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As Nigerian Youths Take The Gauntlet

By Kenneth Jude

No one had inkling what a year it was set to be. Even the dreaded coronavirus pandemic took the world by surprise. Nobody, not even the ubiquitous prophets that litter our streets were prescient enough to see what 2020 could unfold.

But here we are, just smarting from the lethal blow given to humanity by Covid-19, the global lockdown occasioned by the disease, we are yet again possibly facing another huge challenge that may make or mar our collective existence.

Described before now as “lazy youths” who were up to no good, Nigerian youths appear to have woken up from their years of slumber and watching events recur with bewildering speed without raising a voice or lifting a finger. All that appears, at least from the signs seen, all but ended.

Related: The Positive Impacts Of #EndSARS Protests

So, for weeks, enraged Nigerian youths have been on the streets in different parts of the country calling for reformed leadership architecture in the country, equality, justice and all with the hashtag #EndSARS.

From Lagos to Abuja, Edo to Rivers, the youth, often regarded as leaders of tomorrow, are singing the same song, making the same demands for a better Nigeria, disbandment of the police unit known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The youth are also vociferously calling for a total end to police brutality.

You can’t blame them for rising up as they’ve done. For years, it has been one tale of woe to another. The youth have suffered in the hands of SARS. To have a dreadlock became a crime. A good phone in hand (like iPhone) earned one the sobriquet of a yahoo boy. A flashy shoe and all made one a criminal suspect. Many went through untold torture; others were murdered in cold blood. It was one hell of a period in the hands of SARS.

They carried themselves more like rogues, if not ruffians. Extortion, intimidation, harassment and other despicable acts did not depart from them. SARS became a terror to youths. They were to fight crime and criminality, but they turned the same gun meant for this purpose against innocent and defenseless citizens with benumbing impunity.

Related: #EndSARS Protests: Oku Ibom Ibibio Pleads With Youths For Restoration Of Peace, Order In Akwa Ibom

So, the youth, enraged by years of torture and crude brutality in the hands of police, SARS and the like, have decided that enough is enough. For two weeks and running now, youths in their hundreds have hit major streets in different states of the federation. They are calling for an end to SARS, police brutality and the correction of many other ills in the country. All efforts to calm them down appear abortive as it all but seems that this is a change for which there is no going back.

The youth are not ready to back down. They don’t want money or freebies. Nothing can placate these angry youths from what we’ve seen other than the reforms they are spiritedly clamouring for. They want the wrongs of the nation to be righted. Years of hunger, deprivation, lack, abject poverty and all have triggered the youth into action that aims at changing the sad narrative.

But it is sad that many of the protesters were gunned down the other day at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos by suspected military men. Though the military hierarchy has denied sending its men to shoot at the protesters, pictures, videos being circulated on social media all point to the contrary. So, for this despicable act, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, has come under fire. If he did not order the men to shoot at the protesters, they wouldn’t have done so, many argue.

The #EndSARS protest is a wake-up call to all. It is a sign that the years of oppression and suppression are gradually coming to an end. Our leaders should wake up to the reality of the times. The writing is very clear on the wall. The youth want a better country. They need electricity. They need good roads. They need equity and justice in our leadership recruitment process, they want our hospitals to be revived; they want merit to trump nepotism and favoritism. The youth are asking for a country where equal opportunities exist for all irrespective of one’s tribe, religion or surname. The youth desire a positive change for a country that has existed independently for 60 years yet has groped in the dark for far too long.

As commendable as the protests are, this writer however frowns at the hijacking of the protest by hoodlums who have pounced on the situation to perpetuate violence. They have used the #EndSARS protests to loot shops, set offices, vehicles ablaze. This is condemnable and runs counter to the motive behind the protest. Since these urchins and never-do-wells can’t be sieved from those who are out for a genuine cause, I think it’ll be to the interest of all to halt the protests for now and see how the government addresses the issues raised in the coming days.

The continuation of the protests is giving criminals the leeway to perpetrate their evil and sinister plans. The #EndSARS protesters should not provide a plank for these bad elements to mess up the whole exercise. Methinks the message of liberation has been passed. It is now time to tactically sit back, give the government a time frame to see how it attends to the demands of the youth. At least, what has transpired in the past few days is the clearest indication that youths are neither lazy nor ignorant.

Nigerian youths are educated, they are wise, and they are doing well in various fields of human endeavours, hence taking them for a ride is no longer feasible. Let us rise and correct the self-inflicted anomalies that have plagued our nation and precluded it from reaching her potentials. This protest, to a very large extent, has given vent to calls by very many eminent Nigerians for the restructuring of the country.

Will the Muhammadu Buhari-led government remain pigheaded and unmoved by this clear message? Doing so, of course, is likely to plunge the nation into more chaos. Restructuring, as it stands today, is a clarion call which time has come. Refusing to heed to this call all but poses danger to a nation clearly sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

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