Ways Nigeria will change for the better if the #EndSARS #EndSWAT protests are successful
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a heavily armed police unit to fight violent crime including car jackings and armed robbery, and has become synonymous across much of Nigeria with allegations of police brutality and impunity. Amnesty International and other rights groups have documented the unit’s alleged abuse of civilians including extortion, rape and extrajudicial killings. Many Nigerians complained that SARS frequently extorted young people who appeared to have disposable income.
For years, young Nigerians, mostly via social media, have called for the unit to be disbanded and rogue elements in the force brought to justice. Despite repeated promises by the government, they have failed to heed to their demands, triggering a new wave of protests that has now spread across the country. From demanding an end to SARS, prosecution of rogue police officers, and reforms; Protesters are more emboldened, threatening to continue if all their demands are not met. The government is scrambling to contain a situation that is escalating and could dangerously metamorphose into violent clashes with authorities, leading to loss of lives and destruction of properties.
The protests are being driven by the Nigerian youths and the wave of protests is the biggest display of people power in years in Nigeria as young people demand more sweeping changes. The demonstrations fit into an emerging global pattern of youth-led calls for change, from Hong Kong to Sudan and Chile. Protest groups have raised more than $250,000, setting up helplines for protesters in trouble, covering medical aid and providing private security.
At this point, it is good to begin to consider positive reasons why this protest must be upheld and seen to fruition. We need to begin to look at ways Nigerian lives will be better if the #EndSARS #EndSWAT protests are successful.
- There will be a drastic change in the mindset of the Nigerian political class
This being the first time such a thing is happening in Nigeria, the Nigerian political guys never expected it. Nigerians have been so quiet every time and they have been so used to getting away with all kinds of atrocities. Many of Nigerian politicians were shocked to see the energy, drive, tenacity, organization, mobilization, faith, unity, concept, ideology, metal prowess, and so on which the Nigerian youths have put into the #EndSARS / #EndSWAT protest. The fact that the youths are not agreeing to go off the streets just because the government said “We have heard you; we will do something about your grievances” is a scarier dimension for the politicians because what used to work (mere talks) suddenly has stopped working! If the EndSARS / End SWAT protests succeed, our politicians will be awakened to the consciousness that people can call them to question on their actions and/or inactions, and that becomes a caution for them – one of the greatest achievements of the protest so far.
- Nigerian will learn that the government can listen, and people will stop going into silence over matters, being afraid to speak up.
Firstly, the protest is not just about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It’s the result of pent-up anger over the dehumanizing policies of government, maladministration, injustice, hunger as well as high energy and fuel prices. The cumulative effect of these roll into one. That’s why the protesters refused to end their action. This moment in history is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to address critical national injustices – and many other issues of social importance, especially those over which the government has been adamant, and made failed promises over the years.
This generation of young Nigerians are doing a good job. There is good coordination, arrangements have been made for food and water as well as music to keep them busy. They have medical personnel on standby, ambulances and mobile toilets for convenience. They have also hired private security (bouncers) for protection, raised money and ensured properties are safe. They have also made it clear that they have no leader. This could be the result of mistrust of past leaders. And if the youths are successful in getting the Nigerian government to respond adequately, boom! Our eyes would have suddenly open to the fact that we a have a voice that counts, and that our politicians are not lords to be worshipped but our servants who are accountable to us. All of these will bring some level of unprecedented sanity into out polity and recklessness of our leaders which has led to the impoverishment of the Nigerian masses will be, at least, put in check and more justice can be gotten for the common man on so many issues that bothers on the socio-economic well-being of an average Nigerian.
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The youths would have ended up setting new standards in public governance
One thing that’s very clear from what we have seen so far from the EndSARS / EndSWAT protests and the excellent coordination thereof is that the youth are reinventing governance in Nigeria and bringing about a new culture of asserting rights among the citizenry.
The protests, managed by brilliant and resourceful Nigerian youths went on for 12 days without vandalization; 12 days of rejecting bribe, 12 days of caring and looking out for each other. 12 days of giving free medical care and legal services. Brands, both national and international, celebrities, churches all protested. Influential people were lobbied to add their voice. At the protest grounds, the Christians gave room for the Muslims to have their Jumat prayers. The Christians had their service on Sunday – all these happened at the protest grounds. There was a candlelight service held all over the nation for fallen heroes. Youths despite the hard economy spent their personal money cooking for each other. No one knew who was a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, or Edo. They ate together and danced together – in peace and harmony. For 12 days, these youths were organized without a formal leader with just social media tweets, retweets, post, shares and hashtags. For 12 days the youths built the Nigeria of our dreams, but it was the nightmare of our leaders. They got scared! They knew if the youths remained united, they would have one voice, and If they have one voice, they have power; and if the youths have that power, they would be empowered to demand for a better Nigeria from our leaders. Honestly, this sounds like a welcome development for our nation.
- Poverty level and youth unemployment will decrease and there’ll be more money to go round
Over 70% of the population of the EndSARS/EndSWAT protests are youths of under 30 years of age. Recent unemployment statistics stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of that figure. Young Nigerians are, therefore, the most affected by government policies that have led to a lack of jobs and meaningful sources for livelihood. Other triggers include the lavish lifestyle of political leaders. Imagine a despicable situation in which the government budgets more money for the members of the National Assembly than for the health and education sectors put together.
- Rest of mind and peace will return to our streets and society
If the EndSARS / EndSWAT protests become successful, and the total police reform, that has been so much clamored for, happens, young Nigerian will be safer on the streets of Nigeria. They will be able to about their businesses without the fear of being brutalized, harassed, unlawfully arrested, killed, injured, wrongfully detained, intimidated, traumatized, etc. by the same police officers who are originally meant to protect them from such vices.
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