Pralagian Olayemi Akinwunmi
It is no longer news that some government and private properties were vandalized following the protests nationwide. It is also no news that angry youths and citizens took palliatives in form of food products and other valuables from warehouses across the nation. The use of the word TOOK is intentional; it sounds more appropriate than looting which we’ve been reading from our dailies lately; after all those food products were rightfully theirs.
Now I understand the adage of our forefathers ‘Aitete mole ole nmoloko’ – When the farmer delays in arresting the thief, the thief will arrest the farmer instead; but however the translation, Nigerian leaders should absolutely be blamed for the chaos that has sadly developed so far across the country; they should be considered guilty for their actions and inactions concerning the matter and I’ll explain why.
When I was much younger, on a beautiful day in my school; I was still in junior secondary school 2 then and suddenly there was pandemonium in town. They were not protesters, they were rioters. Protesters are the ones the constitution said to have the right to protest; asking for a particular thing to be addressed by the government. But those ones we have then were rioters, those we saw as our uncles, elder brothers and sisters then, are the present Nigerian leaders now, they came in thousands, they forcibly opened our school gate and asked us to march out, this they did in all the schools we got to as we marched on, they set fire with tires on major roads, I was very young, but we saw it as fun and of course with a little atom of fear, but we loved it.
They broke into the houses of leaders that were seen as saboteurs or found to be acting against the will of people back then, they looted, stole and burnt their houses until the mobile squad from Nigerian Police Force (MOPOL) arrived and began shooting sporadically. Some persons lost their lives that day, while some were maimed, I had a friend who was a victim, one of his hands was later amputated from then injuries he sustained that day.
That was then; riots were usually violent, police intervention was equally violent, lives were lost, properties destroyed and the economy largely affected. No good results from the riot and the expected answers from leaders were not gotten and so we postponed the evil days. This happened a couple of times and the same circle was repeated, fast forward to a few years later, most of the rioters then had become politicians and had taken power from a brutal military regime.
Modern Day Protesters
At a time, the idea of riots had slowly faded away; Protests replaced rioting and was provided for in the constitution as a means to request a legitimate need from the government. Whenever a protest starts, it is expected that the police provides adequate security for the protesters, the police are supposed to be in front while the protesters match and more police officers behind them just like when people go for rallies. These are the rights that democracy has provided for every legitimate citizen in the 21st century but sadly from recent happenings; it is clear that the
Nigerian Government lack ideas on policing.
Every time a protest starts, whether in small or large numbers, the Nigerian police still use the same archaic and outdated pattern they have always used in handling protests; they always resort to brutality in dispersing protesters. Our constitution and the police curriculum should be updated regularly to fit the 21st century’s policing tactics but unfortunately, this is Nigeria, no one is checking to see this done, the whole concept of policing in Nigeria is wrong, this is why the government keeps setting up more security agencies only for crime rates to keep increasing.
Now on the recent happenings in the country;
there are a lot of unresolved issues currently ravaging the nation, the government is not sensitive to people’s problems, nothing is working and those in power act as if they are not concerned. The police created a department to supposedly prevent robbery and kidnapping (F-SARS), but the officers in this squad have gradually become the armed robbers themselves; trained and paid to prevent kidnapping, they have become the kidnappers people now fear.
Lately, their activities have sadly become extreme and terribly unbearable; killing innocent young citizens at will and after several complaints and failed promises on police reforms, the youths stood up and took to the streets. This time, no retreat no surrender; until their demands are met. The leaders have successfully brought out the real youth in them; a Yoruba adage says, “Arokan lo nmu ekun asun idake dani”, I don’t know how to perfectly translate that in English but it means that – You get more sad and angry the more you remember past hurt. Please pardon my poor translation.
When the protests started, the whole world stood still to witness the maturity and beauty in the protest, we all saw real volunteering services and a promising future; but we have criminals as leaders who would rather play their dirty bad games than address a pressing issue, from the citizens. The coordination of the protests was just too unbelievable for them so they had to do something fast, to negate the patriotic efforts of the youth and paint them bad in the face of the world so they could ultimately unleash their usual tactic.
First, they used their political thugs to attack them but that didn’t succeed, thanks to the efficiency of technology and smartphones, there were instant uploads to the internet that proved the thugs were sponsored. I equally appreciate all the leading online newspapers, especially Sahara Reporters who played a major role in revealing the truth to the world. The thugs failed to yield their expected results and the protesters even got stronger after several attacks from these government-aided thugs; some of which they were able to successfully repel on their own.
a stitch in time saves nine
The world soon began to see the Nigerian government in a bad light as they truly portray when the same police that was supposed to protect protesters tried to forcefully disperse them with tear gas and water cannons; they watched on as thugs attacked these peaceful protesters without lifting a finger. And when all these still didn’t seem to deter the youths, they tried to employ deception but then again, the “leaderless” structure of the protest made it impossible as they couldn’t figure out a particular person or group of persons to bribe or victimize.
The police, through the IG immediately said they’ve dissolved the F-SARS but that was clearly a blatant lie from the pit of hell as it wasn’t the first time such proclamations were made just to calm rising tensions only for the unit to continue their atrocities again across the country; hence the protesters remained resolute on their demands. The more the president delayed to address the youths, the more they thought of their harsh Nigerian reality and more requests started coming up the table – it’s been so many years of misrule, corruption and mismanagement.
The people in the government went back to the drawing board, the president was apparently still rehearsing his speech to present at the live program but it ended being a prerecorded speech. The Nigerian government was clearly more interested in putting an end to the protests than meeting the demand of the people; one too many displays of an irresponsible government. When all their tactics failed in taking the resolute youths off the street, they came up with their usual way of brutality; their regular trademark as legendary Fela described – of sorrow, tears and blood.
They resorted to inflicting pain and fear by sending soldiers to murder the protesters in cold blood and cover it up; but they forgot this is a new era, way different from the archaic times that influenced their psyche. One where we could all stream and watch live videos of whatever was going on in any part of the world through the internet. Thanks to DJ Switch for her rugged beautiful heart; the world watched live as the Nigerian government proved once again that they are irresponsible and undeserving of its largely patriotic citizenry. I mean which responsible government invites soldiers to shoot at peaceful protesters with live ammunition?
With the attacks and successful murder of several protesters, they eventually pushed the youths to the limit, no fear for death because the average Nigerian youth lives his life facing death daily; from bad roads that cause fatal accidents to insecurity, they are no strangers to life-threatening conditions. And right in the midst of the chaos, they unveiled COVID Palliatives that were said to have been shared for vulnerable citizens but were hoarded in different warehouses across the state. Such a heartless set of people we call leaders!
As much as I do not support the destruction of properties by the youths, I refuse to call them hoodlums for they are equally products of bad governance, the corrupt and irresponsible system that has brought these problems upon us in the first place. Protests happen everywhere in the world; why did thugs not take over the yellow vest protest in France, or the Hong Kong protests, or the recent Black lives matter protest?
Some of those youths are friends and loved ones of the protesters killed at the Lekki tollgate, some are neighbours or colleagues to those injured and still missing and you expect them to be civil? How do you provoke a Tiger and expect it not to bite? How do you demand patriotism from people you never acknowledged as citizens or allowed them to exercise their rights?
So please, blame the government and the military for the destruction that happened, they brought back the era of riots, they should take responsibility for everything that happened so far. I have only talked about the destruction of properties in this write up; I will be talking about other perspectives in the coming days.
Pralagian Akinwunmi Olayemi.
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