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Broken tongues

If I am told there is a “democratically elected” president in Nigeria in the last 10 days since the #EndSARS protest began, I will surely express some doubt. I am not just wondering how a supposedly elected president would keep mum when the country he was elected to preside is on fire, but I am perplexed and thoroughly embarrassed by his level of disdain for the issues under focus. I have maintained earlier before now that we have a resident and not a president in the rostrum of power.

The president, the Police, the Army, and the president’s handlers are all locked in monologue, no conversation, no interaction. The response of the Police is the most bizarre; banning SARS and replacing it pronto with SWAT. And the Chief of Army Staff, such a fatigued, tired, and “retired” but serving General Buratai, suddenly came up with his ubiquitous Operation Python Smile, as a response to the protest in an already charged atmosphere.

I am just wondering why soldiers would always think that the use of force is a signature response to quell protest, a peaceful one at that. Even when Abuja, the seat of government was under lockdown, President Buhari has not considered it appropriate to speak to us, his children, citizens of the nation.

His silence is a recipe for prolonged protest and there seems to be no dulling on this resolve by the angry youths. The #EndSARS protest is a metaphor for our collective failures and system breakdown compounded by a government that has refused to listen to the broken tongues and cracks in the glass ceiling. Rather than take deliberate step to attend to these cracks, the government chose to paper them and kept postponing the evil day.

The Buhari administration helped to further widen the cracks through its official creed of nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnic chauvinism, favouritism, crass incompetence, deceit and underperformance.

Instead of addressing the critical economic challenges in the country made worse under a COVID- 19 situation, it woke up one day to announce increase in electricity tariff and pump price of petroleum, to further strangulate a populace that was eternally gasping for breath. All these economic halitosis were part of the contributory factors as to why policemen would behave in very awkward and untoward way to survive in an economy that generously parades hunger, poverty and deprivations as visible indices.

Every sector of the Nigerian socio-economic space has been badly battered by corruption, greed, avarice, embezzlement, self-aggrandizement and a culture of impunity that continues to threaten the very weak foundation of Nigeria.

At a time when youths have decided to take their destinies in their hands to press for a more rewarding public enterprise in the way we run our institutions, that would have been a better opportune time to speak to the nation, if indeed, we truly have a president who understands how to connect the dots. By now, the government would have created a platform that is allembracing to breakdown the requests by the protesting youths and take decisive steps to act on them.

In this era of social media, news and information travel at the speed of light. Even if the president is unable to bring the youth to the negotiation or discussion table, it would make good sense to begin the process by immediately acting on the request without further delay. By now, the government of the day would have made valid pronouncements on immediate, short and long term approaches to curbing all the excesses the youth picked holes with.

Mr. President ought to have spoken to us at least twice, to re-assure Nigerians that the cries of the youths would be attended to. His silence is ominous and a further moral booster for prolonged protest. And the nation drifts apart as though there is no government in place. Leadership is a huge resource that must not be toiled with kid gloves. Leadership provides the cutting-edge in tackling any problem. Leadership offers insight to solution seeking methods to unknot a problem.

Leadership occupies the central place of a thought-process that would yield ideas to address societal challenges. When there is no knowledgedriven leadership to respond to situations, it gravitates towards anarchy.

The youth have tactfully deployed a strategic approach to this protest by saying they do not have leaders, so that government would not hold a few persons accountable, but, this protest’s sense of organisation, speaks to its leadership depth. It is peaceful, result-driven, productive and enhancer of the spirit of togetherness that is seriously lacking across the country.

They have globalised their demands and externalised the protest in such a way that international attention is now focussed on Nigeria and the subject of police brutality. Grand corruption is at the root of these dysfunctionalities, which have crippled and stunted our growth and development. Our value orientation is next to nothing; our craze for material acquisition has become the thematic focus of millions of Nigerians.

We assess individual’s achievements on the basis of material acquisition and not knowledge, or invention or creativity. We have scientists in Nigeria without science. We have engineers without engineering. We have doctors without hospitals. We have lawyers without the wig. We have youths without future. We have leaders without responsibility. We have Professors without ideas, professing next to nothing. It is all about paper certification, we have teachers without schools.

We have lecturers without universities. ASUU has been on strike for years and still counting. We have farmers without farms. We have fishermen without rivers, and the rot in our infrastructure has never been this profound.

There are no researches, no training, it is all about how to grab a piece of the national cake. On the menu list are a symphony of all the vices that could ravage a failed nation: banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, armed robbery and pen-robbery.

When a government loses its moral fibre, and the logic of its adventure in governance, when its leadership manifestly displays insufferable incompetence in terms of its response to challenges, you are bound to have a rudderless country with no direction. In the six years of the APC-led government, we have passed through budget regime of about N40 trillion, yet, there are no corresponding benchmarks to justify these humongous, often times, bogus and ambitious budgets, even though we are aware that a larger chunk of the budget is never implemented.

Not implementing budget substantially is also a drawback that has led to these dislocations within the police force, that would make a policeman, who is poorly paid, to purchase his own uniform. Lack of budget implementation is the reason why salaries are poor, not paid on time, and often illicitly and fraudulently embezzled by the presiding officers and their junior collaborators.

Where is the tailoring department of the police of old? Where is the mechanical department? Where is the electrical department? They have fallen under the weight of corruption and financial malfeasance. They only exist in the potbellies of those gluttonic officers who would always deep their filthy hands into the public till to steal what does not belong to them. Our administrative structure is bizarre to the realities elsewhere. Our social security is zero.

Our health insurance is nil. When public servants are not sure of life in retirement, when their miserable pensions are not paid on time, what you get is a culture of acquisition through corrupt and sharp practices to save for the unknown.

The aged are never remembered. Watching television, you are saluted with Nigerians who are suffering from one ailment or the other, soliciting for funds from good Samaritans and philanthropists to be able to get medical attention elsewhere, while you hear billions of Naira being fretted away in the name of palliatives that only existed in the warped imagination of those government apologists. We have institutional failures, we have infrastructural decay. What the #EndSARS protesters are asking for is improved services and institutional reforms that would guarantee a better society for all.

It is not just about SARS alone, it is about governance and leadership responsibility. It is about building an egalitarian society, where justice reigns. It is a wake-up call and a strong reminder to politicians and political players that it is no longer going to be business as usual. One just hopes some of these themes would come to play when the leadership recruitment process begins in the build-up to the 2023 election.

 

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