media, all have a role to play. Now is the time to be calm, civil, clear headed and frank in discussion of our pressing national issues. Nigeria is bigger than any person or group of persons. Nigerians especially the youths are now on the edge, next time, it won’t take much to set off an inferno. A stitch in time, saves nine.
May God Almighty bring peace to our land, heal our wounds and guide us to do that which is right and just, Amin. Usman Yusuf is a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation.
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