By Henry Ofe,
#ENDSARS October 2020 Protest was novel. It will go down as the most patriotic national civil agitation in Nigeria history hitherto. The famous Aba women riot cannot by any chance rival the indelible strides of the Nigerian youths in the past two weeks.
Before the Lekki Toll Gate genocide tore my tear bag, the coordination of the protest nay the crowd funding, welfare provision, assistance to the vulnerable, innovations, resilience of the populace amongst other things were the things that wetted my cheeks. I saw my fellows at their best and I was proud to not only be a youth but a living Nigerian at the time.
Every day I rued not having the opportunity to be in the field with the protesters. My social media handles were busy more than ever before but that wasn’t enough. I felt like we should all hit the streets and pitch our #ENDSARS #REFORM THE POLICE #ENDBADGOVERANCE chants until the sleeping giant of Africa is awakened from her slumber.
There is no denial that the enthusiasm of the protest is ebbing since the massacre of 20th October 2020. It is as though those with the rein of power are winning the war but the battle is not lost to the Nigerian youth if only we understand that the barrel of gun was not our weakness. One may ask, how did we get it wrong? The lines below will help:
ZEAL WITHOUT SUFFICIENT TOPICAL KNOWLEDGE
With youth comes agility and spontaneity, such that ventures more for fun, with little care about consequences or result. The #ENDSARS protest embodied passion for change and venture for fun hence the street partying during the protest and insufficient persuasive engagements as witnessed on several virtual discourses.
Although SARS or NPF injustice fueled the protest, it wasn’t enough to drive the journey. Only few persons felt the disgust that brought about the movement, others were in the street because of the fun of being with friends. Only few persons knew that the real protests were against illiteracy/substandard education, corruption, nepotism, bad road, lack of employment/underemployment, poverty, power failure, multiple taxation, erossive ethos, inept leadership etc. Others were only enraged against police brutality and desire to revenge, not knowing how the indices are tied together.
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These lopsided narratives created punctures on the wheels of the protest. The politicians of the day knows what the problems are but are unwilling for selfish reasons to confront the status quo. As they studied the character of the protesters, it informed their strategy which was to leverage the illiteracy of thugs and use them to discredit and distablize the peaceful protest.
ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF THE POWER PLAY
Close observation of wild life shows that the lion does not attack the flock. Firstly, it must create a scare and make them scatter, then, it goes after the sheep that runs out of fear from the pack. That’s the same ploy that the government of Nigeria employed against the protest.
Like the legendary tower of Babel’s unity, the unison of the Nigeria youth during the protest was simply amazing. So the fear precipitated by thugs and Nigeria army attacks were masterstrokes. They were intended to break the ranks, incite riots and eventually bring tribal and religious coloration to the struggle, knowing how those have been clogs to the actualization of our nationhood.
Political participation is not normal with the Nigerian youth; many of us don’t have voters card, those that do, have rarely voted. Most importantly, we are usually indifferent about political debate. Many Nigerian youths don’t know how the side of the bed Buhari woke up from affects the quantity or quality of food on their table hence the almost non attempt to hold public officeholders accountable. Town Hall meetings hardly occur in Nigeria because the people are not even aware of ongoing legislations talk more of having the knowledge to contribute.
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No wonder why other youths chose their comfort zones, some felt that the protest was a needless event and others participated in the protest without foresight, making them easy burn out.
When the protesters said “we don’t have leaders”, I sensed it was out of distrust, arising from the blows we have suffered from our past and present political leaders but the absence of leadership for the protest was a major set back.
The protest may not have been a war but it was certainly a battle not just against arm forces’ crude behavior but for better life for the citizenry.
Battles have ranks whence intra-inter communication, tactics, organization and control flow. Battles need command center. Battles need vision, rules of engagement, diplomacy and responsibility. That’s where structure and leadership comes in.
As the protest seem to wane, we must not lose our focus. The drum of war is fainting but the battle just began. The endgame is to take over power from those senile leaders, replace them not just with fresh blood but sharp minds and selfless leaders across tiers. The Nigerian youths must begin now to create structure and form formidable ranks that have the mental wherewithal to deliberately tackle the problems of the protest, sensitize the masses and mentor hands that will take over, come 2023.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Respect to the fallen youths of the protest
Comfort to the bereaved families and everyone who suffered any degree of loss.
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