Nothing typifies the state of the nation more than the current helplessness of the Nigerian police. Here is an institution paid to protect us but, ironically, it has turned out to be in more need of protection. Some police formations in Lagos, for instance, have procured the services of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to protect them and guard police stations. Has this not shown that no force can stop an idea whose time has come?
It is scary! Across the country, the spate of insecurity has reached an alarming level. What started as peaceful protests against police brutality, especially against the dreaded but defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), has snowballed into anarchy. In Lagos, for instance, hoodlums destroyed many public and personal properties. Some of them include the High Court at Igbosere, some police stations, Television Continental (TVC) and The Nation newspaper believed to be owned by a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. They also broke into many private shops in some parts of Lagos and elsewhere and looted them. They not only vandalised the palace of the Oba of Lagos, they also took away his staff of office.
In Anambra State, attackers razed some police stations and killed some policemen, including the Divisional Police officer (DPO) of Orsumenyi Division, in Nnewi South Local Government Area, Mr. Akpan, and the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) of the same station. Sadly, they also burnt the statue of the first President of Nigeria, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in Onitsha. They said Zik was the cause of their trouble because he championed One Nigeria. In Imo, Abia, Ogun, Kwara, Kano and many other places, anarchy reigned.
What triggered this brigandage was the unprovoked attack on the #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate area of Lagos on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. The protesters had been mostly peaceful and organised. Their only weapons were the Nigerian flag and National Anthem. On that fateful day, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew. Then, about 7pm, the floodlights and display boards at the tollgate were switched off. Before the protesters could fathom what was going on, the guns boomed. And some of them fell. The number of casualties is still not very clear.
There has been national and international outrage over the incident. But President Muhammadu Buhari appeared unperturbed. He did not deem it fit to address Nigerians until Thursday night. Even then, he failed to calm frayed nerves, to inspire hope, and to commiserate with the families of the victims of the Lekki shooting. He felt the protesters were emboldened more because the government acceded to some of their requests. The protesters, he thought, saw government’s gesture as a sign of weakness.
For me, the tragedy of Nigeria is not in the killings but in the fact that there seems to be no hope for the immediate redemption of this country. Yes, the killings and looting are too bad. But they would have probably been doused if our President had come up to say, “Fellow citizens, I’m sorry. What happened will not happen again. I will set machinery in motion to cut the bloated salaries of public office-holders. I will begin by cutting my own salary by half. All security votes stand abolished. We will set up a committee to look into the recommendations of the national conference of 2014 with a view to adopting what will further bring peace and unity to this country…”
It is this leadership failure that has emboldened some ethnic champions to come out and make nonsensical statements. Miyetti Allah said the protest was to bring down Buhari’s government. It accused Tinubu of masterminding and bankrolling the protests. This is rubbish. A certain lunatic who calls himself Adeyinka’s grandson started circulating video spewing hate speech against the entire Igbo race. In fact, he gave them 48 hours from Friday, October 23, to leave Yorubaland or face the music. It is laughable.
All these are attempts to divert attention from the real reasons behind the protests. They want to set one group against the other, Christians against Muslims, Yoruba against Hausa, Igbo against Fulani and so on. They forget that everybody suffers the effect of bad governance. Insecurity knows no ethnic group. High cost of essential commodities is not witnessed in one region alone. Even the North where the President comes from suffers the pangs of poverty more than any other region.
Nigerians must be vigilant this time. Our common enemy is poverty. It is bad governance, nepotism, corruption, insecurity, insincerity and greed of politicians. The solution does not lie in burning and vandalising our commonwealth or patrimony, nor does it lie in desecrating our sacred institutions and turning guns against one another.
I hear our former heads of state had a meeting last Friday. What was the outcome of their discussion? What did they advise the incumbent President to do? Will he adhere to their advice? We have been having meetings. We have been talking. We have had constitutional and national conferences, where we wasted billions of naira. What have we achieved?
Buhari should save this country before it is too late. The anger is just too much. Many youths are unemployed. University students who should be in school are at home. They have almost lost one year due to strike and COVID-19. They have exhausted their patience. And that probably explains the effectiveness of the #EndSARS protests. Many idle students joined the action. So far, there is no hope that their schools will soon reopen. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the government are still locked in supremacy battle. Students and their parents are the bigger losers. They are at home wondering what the future holds.
In sum, fear and anxiety have enveloped the land. If the palace of the Oba of Lagos could be viciously attacked, if police stations could be sacked and burnt effortlessly, then nowhere is safe anymore. The disbanded SARS personnel may not go to sleep now. I won’t be surprised if there is an upsurge in criminal activities. It may be to justify that their dissolution was not in the interest of Nigeria. Some guns stolen from the police are now in the hands of criminals. It will be a tragedy to have a Somalia, Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan in our hands. These are failed states where militias rule, where the government has little or no power, where might is right.
My prayer is that the hands of the clock should just fast-forward to 2023. That is the year we will have a new leader. That year looks too far now. But what do we do? The coming days and months are heavily pregnant. We keep our fingers crossed.