By SAMUEL OKOYE
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s empathetic handling of, and interventions in the raging nationwide #endsars protests is not only exemplary, it also provides fore-gleam of the role leaders should play in a post #endsars Nigeria. It is the kind of leadership that can melt frayed nerves as currently displayed by our teeming youths that can cause them to open up dialogue with government.
The episodic drama of the #endsars protest though testy and testing, only brings out the best from a leader who is prepared. For Sanwo-Olu, it has provided a canvas to paint his many parts. For instance, he showed solidarity and identified with the struggle without compromising his position as governor and chief security officer of Lagos. He told protesters that he has been following their demonstrations and seen powerful images and videos of the #CandleForSARSVictims vigils held across the country. “It calls for very sober reflections”. This is empathy.
He showed, at a basic level that he is also human and can feel pain when he betrayed grief at the loss of Mrs Ngozi Iloamauzor and went further to take responsibility for her loss and promising to work hard until she gets justice.
But beyond empathizing and being sympathetic, Sanwo-Olu swung into action, by inaugurating an 8-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution which will receive and investigate complaints of police brutality in Lagos. This is inline with Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015. Similarly, officers involved in the Surulere killings are being tried for their crimes. In the words of the governor, “Justice will be served”.
He is a leader that understands the strategic importance of feedback as demonstrated by his telling protesters that he will give them regular updates of government action so they can have a chance at seeing if these actions are in line with their demands. It is this respect for the feedback mechanism that propelled him to meet with the president to present the demands of the protesters so that action can be taken at the highest level.
We are of the opinion that the governor’s actions cannot be divorced from an acute realization of the strategic place of youth in the future of Nigeria. They constitute over 70 percent of the country’s population, which is a metric for future economic growth if properly harnessed. They provide a peek into how powerful the economy can be once they are absorbed into the labour force. They hold the key to Nigeria’s emergence as an economic powerhouse long predicted by the likes of Goldman Sachs.
On the flip side, the youths can be a keg of gunpowder when not properly directed; they can be easy tool for elements who want to destabilize the polity and cause insurrection. An unemployed army of over 100 million is a staggering one by any metric. Indeed the army of youth can be a force for good or for bad. Unfortunately, that bad side reared it’s ugly head when a section turned the protest into a violent one, killing and maiming. As chief security officer of the state with a duty to protect Nigeria’s most prized assets (the youth), he placed a 24-hour curfew on the country’s commercial capital.
Indeed by understanding when to indulge the youth and when to protect them from their self inflicted actions owing to inexperience, Babajide Sanwo-Olu will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest leaders in modern day Nigeria. He therefore stands as reference to leaders of sub nationals to emulate. We encourage such a learning for the survival of our great nation.
Okoye writes from Lagos.