STRICTLY OPINION: Sectionalizing and regionalizing the EndSARS Protest

By Ambrose Okehi (News Emperor)

Nigerian youths across the country past months engaged in a peaceful protest which later ended up in violence and claimed lives of many Nigerians as well as vandalazation and destruction of personal and government owned properties around the states of the federation.

Most states of the federation were negatively affected in one way or the other while many suffered terrible lost both in terms of material lost, economic lost and otherwise.

That protest that was one of the worst things that happened to the country in the recent time because the nation has not witnessed it like this in the in the history of this country. Particularly, this administration has not really witness or encountered this kind of protest while many saw as the mother of all protest in Nigeria.

Despite the fact that this kind of protest has not been witnessed in this part of the world ever since the existence of the country but came at a time the country is at the verge of breaking or disintegrating and was in a state of disarray. And for that reason, the protest embarked upon by the Nigerian youths supposed to be an opportunity of sober reflection, a time to learn a big lesson from the protest came to teach us (Nigerians and particularly out leaders). The protest supposed to have provided a ample opportunity for us amend the mistakes of the past, correct the misrule of the past administrations, make changes where necessary.

The October 2020 EndSARS engaged by the Nigerian youths was as a result of errors of the past and present leaders of the country. So for that reason, it would have been a time to apologize to the Nigerian youths whom most of them have suffered severe setback over the years due to unemployment and underemployment as a result of failure of the past governments to do the right things. It would been a time of rebuilding, healing and amending our old mistakes and shortcomings.

But regrettably, as we talk now federal government has constituted panel of enquiry into the protest and the killings and looting and is currently arresting the Nigerian youths that are frustrated and angry with the system and what they called bad governance. The government is busy now arresting and frozen the bank accounts of the suspected promoters of the EndSARS protesters. That is not good enough and may not be the best way to go about this or solving the problems of the youths (Nigeria).  

It is quite unbelievable that Nigerian youths were protesting for the police brutalities and their criminalities but the protest ended up witnessing another round of atrocities in the name of cruelty, massacre of the innocent Nigerian youth by men in uniform.

It is equally sad that when the other countries of the world and their democracies are really working hard on how to better their citizenry and move their economy forward, here in Nigeria our government and their security agents who supposed provide and protect the lives of the populace are busy killing and destroying lives.

The original aim of the demonstrators were not to become violent but it was when the agents of government were mobilized against the protesters and subsequently started killing the youths that the whole thing turned violent. Yes, it was when the peaceful demonstration was termed to be against the government that they sent in tugs, street unchains (area boys) hired protesters who later mixed up with the original protesters and turned the protest to unprecedented looting, killing, looting and destruction of government properties and peoples’ properties and thereabout turning the peaceful protest to a mere anarchy.

Though the protesting youths claimed of not having any leader and the reason was that once any visible leader/s were sighted, they will  automatically become the victims of the whole thing and government will turn against them. Though our political leaders did not get it right there is a reason for this protest. What they would have done is to try to find out what was the reason for the protest and try within their reach to address the issues the youths raised.                  

Regrettably, the number one citizen of the country, Mr. President did not respond to their protesters early enough. It was after the killing mostly the killing at Lekki Toll Plaza that President Buhari came out to address the nation and after his address there was no impact.  One would have expected the president to promptly come out immediately he saw his sons (Nigerian youths) protesting, come to say “ah my children what is that? No don’t protest anymore we are going to do this or that. We are going to fix this or that” That would have solved the problem. But the problem we have is that we have a government that doesn’t want anybody to stage any protest against them.

The Northerners have boldly came out to sectionalize the protest claiming that it is the South that was protesting. They also passed a vote of confidence on the Nigerian Police, saying that SARS has helped the North in the fight of Boko Haram insurgency.  You see it? Who is fooling who?  In a country were we claim to be one indivisible nation? Where we claim that we are one country? Where is the oneness?

Northern Gpvernors Forum did not waste time to say that the protest was against the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and wanted to topple his government. According to their Chairman, Simon Lalong of Plateau State, the Special Antii-Robbery Squad (SARS) which the youths were up in arms against has served the interest of the North. That it has helped the region in combating crime.  

When the 1966 Coup took place it did not take time before other Nigerians (Northerners and Westerners) turned it to be Igbo Coup when in the actual sense of it that coup was meant to benefit a Awolowo. And since today that coup was sectionalized and used against the Igbo after killing many of their innocent people.     

From what people said that the EndSARS has actually ended before the mobs hired to come and disrupt the protest came in and started burning properties and looking government warehouses and killing people. Not the real protesters but hired machineries that did most of the habvocs that took place within the period of the protest.

The Senate President Senator Lawal….. was said to have come out to say that Nigerian cannot afford another protest of that magnitude.

But what is government is doing to ensure that there is no other protest of such magnititude in this country?  As were write the only known things that the government of President Buhari is doing is to arrest and frozen the account of the promoters of the protest. People like Kalu Nwankwo, David …. Adeleke, Innocent Diabia popularly called Two Face Dibia, peter ….  And numerous of them have seen their accounts being frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). And alll these are showing and telling the youths that government cannot be trusted.

Middle Belt tell the federal government that it cannot end the EndSARS protest by intimidating Nigerian youths.. The people of the Middle Belt region of the country by this action is condemning the clamp down on the EndSARS protesters, saying it is not the best step to be taken by the government.

The Northern leaders came out at a time to say that the government of Muhammadu Buhari has fulfilled all the demands of the Nigerian youths during the protest. But that is a lie from the pit of hell. Instead of responding to the request made by these youths.  

ON Friday November 5, 2020 the operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) dispersed youths who went to National Assembly Complex to continue the protest. They gathered at the Assembly Complex to continue the EndSARS protest against Police brutality while demanding for the reform of the entire Police Force, particularly the country’s security architecture.

However, fired tear gas canisters to disrupt the mass action and force them out of the scene. The Friday protest was said to have led by Omoyele Sowere of the #Revolution Now protest calmed down and later vowed to  continue the protest until their demand are met.

Speaking about the thing that happened at the National Assembly Complex, Sowere said: “We have completed the process when the police came and attacked us. We were leaving and from nowhere they brought in more reinforcements and started attacking.”

As it is now the Afenifere Socio-cultural group, the Ohaneze Ndigbo and the pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Middle-Belt Forum, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as well  as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). All these bodies have all spoken against what they called freezing of the account of the EndSARS protesters (Promoters) and the regulation of social media.

The Governor of Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had earlier stated his mind over the freezing of the account of the promoters of the EndSARS protest, saying “Speaking very honestly, I don’t think there is anything wrong in it. Akeredolu is also the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum. The Governor said this during a programme Sunrise Daily on Channel Television recently.

Talking about the havoc of the so-called social media, the governor said: “When the hoodlums took over, a lot of fake news were fed to the public. People were reacting to it. It led to the destruction of properties in Lagos, Akure, everywhere. If we cannot be disciplined enough to be able to know that we don’t churn out news that can cause a lot of damage in the society, then the government itself must be proactive enough to find a way to control it.”

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, said: “This is a very shocking statement if truly the Ondo State Governor said that he sees nothing wrong in freezing the accounts of #EndSARS protesters and also supporting regulation of social media. It is really surprising that this is coming from a constitutional lawyer.”

The Country Director, Global Rights Nigeria, Abiodun Baiyewu, have it in this way: “In think we are in dire times and we must recognize that government is becoming so desperate and increasingly unreasonable.  Akeredolu, a SAN, ought to understand better the rule of law and what a basically decent society should look like. Apparently, he would rather be aligned to draconian governance than walking a straight path.”

On his own, the President and Founder Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria (PMNN), Yahaya Ndu pointedly said: “A bad workman always quarrels with his tools and the #EndSARS protest is, as far as I am concerned, a tool that can be turned to public good.”

He continued: “Why is it that it is easy for government to uncover and freeze accounts of supposed supporters of #EndSARS protests but the same government in five years has not unvoverd and frozen the account of sponsors of Boko Haram.”

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin was not happy with what the governor said over the freezing of the accounts of the supporters of the #EndSARS protesters and he had it in this way: “The Governor was the president of NBA, who should not lend his weight to tyranny. He is backing illegal freezing of constitutionally recognized protesters accounts while the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Malami is asking the United Arab Emirate (UAE), to give him the records of trials of Nigeria \n Boko Haram funders in UAE so he can determine whether justice was done. I don’t think Mr. Governor with his pedigree would say indiscriminate freezing of accounts like a junta is an idea of justice.”

The Middle-Belt Forum (MBF) said the governor is really working against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Is he (Governor Akeredolu) saying they should be prosecuted? That is very sad.  It is sad; it means he is not even a democrat.  He is not living in Democracy. He is living in authoritarian government and not democracy.”

Dr. Ralph Nduka, the Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) tried to defend their own and was of the opinion that the governor must have spoken from an informed position.

The Governor is cerebral. I believe that whenever he speaks he speaks from an informed position. But then, the average Nigerian finds it difficult to believe the government and those acting on its behalf, the timing of all those acting on its behalf. The timing of all these actions speaks volumes. People protested peacefully which is legal and allowed by the law, the government gave an impression that they have heard the complaints of the protesters, the protesters were skeptical and demanded that concrete steps be taken.”

According to him, “Up till date, nothing concrete has been set in motion to address their agitations, except to hound some visible protesters. Does it give an impression that our government actually listened to the issues raised by the protesters? Definitely not. The average observer will simply conclude that the government sees any raised voice and thus ensure that no voice speaks up against any wrong going on in the society.”

For the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the federal government should treat the issue of #EndSARS protest with utmost care.  The National Chairman of the PANDEF, Air Commodore Indongesit Nkanga, (Rtd.) said: “Let’s be very honest. Some of the governors cannot stand up for the rights of their people in this country. They stand up and say things that will fester their nest. Maybe they have something they are looking for from the central government or from the party in the centre, so they have to play down the issue at the detriment of their people.

 Air Commodore Indongesit Nkanga, (Rtd.) who is also a onetime military governor of Akwa Ibom State further added that: “And the destiny of this country I am afraid is not in the hands of governors. If we leave it in the hands of the governors, we may have cause to lament. We don’t know how some of them got into power, so they have to play to the gallery sometimes.                 

He advised the FG thus: “My advice is for the Federal Government to make sure they treat this issue with utmost care. Those young men that protested stated their reason, so the Federal Government should make sure it does what is right, regardless of what a what governor or anybody for that matter says , so we don’t have a second wave of the issues.”

On the freezing of the accounts of the protesters by the Federal Government,  the Ohaneze Ndigbo specifically criticized it, saying it is against the law, and warning that such actions of the government may trigger another round of protest across the country.  

In a joint statement signed by the Acting Secretary of the group, Prince Uche Achi-Ogbaga the Media Adviser to Nnia John Nwodo, the President of Ohaneze National president, Nnia John Nwodo, Emeka Attamah, said there was no need to freeze the accounts of the protesters.

According to the statement, “Protest is a legitimate weapon of complaint in a democracy. The right to protest any perceived negative action of government or organization is upheld in the constitution of the country. Mr. President (Buhari) admitted and confirmed that during the #EndSARS protest. In fact, President Buhari himself led many protests against former president Goodluck Jonathan.

“The #EndSARS protest was peaceful and legitimate until some hoodlums were sent in to distrupt it and make it violent. So freezing the accounts of the alleged leaders of the protest is high-handed, ill-advised and unnecessarily vindictive.”

While responding to questions during a media chart with the newsmen at the end of the last week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who said he was constrained to speak on the matter later told the newsmen that for the fact that state governments have set up panels of enquiries over the matter, that if he speaks on it such comments will sound as guess or trying to defend or proffer answers will be improper.

“So, any attempt from me now to second guesses or try to defend or proffer answers to any questions would be improper.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *