Nigeria has been on the global scene for some weeks due to a protest tagged EndSARS. The focal point of the protest and its aftermath have drawn attention and comments from many quarters, ranging from local news outlets to social media platforms and even international NGOs. Through the protest, Nigerian youth demonstrated valour and organised ability to mobilise street action that put the leaders of the nation on the world scene within a few days.
The protest started as a demonstration of anger at the brutality of the men of the Special-Anti-Robbery Squad – SARS. However, as the protests degenerated into looting and wide-scale destruction of public and private properties, it started to unmask unwholesome greed that largely typifies both the leaders and the led in our country. The pattern of the looting that accompanied the protests suggests that we are all the SARS we sought to end. What explains that other than greed? More perturbing is how communities looked away in a tacit endorsement of the looting, neither resisted nor condemned the theft committed in the name of protest.
- #EndSARS Protests: Reconstruction must include rebuilding public trust — Osinbajo
- #EndSARS protests won’t happen again – Buhari
The absurdity that characterised the looting scenes everywhere is that parents and kids all partook in the public daylight theft of what belongs to others. Some uniform men also joined in the looting, with some encouraging looters to steal others’ belongings without injuring one another. The most disheartening is that many rationalised the entire loot as one prompted by penury and poverty that is widespread in our country, ignoring that is no excuse for stealing what belongs to others.
At the heart of the EndSARS protest is citizen distrust in our leaders. Since 2017, the government has had one unfulfilled promise or the other about SARS while yearly waves of agitation kept coming up. This apparently offers some explanations of why protesters refused to leave the streets after the government acceded to their initial demands. Earning the trust of the citizen is therefore imperative as we navigate our way past the ignominious acts perpetrated during the crisis.
In order to avoid future occurrence, government institutions must work seamlessly. But in our country, almost all engagements with public institutions make one feel uneasy. Passport Offices, Drivers Licenses, even national ID acquisitions are a big headache. The solution is simple; it only requires lots of political will to implement. Simple e-Governance automation reduces human-to-human interfaces. It also saves time and drives efficiency.
Secondly, we know that no government can guarantee jobs for all. But a good educational system can make many job creators. The government must therefore invest heavily in the educational sectors from early childhood education to tertiary institutions. Educated citizens are easier to govern. When the rich can afford to school their kids well and the poor are not able to get quality education, we will find ourselves in a chaotic, grossly imbalanced community that is ready to implode anytime.
Let there be a new National Paradigm to be championed by Mr. President. Several means can be explored to drive this. The president can launch a national initiative through the National Orientation Agency (NOA), which will involve leaders at different levels going to schools to discuss vital themes like “Saving our Land from Corruption”. A purposefully prepared book series can be published by a special team on this. Let us see Mr. President in a classroom with kids discussing corruption with the younger ones. Let all other leaders do the same under a well-planned scheme under NOA. Let us build a better value system for the kids and let them ask questions and challenge anything short of standard ideals. Let the conversation begin.
Yusuf Idris writes in from Lagos – [email protected]