The events of the last few days have taught us what some or even many people already know. We have created a society that is now a breeding ground for a ‘tribe’ waiting to maim, steal, and cause wanton destruction. No thanks to the political class who created this recipe for disaster. One is forced to ask what is the essence of leadership at the grassroots if it cannot suppress to the barest minimum the menace of this tribe?
Take Lagos State as an example. It has 57 Local Governments/Local Council Development Areas, all with their Chairpersons, a total of 376 Councillors, and 40 House of Assembly Members, yet these elected/appointed officials cannot exercise sufficient authority over their area of influence. If a government cannot exercise influence or control over violence in its domain, one may then ask, what is its usefulness?
The brazen and savage attacks on the Police by this marauding tribe (area boys/hoodlums/thugs/agberos) tell us that the men saddled with responsibility of law enforcement lack adequate containment training and are also poorly equipped to handle mob violence and other social upheavals. It is a shame and tragic that Police personnel were lynched by these criminal elements when they are supposed to control and keep our streets safe. The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu has demonstrated a weakness of leadership and will do well to reimagine the security system in place. It is time to have clusters of rapid deployment vigilantes with a specific focus on volatile areas. This security unit will be trained on containment, basic human rights, and will have a working relationship with the Police. The political class who bestowed on us a dystopian state must rethink with immediate effect their endless patronage of thugs to maximise influence in the political space.
The looting and violence unleashed by this tribe on genuine protesters, police personnel, and businesses in the last few days tell us clearly that the political class has no control over the monsters they have created. Free and quality education, skills acquisition, and poverty eradication programmes have to be intensified to reform this tribe that has become a menace to society. It is equally important for young people to know that Nigeria cannot be fixed through a revolution but an evolution.
The aluta continua mentality is too narrow to elicit the rebirth we clamour to see. The dichotomous relationship of the two publics theorized by Peter Ekeh is still very much a reality we cannot take for granted when seeking to reimagine Nigeria’s polity. The divide between primordial and civic publics is still very wide; thus, the sophisticated populace needed to create a much impactful change is still inchoate. This was exploited by the entrenched political class to amplify primordial narratives to vilify and undermine the #endsars protest. Some ‘evil geniuses’ went as far as spreading lies that the Igbo were behind the looting and destruction in Lagos State.
Thus, it is important to recognize that the understanding of the Lekki protesters of the #EndSARS struggle may well be different from that of the Mushin, Lagos Island, Idimu, Benin, Iwo Road or Upper Eweka protesters. The protesters at Lekki never said ‘lynch’ the Police, instead they advocated better funding and training. To the Lekki protesters, #EndSARS is beyond the police but about general systemic failure in the country. The Police Personnel are equally a victim of the system and needs to be supported to perform their statutory responsibilities.
The menace of poverty and the growing population of the impoverished in this country make it susceptible to massive social unrest. We are nearing a point of no return. We have witnessed how a vacuum in authority can be capitalized on to steal, kill, and destroy on a massive scale. The #EndSARS clamour has to be pragmatic to accelerate professed political/institutional changes across the Nigerian state.
The youths must equally channel the momentum gained from the #EndSARS protest into active participation in the electoral process. Change is urgently needed in Nigeria, but the journey towards achieving the change will not be a sprint, we must be ready for a marathon.
Ayoola Abraham is a Youth and Change advocate and writes from Lagos