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The Lekki protest, deaths & matter arising

By Bernard Balogun (BenPino)

I have explained this many times over. That Lekki protest was good, decent and well organised. It was indeed legitimate protest and was applauded beyond the shores of Nigeria. It was a protest that sought to correct the ills of society, especially Police brutality. I have not met a Nigerian, in the lower class, that has applauded this government. The expression of dissatisfaction is quite noticeable on the faces of all. The hue and cry in the land is on the increase and that portends danger. The ravaging hunger is an invitation to anarchy, and poses serious threat not only to the elitist class but also to those in government. Are they concerned? I think so. Therefore, this exposition should not be seen as inciting but as a statement of fact and l encourage government to take this admonition in good faith. I am not here to condemn but simply worried. I have said so many times too. The government needs to embark on “fence-mending exercise, confidence building mechanism” to turn around the current lethargy, open distrust and negative perception that permeates the land at the moment. That is for the government on one hand.

Obviously, the #EndSARS protest was successful and in fact made far reaching demands that were quite attractive to a large section of Nigerians, including some government officials and the Police. In fact, on Sunday, October 18, 2020 l wrote a short article where l strongly advised that the youths should suspend the agitation. They have made their points so remarkably articulated and presented to those in authorities. I had thought, in my humble opinion though, they needed to give government time to work on their 5-point demand, which Governor Sanwo-Olu handed over to the President. The president himself had described the #EndSARS protest as legitimate and deserves a listening ear for its peaceful organisation and comportment. What else? I thought with such impressive and supportive remark from the number one citizen of the nation, which Governor Sanwo-Olu brought from Abuja was reassuring enough to merit suspension of the protest.

Permit me to digress a little to say a word about our young and dynamic Governor of Lagos State. Since his assumption of duty at Alausa, this is the second time Sanwo-Olu has proved to all and sundry that he is indeed an “expert in crisis management”. The first was during the Covid-19 crisis. He was on his toes and regularly briefed the media on milestone successes. The governor repeated that sterling leadership style, this time, in the face of obvious provocations and direct insults to his person and exalted office. He remained calm, receptive of all kinds of insult and organisational disrespect. His regular interface with the protesters proved worthwhile. And l commend him.

Now back to the main point. If there was hesitation or delay on the part of government, after the president had promised then there would have a need to resume the protest. You guys would have won the hearts of those who were ab nitio relunctant to support the protest and of course, that would have been your finest moment.

Regrettably, you guys insisted to continue. In fact, at that juncture, the initial initiators of #EndSARS had to honourably back out, when other members insisted carrying on was a good idea. Then, the infiltration of the group. At that point, the protest became rowdy, the organisers began to struggle to reclaim legitimacy and control of the situation, and of course, they knew they were fast losing the show unfortunately so. Subsequently, the carnage, the wanton destruction and thuggery set in. Brigandage took over in a scale that was glaringly overwhelming and frightening. The security agencies watched as impunity was on display in a proportion that far exceeded the 1966 experience, which was a prelude to the Nigerian civil war of 1966 to 1970. That was very sad and devastating in every direction.

On the whole, the bloodletting was and still is a very sad experience in the entire episode. I genuinely wish it had not happened. If the protester had walked away “when the ovation was loudest”, would we have had this wanton destruction and arson in our hands? Certainly not. The point must be made. I am not here to trade blames but to remind ourselves what we would have achieved if we had reasoned together, dispelled mutual suspection.

Our mutual suspection gave room to speculations and of course, fake news took over, helped to divide us further and indeed exacerbated the polity, in no small measure, consequenty patched the people against the government. The hoarding of food stuff dedicated to the masses hightened the already bad situation. This is certainly not the best of time in Nigeria.

Again, “cutting off the head, is that the solution to the headache”? It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in this quagmire. It is only right and proper, we find a way out of this unpleasant situation.

Finally, if the youths are genuinely desirous to wrestle power from their elders, they should form a political party and that is urgent as 2023 is almost at the corner. Good for them, they have the numerical strength and that is an advantage. I suggest the name – Youth Party of Nigeria (YPN). They must embrace this democratic route to political ascension and that must not fail. All these media hype will not take you guys any where. Scrupulous and conscientious planning are needed now. Ignore these promoters of fake news. It is diversionary. It is not helping the struggle. Let this lamentation end. Now is time to strategize for 2023. The Hong Kong model of youth protest should inspire any genuine youth organisation in Nigeria. The youths protest in Hong-Kong has lasted over 15months. They are friendly with the rest of the society members. They have not brought their economy to its kneels, which is quite good and remarkable. For me that is commendable.
The youths here are encouraged to have their independent minds. Ban these known politicians flirting with your political struggles. Please don’t give them the pleasant opportunity to infiltrate the group. Re-organise yourselves as a formidable party and identify your leaders. You should have leadership structure. Any youth, no matter his/her age, who has held political office in this country should be exempted. Any one above age 50 is disqualified. Dialogue is an important pillar in democracy. Just then, the actual journey for genuine actualisation of youths wrestling political power from their elders would have began. And that is what democracy encourages. Protest should take the back-seat.

Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja. 08037879275

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