By Christie Doyin
I am actually not in support of the disbandment of SARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force, neither am I in support nor against the protest calling for the disbandment or reformation. Some may want to think I’m sitting on the fence but that is far from the truth. Rather than a disbandment, what we need is total Reformation.
In disbanding the unit, we may be taking the wrong steps or perhaps the right step the wrong way. This is because I actually don’t see the disbandment as the solution to the alleged and mirage of other problems, thus was rather shocked that the IGP announced the disbandment so soon but was not at all surprised when he came up with SWAT.
For crying out loud! How insensitive and pretentious can that be? It left me wondering so much about when this government will get it right, especially when citizens’ social rights and lives are concern. It is rather sad that not many Nigerians saw these until the SARS/SWAT protest.
However, to my utmost disbelief, I thought now that the IGP has taken the step and yielded to those agitating for the disbandment, peace would be restored to the polity, but that was not so. Sadly, as many of our young ones took to the streets with the #endSARS and other issues’ protest, some hoodlums infiltrated those who seems to be honestly concerned about the extra judicial killings, maiming, abuse of rights as well as the alleged flexing of citizens, especially the innocent youth of their hard earned money, and also causing mayhem almost everywhere they touched.
My worry and utmost concern from the onset was the fear of likely exposure to danger, aggression and outright carnage as they go about their agitations. This is Nigeria for crying out loud, the situation is such that it calls for worries, because no one would consider as a friend anyone agitating that one’s ‘source of livelihood be scrapped’, whether legally or illegally. The men of the SARS formation will not take it nicely and to say that some of the ‘fake’ protesters became violent makes it really bad. I watched a video that went viral with the supposedly protesting youths breaking windscreens of all the vehicles along their route and I felt like crying.
Are they saying that the vehicles belong to SARS men and even if so, in what way has the vehicles caused them any harm?
That apart, on the side of government, the renaming of SARS as SWAT, because that is what it is, is nothing but insensitivity of government and disdain for the citizenry. If not that, how would any responsible government come out in such a moment to declare a new outfit a few days after the alleged disbandment of a former without going back to the drawing board to weigh the pros and cons. Do those in government think Nigerians are dumb and lack ability to reason or discern the insincerity of government, especially in this wise?
Last Friday, going to Abuja, I ran into protesters at the Abuja city Gate/Dantata Bridge and Airport road axis and motorists with commuters held up for several hours. We actually got to the protest location at about 3pm and I for instance didn’t get to my destination until past 10pm. Though the protest, I would say, was surprisingly rather very peaceful except for some slight skirmishes not worth mentioning.
I actually love the fact that there was no violence and that the conduct of the protesters were highly commendable. Even the law enforcement and security outfits did not act out of tune. However, I, like some of those I interacted with felt there should have been some openings on both sides of the road to allow access, which could be hectic, but not traumatising as it was.
The effect of that several hours of total closure, left those with some health challenges in serious and almost critical conditions. Some actually almost succumb to death but for some ready interventions. There also could have been mothers in labour, what then happens?
My take is that the negative impact of it all was more on the masses rather than on the government. Those of us who are actually in accord with them were the ones who bore the brunt of the protest while the government was in no way directly affected.
Those affected are the parents, siblings, spouses and children of the protesters, whether you agree with me or not. A woman went out to get some things for her children’s birthday but also got trapped in the standstill. She eventually shared some of her children’s birthday things with some of us, seeing our conditions.
As a matter of fact, majority of these top men and decision makers were in the comfort of their homes and many not even watching Nigerian television channels.
However, of all that I feel about the protest against the formation and other issues being protested about is the insinuation that those protesting were paid to do so and those who suggested otherwise, were sponsored not to do so. Considering the two, I’ll say both are the dumbest thoughts to have crossed anybody’s mind. Is that to say Nigerians, especially the youth cannot think and decide on their own? I expect an answer, perhaps it will further my knowledge.
When issues like this come up and some people decide to politicise it, I feel so beaten and smitten that we still have people with low ability at reasoning. How on earth would anyone believe that Nigerians, who are filled with accumulation of frustration and in desperate need of a change from the change being experienced will not think out of the box to do the needful? I’m really miffed by it all!
As hoodlums and some few of the protesters turned unlawful, so did our security men threw all cautions to the wind with all abandonment in some states until the directive not to interfere with the protesters came up. But then, there have been fatalities. I became infuriated when I read and sometimes listen to the ‘back and forth’ of accusations or are they allegations and counter allegations? Be that as it may, one can only feel dismayed that Nigeria is no longer what it was. What we have now is a fragmented nation, rudderless policymakers and those to implement.
Thus, It feels good to hear that in compliance to the demands of #EndSARS protesters, the federal government has approved the first 5-point demand made by protesters. According to reports, the Presidency said the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) also ordered that force should not be used on protesters, this was in a statement signed by Special Adviser of Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina.
But then, there is still the pending 7-point agenda from the protesters as follows:
“We find the unhealthy haste to fashion a unit termed “SWAT” to be a misrepresentation of the 5for5 demand. It is not enough.” They noted.
The youths who described the #EndSARS, #EndSWAT and #EndPoliceBrutality as moves for the ‘soul of Nigeria’ have also demanded a “systemic overhaul of governance and institutional reforms as the barest minimum.”
“We are better than what obtains presently; we demand progress.”
“We are not vain agitators. We are clear-eyed youths and professionals in our respective fields who are tired of the way and manner our dear country has been run aground by successive administrations. We cannot idly stand by whilst our future and that of our children are mortgaged.
I only hope our government can see the handwriting clearly enough and take steps to do the needful. Nigerians need the desired change and not any change.
*Doyin writes from Ilorin via e-mail: email@example.com
By Christie Doyin