EndSARS: Quarter-To-Midnight in Nigeria

The cerebral Professor of political science, Bolajji Akinyemi, did this beautiful ones about the UN disaster clock during the June 12 political crisis in 1993. He talked about the measuring rod of the temperature of a disaster-prone country. The clock is put at a quarter-to-midnight when the country is fully at the edge.

A few days after Nigeria did what it usually does with organised labour whenever it pretends to take on issues relating to the welfare of the downtrodden, suddenly came a great protest the ruling class had no answer to in form of the ENDSARS agitation.

The movement was faceless but shook the country to its foundations.

A ruling class not blessed with more than a brain that would put a country in a perpetual crisis mode could not decode what was going on. It couldn’t decode that the anger against the excesses of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) was a summary of the frustration with a badly mismanaged country that offers no good thing to its citizens.

That the mindset that put a country in the kind of crisis Nigeria is into cannot get it out of it was shown clearly when the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, blamed the nationwide crisis on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). A few days before Dr Ngige made the blunder, a young talented Nigerian had put some funny stuff on the internet as he called a police station to report a man who sold fake Indian hemp to him. It was not that he wanted the police to arrest the man. All he wanted was the police to direct him to where the SARS guys source their original hemp … But after the blame on ASUU of the discontent poured by a frustrated society, it was clear the gentleman had yet to locate the people he should ask where to get Indian hemp that makes the real ta-ta-ta.

The anti SARS campaign in another sense reveals the fundamental division in Nigeria sustained by the ruling class to keep Nigerians permanently divided. From 1953 when the Action Group moved the motion for Independence in 1956 and northern parliamentarians opposed and walked out, it has been ‘no agreement today, no agreement tomorrow’ in Nigeria. The ruling elite have promoted the disagreeable mode so that Nigerians would never agree on anything.

It was not accidental that those The Punch called “northern fundamentalists”  attacked the protesters in Abuja to give the impression that the Northern president has support even on evil in the North. This was capped by Governor Simon Lalong coming out to say that northern Governors are in support of SARS. This no-brained was to give the North-South dichotomy even on issue that has to do with the sanctity of human life.

No matter the manipulations of the ruling class, the anti SARS campaign has shown that Nigeria can no longer be ruled in the old way and that something will give at some point. We are close to the Nigerian spring sooner than later and the people shall take all the shenanigans in the land for not too long. Whether the ruling class will turn  what is supposed to be a revolution to a civil war is yet to be seen. But to think the people will continue to do “meeeen sir” like goats to all the atrocities of their oppressors for ever is a dry joke. The ENDSARS campaign is a build-up on “Occupy Nigeria” which we organised in 2012. The only difference is that the protest is deregulated this time with more innovations by the young folks who are totally fed up with the system.

One of the young protesters set me thinking on Wednesday when he said to me when he illustrated how bad things had become in Nigeria. He said his doing an MBA showed him how totally dysfunctional Nigeria had become. “The whole MBA idea is a mess, totally irrelevant to our reality. The Nigerian business model is unteachable. Those who bought from you yesterday would not buy from you today for no reason.”

The rulers cannot take out from this mess with the very ideas with which they sink us into it. We need a transformational leadership that can think out of the box to take Nigeria out of the present morass.

If Nigeria does not quickly embrace a new paradigm and embrace rapid development, it can only perish as its present trajectory is not sustainable. The generation that will say enough is here and they are already on the march.

One of the biggest voices in support of the anti-SARS movement has been the Ooni of Ife. The post reads: “I understand your plight. My 25-year-old daughter had a nasty experience with SARS, almost losing her life. On her way to the airport, she was stopped and terribly ransacked and surrounded by fully armed plain clothes policemen in a bus, detained for close to 30 minutes of thorough questioning. Imagine a young female for that matter, all her belongings completely searched all because she was with a laptop on an official assignment from her office in Lagos. I can only imagine the countless ones that have lost their lives from such ordeals, may their souls rest in peace.

“I assure you that this is the beginning of greater things to come in Nigeria. I implore you to demand more but plead with you to do so in a peaceful manner, as anything outside of that will cause unnecessary havoc for all. I have been informed of many innocent souls that were arrested and currently being detained, be rest assured that I am pursuing the matter and they will be set free.

“To the men and women of the Nigerian Police Force, be assured that this movement is also for you. We know you are humans also and your reality is as a result of your environment. This movement demands better on your behalf and is aimed at pushing the government to do better for you and elevate your standard of living. Do not persecute your advocates,” Ooni had said.

Dr Kayode Fayemi, Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, has made a great point about the haste with which the police replaced SARS with SWAT. It is not a reflective swap.

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