There has been anxiety, sad commentaries and excruciating pains in the last two weeks sequel to turn of events following nationwide protests and campaign by youths against excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); the Police Squad known for its human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings.
Thousands of Nigerian youths had mobilised from different parts of the country for the #EndSARS protests with the agenda to prevail on the federal government to disband the SARS unit of the Police Force and end Police brutality against innocent citizens.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, at the heat of the protests bowed to pressure by scrapping SARS and establishing a new Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) squad, apparently to fill the gap left by the notorious Police Unit, SARS.
However, peaceful protests and demonstrations continued unabated despite the SARS scrap, as protesters were still angered and drafted their demands as conditions to be fulfilled by the federal government for them to quit the streets.
The #EndSARS protests have grounded economic activities in some big cities like Lagos and Abuja, and turned violent in some parts of the country as hoodlums allegedly infiltrated the system.
Bloodbath have also been witnessed in some parts of the country following the protests.
For instance, security forces had last Tuesday night reportedly opened fire on the protesters killing some of them in the process while others sustained injuries.
The shooting and killing of innocent youths during the protests received heavy bashing from national and international quarters before President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday night, in a national broadcast, pledged to meet the demands of the protesters which includes a new salary structure for the Police.
Political pundits say the continued acts of protests despite SARS disbandment by the federal government has a political undertone centred around 2023.
A political analyst and member of the APC from the South, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo told our correspondent in a telephone chat on Saturday, that the protests have a political undertone.
“The #EndSARS protests have a political undertone. There are some persons that initially wanted to use it to discredit the Buhari government. But I think there are some persons too in the Buhari government that came out fast to turn it the other way.
“However, the PDP does not really has a hand in it. The whole problem left and right involves the APC. It has further aggravated the problems in the rank and file of the APC.
“The #EndSARS protesters have some secret financiers, but at the end of the day, this will have a negative effect on the APC.
“Because the APC can never come together as a united party again. It has set a dichotomy between the Northern APC and Southern APC bigwigs,” he said.
Another chieftain of the APC who craved anonymity told our correspondent on Saturday, “As part of the hijack theory, the old analogy of North – South divide featured prominently in some interesting dimensions, which include issues of internal sabotage within the APC on account of scheming for 2023.”
“This is partly because the last internal contestation in APC has been presented in such a way that criminalised anybody with so-called ambition to succeed President Buhari in 2023.
“Why should anyone aspiring to succeed President Buhari in 2023 consider the protest as any viable platform for the actualisation of such ambition? Has President Buhari indicated in anyway his support or opposition to anybody’s aspiration?” he queried.
Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) at the end of their emergency meeting in Kaduna on Thursday, observed that the protesters were enemies of the country who were violently pushing for regime change outside the ballot box.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong said in a communique at the end of the meeting that, “The Forum regrets the diabolical influencers in form of hooliganism, ethno-religious bigots and even political marauders who are bent on pulling the nation down its knees and pushing for regime change.
“The Forum called on all Nigerians to resist these enemies of the nation by supporting Mr President, the Federal Government and democracy at large as it would not lead to regime change.
“The forum appealed to all citizens to restrain themselves from unwarranted disposition of sentiments, harassment and intimidation of other citizens resident in their home states.”
However, at the heat of accusations in the nation’s polity over the sponsors of #EndSARS protests, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader and a former governor of Lagos state, Ahmed Bola Tinubu was fingered.
Prof. Alexander Adebisi, a Lecturer in the Department of History and International Relations at the University of Ibadan reportedly claimed that Tinubu, was sponsoring the #EndSARS protests in the South-Western part of Nigeria.
He made this allegation during an online interview on October 17, 2020.
Prof. Adebisi alleged that Tinubu was bankrolling the protest in order to cripple the country and disrepute the President Buhari administration on the global front, saying a similar strategy was used to “disrupt” the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Recall that they promoted the bring back our girls to the point that it got international sympathy. The only Challenge Tinubu is facing now is that he is yet to get the Northern youths to join the protest the same way the North got the Southerners to join the protest against Jonathan,” he said.
But reacting in a statement signed by his spokesman, Tunde Rahman, Tinubu exonerated himself, advising Nigerians to jettison the news.
“There is a need to set the facts and record straight for fear that such a fake story may be taken on its face value by some unwary and gullible persons.
“Asiwaju Tinubu could not have sponsored the #EndSARS protest that has blocked one of the main entries into and out of Lagos and one of the economic arteries of the Lagos State Government. He could also not have sponsored such a protest where he too has been labeled a target by the organizers.
“Secondly, whereas Asiwaju Tinubu believes in the right of Nigerians to freedom of expression, assembly, and protest where and when necessary, he has always canvassed the need for people to explore peaceful channels to ventilate their views and demands.
“He believes the #EndSARS protesters have made their demands, which the Federal Government is studying. Like most Nigerians, Asiwaju believes that SARS’ brutality and untoward conduct against innocent youths and other Nigerians have gone on for too long and that security outfit ought to be disbanded as demanded by the protesters.
“Asiwaju Tinubu believes it’s now time for our youths to wait, exercise restraint for dialogue and reform to commence. It is therefore the height of illogicality to ascribe the sponsorship of the protest to Asiwaju,” he said.
Across party lines
The APC in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena however, accused PDP leaders of playing politics with #EndSARS protests and sponsoring their activities.
“Since the protest started, the PDP elements have taken over the social media making various unguarded assertions thereby fueling the protest,” the party said.
The PDP in a statement on Wednesday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said President Muhammadu Buhari should take responsibility for the shooting and reported killing of peaceful protesters by military operatives at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Tuesday night.
“Moreover, the video showing police vans and vehicles belonging to other security agencies bringing in and coordinating armed thugs to attack peaceful protesters in Abuja points to serious complicity in high places.
“Such unleashing of terror against peaceful demonstrators exposes a dangerous recourse to barefaced brutality, violence and killing to suppress and subjugate the Nigerian people,” the opposition party said.
Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state and Chairman of the APC Interim Panel earlier noted that the #EndSARS protesters had a hidden agenda other than their call for scrapping of SARS.
The PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, however, called for the setting up of an independent judicial panel of inquiry to probe what led to the killing of peaceful #EndSARS protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos, and called for prosecution of culprits.
Secondus said President Muhammadu Buhari should declare a state of emergency on the nation’s security architecture “in the face of glaring incompetence in governance.”
He added, “A government that should be concerned about national security has also dangerously gone ahead to encourage violence by deploying troops against protesting citizens.”
A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of Conference of Civil Society of Nigeria (CCSN) has however, asked the federal government to douse the raging tension in the country by fast-tracking the implementation of the #EndSARS protesters’ demands as promised.
The CCSN also asked the #EndSARS protesters to halt the protests and allow for proper resolution of issues that gave rise to the protests across the country.
Chairperson of the CCSN, Comrade Adams Otakwu, told our reporter that,”This has left us without any other option than to urge on all civil societies, citizen groups, our vibrant youths, the social and traditional media, Nigerians in Diaspora, state and federal governments and all Nigerians to consider the soul of our country and quickly douse the tension.
“We call on our religious and traditional leaders to raise their voices against the violence and appeal for calm across the country, as we all reaffirm hope In the Nigerian project.”
The #EndSARS protesters are demanding for immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for all deceased victims of brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
They have also called for an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of Police misconduct, psychological evaluation and retraining of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
The protesters are also demanding a new salary structure for the Police to ensure they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of the citizens.
They are also calling for more wide-sweeping change in Nigeria, as they alleged that the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger was overwhelming due to massive unemployment in the country.