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By – Jide Aluka
When all this is over we must ask ourselves if we are ready to begin the making of a civil society. Or can we still trust that the daemons they have created will preserve us?
A class of young Nigerians made themselves and indeed the entire black race proud when for two weeks peaceful demonstrations were organised in cities across Nigeria, with the simple and clear message of ending police brutality. Deploying the social media as a rallying tool, the vision and mission of the movement was communicated and even a very unconventional yet effective strategy of not creating a focal representation at that point was adopted. Minute by minute, using modern graphics and pungent words, the building block for a new social awakening was gradually being formed which promised not only to protest against police brutality but also to seek better pay for police officers and other security agents and effectively realise the hope for a better governed nation under the rule of law, devoid of tribal bigotry and religious tensions. Their pride was in the Nigerian flag just as their slogan was the liberating voices of heroes past and present.
Their gyrating march to freedom was confronted at the Lekki toll gate, in Lagos, and about the intersections of Central Business District in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, unleashing what perhaps many never expected. After the incidents of October 20, 2020, the protest took a riotous dimension. Let us leave the debate of whether someone sponsored a press briefing by the so called Youth Leader in Abuja who was bold enough to give the Inspector General of Police ultimatum to disperse peaceful protesters. He spoke before an organised line up of national media with his foot soldiers behind him, threatening the safety of their peaceful compatriots. Whether the attackers in Abuja or other instances elsewhere were sponsored will be discussion for another day. What I find incredulous is that in the same country, a group of youths could organise themselves to ask for reforms for the good of all, regardless of region or status, while others would, as alleged, accept as little as five hundred naira to reject liberation from the shackles of police brutality, insecurity and bad governance.
That too many of our youths are disposed to being used wastefully against themselves and the entire society is not a new discovery. From North to South, East and West the case is the same. For too long young men and women have been abused in the hands of yonder generation who should mentor and form them into assets for the society. One of the most regrettable elements of this democratic dispensation ushered in since 1999 is that from one electoral season to another, political leaders have perfected the art of misleading the youth by using them as tools of violence and electoral rigging. Many are oriented to work against good conduct of the elections. They are given guns and all manner of inducement to find comfort in violence in support of the sponsoring candidate or party. As we say, the problem is not to give monkey cup, it is to take it back from monkey. Hence, the indoctrination that is planned for the elections and the political space commonly spill over and turn into a menace to the society.
After 20 years of democratic experience, we should be talking about a more excellent educational culture and a better enlightened society. But instead, education has got worst and too many who are certified educated and graduates of universities do not possess nor exhibit the principles of an educated person. This however does not refute the ingenuity of the current generation of Nigerian youths many of whom have gone beyond what the handlers of our nation left us to become part of an enviable bloc of exceptional human resource through a lot of individual development and share peer competition. There is also the advantage of those who have had to leave the country to absorb some of the best values from other better developed school systems. Yet, for most, they have had to draw from a nearly dry well of uninspired and uninspiring educators, a poorly funded tertiary education and a socio-political space with fewer role models. Many are ignorant of what should be the attribute of a civilised society because all they know is violence as only part to security, tribalism as only part to political power and stealing as the part to financial security. Our system turned ignorance into a weapon and hunger is the ammunition.
In every sector of the economy, citizens are corrupted and very little genuine effort is made to civilise engagement. Why should young men continue to be patronised with daily tolls from transporters and market women instead of have their education funded and their talents honed to become more enduring assets to the society? The National Union of Road Transport Workers NURTW which should have been a vehicle for a vibrant public transport network have at best become a family of noisy grabbers and tactless gangsters.
It is difficult sometimes to argue that this is not deliberate from the current political elite. Those who have spoken up against this social engineering of ignorance and poverty in some parts of the country have been attacked and dethroned. Even with modern bus stations and mass transit schemes the inefficient informal transport sector is largely preserved. In most states, governance and state management have been reduced to the duty of taskforces made up of uncultured and unorganised individuals. Isn’t it possible that their unruliness is sustained as an arsenal for a day as this – when peaceful protests would be organised by citizens who seek a better experience in their fatherland.
In her classic novel, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley tells of a scientist who engineered a creature that ended up horrifying him. The events of the last few weeks present a great lesson to Nigeria and all Nigerians. Our leaders are horrified by the looting and arson that has been taken place all over the nation after October 20. It is evidently posing great danger to everything they believed in and is supposed to have awakened the nation across board. But the bigger question is whether they truly can apply the lessons learnt.
The peaceful youths of this country have shown the world that Nigerian can indeed be salvaged. However, as noted by one commentator, an evident risk to the fulfillment of this potential would be likened to the thin cows of Joseph’s dream consuming the healthy cows. The proponents of the End SARS movement must know that their fortunes are like the proverbial healthy cows at risk of being eaten up by the malnourished cows. Hence, through engagement and intentionalism, the reserve of everything that has made this movement the pride of a generation must be expanded to accommodate a wider community of those young Nigerians roundly classified as thugs and hoodlums, people who are yet to be freed from the shackles of this monstrous abuse of a system polluted by dirty politics, sectionalism and weaponised ignorance.

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