BY USSIJU MEDANER
It is difficult to easily move away from the event of the last few weeks in Nigeria; the ENDSARS protest and the accompanied destruction that symbolised its aftermath and become the memory of what so many have come to realised as a planned attempt to forcefully bring the country to its knee for certain political elements to gain control over the nation. In fact, we cannot move away from the manifestation of the height of hatred and impunity against the country, until it has become clear what role is played by all recognised actors in the outing from all sides, inclusive of the government and its forces.
This has continuously propelled me to find reportable insights to the unholy events and the individuals behind them. What is the role played by each of the individuals who without accepting the leadership nomenclature practically assume the leadership and coordinating position on the protest? Who is or are the sponsors of the entire charade – like a movie?
And finally, what could be the prompting factor that would drive us against our own nation; and make destroying our own heritage acceptable to us? Why I do not possess ultimate answers to the many questions that bother me as a Nigerian, I will present in this piece what I have recognised as an undeniable reason while I posit to ask several germane questions that could supply the answers we may all want .
The only constant and recurring denomination in Nigerian over the last six decades is the multiplications of unexplainable anomalies that have been hindering the nation’s deserved development. Consciously, and for many unconsciously as Nigerian citizens, we have been the actors of actions that are both irrational and unexplainable by rational thinking faculties that negatively impact the nation’s development and growth but which we enjoy and continue to propagate at will.
We see Nigerians wilfully engaging in acts that retrogressively damage the country’s capacity and potential for growth and enduring development; and yet enjoy the act while we equally frown at the consequences from other perspectives.
I have taken time to uncover underlying factors as to why Nigerians behave in ways that negatively impact their own survival and that of the nation. I have seen and witnessed at a vantage, the burdensome perpetuation of acts that rob the nation mercilessly; Nigerians who stole – and stealing – accumulating wealth they have no need for. I see individuals build and buy mansions in all states and nations of the world and fill garages with cars as toys that give personal satisfaction in a society filled with the poor who cannot afford daily meals and houses over their head.
And I have come to the realisation that we are a people going through the rite of gross but unspoken insanity and dragging the nation along into insanity with us. This has been a recurrence for the last sixty years that we have lost control of patriotism and become deluded with the insatiable urge for personal satisfaction. When in the height of our lost sanity, we begin to place the nation and other existing entities in its sphere as secondary; when we find it comfortable to hurt the nation, its systems and people without remorse. There could be only one reason why we will brazenly organise to rise in arms against our own nation and kill our fellow citizens in numbers and presume we have genuine and acceptable reasons to fight for whatever we think we are fighting for; whether we called it Boko Haram or militancy or IPOB. There could be only one reason why the ENDSARS protest would translate to the destruction we witnessed; while the likes of DJ Switch and her ilk would choose to engineer fake videos and tweets that partly incited the country leading to casualties and the mammoth destruction of properties.
There is only one reason why some supposed respected elders and statesmen would become pleased to see the nation boiling and prefer to align with the elements who are hitting on the nation. There is only one reason why we will conveniently take side with corrupt individuals in the country, swearing to defend them to all heavens while we are the immediate victims of the former’s crimes against the country. There is only one reason why university dons will be okay with closing universities for a whole year because they want to decide how their employer would pay them. There is only one reason why malpractices are acceptable norms in our entire system and ridiculing upright men and women who choose the path of righteousness is the standard. There is only one reason why in the name of politics and desire for political power, we organised and enjoyed the operation of supposed herders killing innocent Nigerians in select states of the federation. There could be only one reason why elections are held in America, a candidate won by a landslide popular votes and electoral votes and a Nigerians politician, Fani-kayode will keep urging the loser of the race not to accept defeat. And that reason is that we are unacceptably insane. It is only insanity, temporal or permanent that will make a learned man with understanding of laid down processes yet spewing gibberish of rejecting an election result without a singular, existing evidence of malpractices beyond the ones they assumed exist.
I have seen a scenario whereby allocations were made to build a road that leads to the house of an individual and the same individual chose to embezzle the allocation and continue having difficulty driving into his community. This is a case of pure case of mental illness ; a gross violation of societal norms, including a person or persons becoming a danger to themselves and to others. Conceptually, this mental illness regularly displayed by Nigerians across the board is also associated with the biological phenomenon of contagion, spreading in the manner of copycat without age or class barrier.
It then occurs to me that the term “insanity or more precisely mental illness ” believed by many to only apply to those in mental and psychiatric homes, walking the street naked or the clinically depressed, correspond to a misconstruction of the fact. The sad truth is that the majority of persons on the streets of Nigeria, and in government offices, drivers driving vehicles without considerations for rules and their own personal safety; Nigerians who engineer and broadcast fake news that set their own country on fire are in an unspoken reality, patients with different grades of suspected insanity.
I have equally come to the realisation that while the insane on the street and in psychiatric facilities are relatively harmless to other fellows, the real danger of insanity that is disguised is traced to Nigerians we wrongly presumed to be sane, educated, strong and powerful in the society. In fact, the whole lot of us. This is what we become when we stop adhering to cardinal virtues such as honesty and justice and without regard to morality but creating fantasies of unjustifiable desires for what we actually do not need and entertaining unjustifiable fears that force us to become evil elements of our own society.
Nigerians are sick suffering from insanity we are not willing to diagnose; and unfortunately, which we are not interested in getting a cure. The cure, the realisation of the fact that life is not permanent and that the reason we are here is to seek the common good and happiness of everyone, live harmoniously with ourselves and our society is the last thing we ever want. I said I want answers; I have a lot of germane questions; and the answers to them are as sacrosanct to the forward moving of the nation as they are to pacifying most Nigerians’ anger in the face of the dastardly events that characterised the ENDSARS protest.
The ENDSARS protest, as claimed by the organisers, was an unplanned event that recorded an unprecedented level of organisation, sophistication and selective picking of mob victims. To what extent is that assumption true? Was it truly a coincidence that the uprising spread simultaneously and smoothly across the state without pre-agreed action? Was it also a coincidence that across the nation, the acting leaders all refused to officially accept the position of leadership while they all maintain the protest has no leader? Or was it part of a plan to immune those who directed the protest from post-action litigations? I am just asking.
The claim that the Nigerian Army ran riot and massacred innocent flag waving protesters in their number went viral in images, videos and tweets disseminated by most leaders of the ill-fated protest. Are we going to just let that strong allegation go down in history as one of our abandon cases of injustice to Nigerians? Are we not going to get the sources to corroborate their claims with undeniable evidence so that the culprits are properly and adequately dealt with? Or could the disseminated information that lighted up the nation be fake? If it is fake, do we need to know what prompted the dissemination of fake information that is capable of setting the country on fire. Could attempts to run out of the country be the best action course for supposed strong Nigerian youths who were bold enough to confront the government and occupy the streets weeks ago; at a time that they have the opportunity to expose and prove their allegations against the government through panel of inquiry sittings and other investigations.
The social media suddenly became agog with revelations of alleged relationship and communication among the ring leaders of the protest and a prominent Nigerian, Atiku Abubakar; the insinuation that the politician, a veteran presidential aspirant is a unified factor behind the protest. Could this be true? Is the tenability that almost all the protest arrowheads are individuals who were also either leaders or major stakeholders of various ‘Atikulated’ groups a few years ago, a basis for linking Atiku to the protest?
I have also read through a few tweets and exchange between a number of the supposed leaders and Atiku Abubakar. I have seen the alleged closeness between him and a good number of them that support the allegation that there could be a working rapport among them but I now wonder to what extent the allegation and the conspiracy theory of Atiku Abubakar involvement holds. Can we submit that the protest was premeditated, financed and sophisticatedly coordinated to its attainable and? Can we also submit that the released series of deceptive tweets, fake images and videos that led to the aftermath of the protest were also premeditated and orchestrated to achieve the end we all witnessed? Or to what other end could the act be designed if there is any?
It does not make much sense to me that after the protest, the supposed protest champions would immediately consider exiting the country instead of organising to participate fully in the investigations and the proceedings of the panel of inquiries set up across states and by the federal government. How can we occupy the street demanding change and then suddenly choose to ignore the processes that will solidify the change we eagerly demand for? How can those of us who are the first witnesses of the government’s use of force against peaceful protesters be away from the country when we are needed to testify before an appropriately constituted panel of inquiries? Could they be hiding something that we all do not know? Or the conspiracy theory that all was an act of a movie script is after all true?
The conspiracy theory; to what extent can we discard it as a mere thoughtful allegation? The theory says the protest as originally wished for by one Segalink, a social media influencer, became a feasible pathway for the ‘Atikulated’ group who had the agreement with the politician to the effect of financial backing and an escape route after lighting up the country in flame. It says the objective are twofold; discredit the sitting APC Administration and party to pave way for the increased popularity of their principal and possible return to take another shot at the presidency, and secondly, to diminish the power and reach of the Lagos ace man, who is already seen by all as the major contender for the presidency once it is zoned to the South. It further insinuated that the claimed and widely propagated Ikoyi massacre was non-existing but a paper script written in Dubai. It says they were taken aback by the government acquiescence and agreement to end SARS just 36 hours into the protest; they had anticipated government refusal to concede so early and could not stop without achieving the end they planned for, and so, they made new – infeasible – demands. They knew either the army or mobile police would be drafted at a time to maintain peace, and knew already what the script says, and they acted it well when the time came. The tweets, the videos, the images and the urge-on that inflamed the country followed well as planned, and the last stage of the plan, if the continued occupation of the street becomes impossible and backfires, exit the country through prearranged exit routes.
I have problems following this theory, as much as I could not totally discard it. It points so much to the truth of the events that I kept asking could it be true. If Segalink could stop being prominent in the movement; if till now we have not seen the authentic evidence of the claimed deaths at Ikoyi toll gate on the night of the acclaimed massacre; if the assumed leaders of the protest are running away from being questioned on the things they claimed to have witnessed first hand and are now classifying the investigation as witch-hunt; if the ring leaders now prefer to be more preoccupied with keeping their relationship with a particular politician by deleting history of their exchange over social media, though the ones already seen are revealing; if the entire attacks in Lagos are cleverly planned to target only one individual politically, busy tracing locations of his properties and investments across the state to be touched; where do we stand? What should we believe?
In the midst of the insanity and madness we all present as members of our various societies, must arise the sanity and path to direct actions that would save Nigeria from the harm we hurl at the nation. It is high time the system is rebuilt to suppress our many undue negative influences that have continued to derail the country. It is time we built and respect our institutions enough to supersede individuals and sectional biases.
This is the time to begin; on the part of the government, total accountability must become the norm. Our institutions must become stronger enough to hold those in authority accountable for their actions with the mandate we give them. The era of sacred cows must end in Nigeria if we must move ahead; no Nigerian must be strong enough again to trample on the nation and its people and get away with it. If there is anything, we need to come together to agree on forging unity. What we need is never restructuring or separation but enshrinement of respect by all for the rules, regulation and provisions of the Constitution of our nation. When the era of sacred cows ends, corruption would naturally end; there would be even and solid development across the country; industries would spread out; jobs will emerge; the standard of living will improve; we will all be proud as Nigerians; and there would not be any more talk of restructuring or separation or disunity.
It is for this reason that we cannot allow the ENDSARS protest to descend into the anal of history without benefiting dissection and conclusion for Nigeria. From this point, we must find a cure for the madness ravaging our beings and setting Nigeria free. The federal government, state government, the civil society and all patriotic Nigerians must contribute to see the ongoing investigation at the various panels of inquiries to a conclusive end, with punishment doled out to all offenders accordingly and lasting lessons for the country, so we do not have to travel this route ever again.
The investigations must be conclusive; we must exert our sovereignty as a nation to recall the Canadian government decision to harbour anyone who thought we are still the same people of yesterday that can be trampled upon scot-free. The likes of DJ Switch must be returned to Nigeria by all means feasible to help in the ongoing investigation. As far as I am concerned, we cannot carry out any investigation into the alleged massacre of 78 innocent protesters without the individual that claims to have first-hand knowledge of it – and the video. If at this point, we slack in doing the right thing for our dear nation, I fear again for our future.
Prof Medaner is head of Research, Strategy and Documentation, Office of the President of the Senate.