By EMMANUEL OGBONNAYA
The ongoing protests across the country has clearly turned the page in Nigeria’s practice of democracy, which by definition situates power in the hands of the people. Since 1999, when the military gave up rule in the country, Nigerian masses have never been able to make a demand on the government like they are now doing using the end SARS protests, without the hands of political actors seen pulling strings in the shadows.
A protest is defined as a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something, it is within the civil rights of individuals to state their opinions and seek reforms and redress, and without hindrance as far as their actions do not in any way violate other people’s rights.
So far, the protest has garnered unprecedented global support online and has been supported locally by various prominent individuals and organisations.
Its effect can be calculated by the various responses and reactions from state and federal governments, who have acceded to the fundamental human rights of citizens to hold peaceful protests and rallies that do not endanger their properties, lives and those of others.
So far, so good, the infamous SARS unit of the Nigerian Police has been disbanded and a Presidential Panel has recommended that 37 former members of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad be dismissed from service while 24 others be prosecuted for various acts of professional misconduct.
Every wise actor knows that the best time to take a bow is usually while the ovation is loudest. For now most partakers have become inspirations to a generation whose voice has been stifled for far too long on the political stage, this would be the best time to retreat in victory as heroes and heroines and not play into the hands of villains who are programmed to hijack a well-coordinated protest and turn it into an orgy of wanton selfish opportunity to cause havoc.
The #ENDASARS protest fuelled by understandable angst could quickly become another BLM protest that has been accused of being hijacked and turned into a cardinal political point by politicians thereby losing some sympathy and credibility which it overwhelmingly enjoyed in the beginning.
Indeed a force that can no longer be underestimated (Nigerian youths) has come to life, but must not be strained to the point of losing objectivity and consequently relevance.
Vigilance must be maintained because the struggle never ends, hence Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta.
It is time to retreat, watch government match action with words under an agreed timeframe and if there is no change or significant reforms, hit the play button again and renew agitations with clear cut demands and evidences supporting such demands, already the power of the people and what they are capable of achieving when they rise up courageously can no longer be discounted.
Such transformative Change as is being sought by the protests can never be accomplished in one move.
Some elements have thrown the peaceful objective of the protest aside as evidenced by unruly behaviours such as: cars parked on the road to cause obstruction a distant from where the protest is happening and blocking free flowing traffic; Guys making lewd statements at ladies and sexually harassing them, making them feel unsafe.
As the famous saying goes “your right ends where the rights of others begin.”
At Lekki Toll protests, it was observed that some protesters were going off mission to the detriment of youth advocacy, due to sinister elements who are cannibalising the youth movement from within.
Also, behind the scenes amazing aerial photos and IG videos show a growing ecosystem of drugs, alcohol, and aimless parties, something Falz the Bad Guy, a prominent champion of the movement, warned against in a twitter post, urging for focus on the objective of the protest.
The voice of the people can no longer and should never be allowed to be mistaken for noise and clanker, the people have spoken and won this one – they should re-strategise and sustain the tempo through strategically engaging ways, while still going about their everyday businesses and lives. The battle field should now be cleared while the dust and smoke are allowed to settle, before comrades turn on each other in the frenzy of sustaining action and the lack of a clear vision and mission goal.
Before imitating other global springs, and people-led revolution as is being suggested by some activists, let’s bear in mind that length of protests are determined by how slow or quick demands are met. Whereas in the Arab springs and Hong Kong protests, the governments weren’t ready to accede to initial reforms being agitated for, hence the elongated protests, but while the Nigerian government is typically characterized as unyielding, lacking in empathy and disconnected from the reality of young Nigerians plights, they now appear to be paying more attention – a testament to the effectiveness of the protests.
Therefore, it’s time to truly seize the moment and consolidate further by engaging in dialogues, pushing for actual implementations of the reforms announced and withdrawing temporarily from the streets. This way, the Nigerian youth will project and exemplify the image of mature young leaders who are more than fit and deserving of a place at the proverbial table, where crucial decisions affecting them and the future of Nigeria is made.