The EndSARS protests that have spread to every part of Southern Nigeria and some parts of the North started after the emergence of a video of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers allegedly killing a man went viral. The video incensed Nigerian youths, some of who had been subjected to needless and senseless harassment by SARS officers, who turned every laptop-bearing and iphone-holding young man into an armed robbery or internet fraud suspect. The hash-tag, #EndSars, soon gained traction globally with international musicians, sports legends and international statesmen identifying with the movement.
So much was the spread and impact of the protest that the usually unmoved government responded swiftly to arrest the further spread of the protests. Inspector General of the Police, Mohammed Adamu, speedily announced the disbandment of the police unit and directed that all SARS personnel should report in Abuja for psychological evaluation before being posted to other units or formations of the police. He later announced the replacement of SARS with the Special Weapon and Tactics Team (SWAT), arguing that it was unsafe to leave a vacuum after the dissolution of SARS.
President Muhammadu Buhari also had a broadcast to assuage the feelings of the angry youth and said the dissolution of SARS was the first step in the reformation of the police to make it comply with the demands of modern day policing. Similarly, a number of state governors have been up and doing to curtail the spread of the protests.
However, despite the dissolution of SARS and the demobilisation of its officers, Nigerian youths have refused to leave the streets. They have been unrelenting in the protests and their demand that the government needs to do more than it is currently doing to make Nigeria work better for Nigerians. Seeing the success their agitation concerning the maltreatment meted out to youths by SARS officers had produced, they believe that they can push for more and get more from the government. The youth who have been denied of benefits of their citizenship for so long are now putting a demand to the government concerning this. That is the spirit behind the #End SARs protest and until this is addressed, the protesters may not back down.
This is a protest against the current order, it is a revolution. Revolution begins when there is a consistent expression of frustration against the prevailing order. That is what we have currently in Nigeria.
History teaches that revolution can come in two ways; through the leadership or the people. The one that comes from the leadership is manageable and may therefore, to an extent, be predictable, but not so the one championed by the people. For a people-inspired revolution, anything is possible. For a people-powered revolution, the leadership is usually the victim. For a people-championed revolution, the casualty rate is often high. For a people-controlled revolution, there may not be a well-defined leadership and everyone does what is right to them and that is why the casualty rate is high. We have seen examples of people-powered revolution in Libya, Tunisia and a few other countries and the outcome is anything but palatable.
The only thing that can stop a people-championed revolution is a leadership-initiated revolution. So, rather than cautioning and warning against a revolution that is already here, the current leadership should take the initiative to turn the evolving revolution in the country into a leadership-controlled one so that the process could be well-managed. Instead of allowing the incensed members of the society to express their disaffection in a violent and disorganised manner, the leadership should provide the platform where the issues engendering the anger of the people against the leaders would be discussed freely and solutions proffered. That can only be done in a national conference. No matter how long we run away from it, we still have to come back to it, without convoking a national conference to discuss the terms of our coexistence, the problems we have might consume us.
For those who are of the view that the National Assembly should be able to handle that because they represent the people, the fact staring all of us in the face is that members of the National Assembly side with the people only when it is convenient for them. In most cases, they fight their personal battles at the assembly and leave the people as sheep without any caring shepherd. Most federal legislators would prefer the retention of the status quo and for that; the National Assembly is ill-fitted to discuss these matters.
Aristotle described two types of revolution; one in which there is a complete change of one constitution for another and one which is just a modification of an existing constitution. If the leadership of the country would move in time and convoke a conference of the peoples of Nigeria, what we are likely going to have is a tinkering with the constitution to accommodate the new realities as defined by the people. But if it dithers and allows the evolving masses-led revolution to continue, we might find ourselves in a situation where we would have a complete change of the constitution. What that would portend for individual members of the Nigerian society is hidden in the womb of the future.
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