LOOKING BACK AT THE 14-DAYS OF #ENDSARS PROTEST
By Jimoh Abibat
The #EndSARS protest that occurred over the past few weeks has many symptoms of an upcoming mass revolt. Nigerians are frustrated with the way things operate and want a change to them. Events ranging from the #ENDSARS protests, shooting of unarmed protesters in Lekki and other parts of the country, heavy militarization of some states to quell the protests, and ruling class conspiracy to pass the social media bill, in essence to gag Nigerians from speaking against injustice online.
The #ENDSARS movement developed due to the continuous exploitation, killings and abuse of power by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The atrocities committed by SARS are also perpetrated across the police force as a whole. This is the basis for the clamour for the reform of NPF entirely.
As the movement grew, the youth got a clearer picture of the rottenness involving the political class and its handling of the economy. The Buhari administration was terrified of the broadening scope of the struggle and had no other choice than to disband SARS, with the hope of ending a mass awakening that was threatening its existence.
However, the youth did not trust the government to fulfil its promises after a series of ‘reforms’ over the years have proven false. Youths refused to leave the streets, distrusting their government and realising the government itself is another form of SARS. Other demands were also raised; like an end to bad governance, end to jumbo salaries of political office holders among others.
Nigerians are currently experiencing the ebb of the protest, with the state fomenting terror via a series of arrests, seizing of passports, freezing of bank accounts of organizers of the protests. This shows that the government is not genuinely interested in its commitment to end police brutality or repression of citizens. It also shows that the government cannot be trusted to uphold democratic tenets whenever its rule is threatened, even if such a rule causes more pain than happiness for the masses.
We need to build a formidable force of the masses led by the working class against this government of terror that’s killing Nigeria’s youngsters. The working class can deal a major blow to the government by withdrawing their services, making it difficult for the government and its billionaire backers to steal. Combining this with mass protests on the street will expose the government for the cowards it is.
However, the connection with these events is the fight between the oppressed and the oppressors, the haves and the haves not, the rich and the poor, the bourgeoisie and the proletariats. No hope should be placed in the panels the state governments have set up to investigate the SARS atrocities and clampdown on protesters. The panel is designed to give false hope that justice will be served. But in truth, the government agents who have been alleged to be part of these attacks in Lekki and other areas cannot implement a guilty verdict against themselves. What we have seen from the panels is the changing narratives of soldiers and the government that conducted the Lekki attack. It is only a mass struggle of the people that can bring justice.
The #ENDSARS movement clearly shows that the police force needs a union to fight and protect the rights of the police to disobey inhuman orders; to fight for a living wage for officers; for an improvement in living and working conditions of officers. The present debasement of the Police as a zombie that carries out the orders of the ruling class without questions can be reversed. Also, there is the need for the police to be devolved in such a way that community members have democratic control over policing in their areas, by being in committees to oversee finances and petitions against errant officers.
However, if there is no change in the entire system of capitalism, the ruling class will always attempt to use the police to suppress the people while they exploit us.
This movement further shows that the ruling elites are aware that if the growing consciousness is channelled to the political demands for social change, it will be an end for them. As they are doing with the social media bill, they will do everything possible to suppress our voice or conduct systematic terror to keep us docile.
Social media is one of the few means of expression available to the masses. Majority of the print and T.V media are owned and controlled by politicians. We must defend our right to freedom of speech, right to protest peacefully, right to accountability, and right to good governance.
Nevertheless, all these cant be given on a platter of gold. We have to begin to organize ideologically with no difference in religion, tribe, gender, age.