Opinion

#EndSARS and the ‘managers of the turbulent’

It was in one of the learned essays written by a concert of intellectual hotheads in the Social Science Faculty of University of Jos, collected together, edited by Bala Takaya and SG Tyoden, entitled ‘The Kaduna Mafia (A Study of the Rise, Development and Consolidation of a Nigerian Power Elite)’ and published by the Jos University Press in the 1980s that I first encountered this phrase: “managers of the turbulent.”

Most of the contributors to that collection of essays were of the sociology and political science departments of the university which included Chief Audu Ogbe, who now occupies the unenviable position of Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a socio-cultural forum whose ideas and ideals run contrary to the thematic question Chief Ogbe and his then colleagues in University of Jos were assailing as the custodians of the unhelpful political system.

Others were Iyorchia Agu, who during the turbulent Babangida political transition programme, rose to the position of the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The essays as collected and packaged were collectively geared at interpreting and understanding the socio-economic and political developments that culminated in the rise and growth of a caste of the political elite in the North that appeared to control the destiny of not just their immediate environment but the entire Nigerian society.

And I bet you, reading of one or all the essays won’t be a wasted exercise, but rather a rewarding experience and an intellectual harvest. The idea of an active mafia-like operative element in the system that appeared to control the socio-economic and political life of Nigeria had become a major staple of social conversation, if not in the official public domain, but at least in the informal domain of the private conversation and gossips circles. It was while this troubling political question was swirling anonymously that Mvendaga Jibo first painted the public canvass with the coinage, the ‘Kaduna Mafia’.

Once the egg-shell of this idea was broken, the pieces were taken to different directions which perhaps, as a result of this troubling sensation this idea induced into the public consciousness that these University of Jos intellectual hotheads decided to interrogate the idea and they did justice to it as they dissected the question from all angles – social, economic and political – and concluded that there was indeed a mafia-like organisation in the Northern Region of Nigeria that behaved or still behaves true to the description or reputation imputed to it.

Later, in an interview in one of the Nigerian newspapers, one of those cited as a member of the Kaduna Mafia, Adamu Ciroma, denied the existence of such an organization but acknowledged that there was, and possibly still, a political tendency that came into being as a result of the crises that engulfed Nigeria beginning from January 15, 1966 coup d’état when the political leadership of the North appeared decapitated and those that survived the putsch got together to chart a way out of the conundrum.

He said that that tendency has survived to this day which make people to interpret it and call it a ‘mafia’. In one of the said University of Jos teachers’ essays, the writer came strongly to the conclusion that there is a group that thrives in crises and considers it its bounden duty to manage such crises hence the assumption of the nomenclature: ‘Managers of the Turbulent’.

Against the backdrop of the #EndSARS revolt, would it be right to say that the Northern Governors Forum and Stakeholders meeting and their resolutions that appears to enliven and drives the clampdown on the alleged #EndSARS leaders fit the essence and bearing of the ‘Kaduna Mafia’.

The communiqué of the Forum sounds like a political manifesto guiding Federal Government response. The response does not portray a broad minded resolution of a national problem. How could the Forum consider the presidential concession to #EndSARS’ position on the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as a ‘magnanimity’ extended by the president to Nigerians given that it has been generally accepted that SARS was operating outside the law and public morality.

The Forum dismissed the #EndSARS protest as no more than “diabolical influencers”, “political marauders” bent on “pulling the nation down its knees” and “pushing for regime change outside the ballot box” and called on Nigerians to “resist these enemies of the nation”. Haba! How can democratic leaders reason this way by labelling their fellow compatriots in such terrible words and condemned them as enemies of the nation.

By this Forum’s response, there is no hope for Nigeria solving its existential problems if the rulers who are supposed to take calm review of the happenings and digest same with a view to proffering solutions would simply dismiss the public anger and accompanying protest as that of criminals and malcontents. Such is not a fair deal for all; not for Nigeria, not for the protesters! And Nigeria remains the loser.

How can it come out of the myriad problems buffeting it if those charged with thinking out solutions to such problems think of protests as mere irritations from troublemakers? If they only gloat about their capacity as ‘managers of the turbulent’ to quell uprisings instead of studying the underlying currents of the social forces at work with a view to proffering remedy, then in such situation they can only come to such conclusions as were contained in the Northern Governors and Stakeholders Forum’s communiqué of Thursday, October 22 in Kaduna, and that’s by intimidation and browbeating the people to subjugation.

There is nothing in the communiqué that is ennobling as it lacks any redeeming features as a national endeavour towards nation-healing, recovery and rejuvenation. Nigeria can never advance beyond this group’s obsession with crises management technique of merely quelling protests and never advancing beyond that stage to the level of creative reformation that ought to follow such social uprisings.

Let these people, and indeed all sections of Nigeria learn from the South-West governors and stakeholders who xrayed #EndSARS crisis and despite the fact that it was the epicentre of the violent protest and thus badly injured maintained ennobled calm and sufferance and even managed to offer excuses for the public anger that activated #EndSARS and thereafter proffered objective solutions to the problem. If there was any bitterness or anger in any member of that august assembly, their sincere patriotism, public image and nobility stifled it.

Reformation ought to follow every social protests as has been the case in many countries such as the US’ Massachusetts Shay Rebellion against oppressive taxation which led to tax reforms and the leader, Daniel Shay and his confederates were pardoned, or China’s military-quelling of Tiananmen Square youth revolt which clampdown impacted the economy adversely, and it retreated by granting general amnesty which relaxed the society and bolstered its economic growth responsible for its present prosperity. Rwanda experienced one of Africa’s ethnic relations crises that culminated in genocide but it managed it to birth a new nation founded on love and brotherhood.

America’s birth and growth into superpower was the fruit of youths’ revolt against Britain’s ‘Intolerable Acts’ that constricted economic and political space just as it is in Nigeria now. Every great country prevents violent revolutions by countering the prospects with constant creative change/reforms not by sustaining a decadent system while waiting for the society to explode in order to showcase primitive skill for crisis management as ‘Managers of the Turbulent’.

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