The youth, our Moral Army, are justifiably angry having been exhausted and frustrated by a succession of failed leadership that didn’t provide them with safety, prosperity and opportunity.
Tired of being lied to, deceived and neglected for too long they decided for the very first time to pick up arms against the wickedness of the political class. Recently, Nigerian youths under the #EndSARS Movement protested for weeks against police brutality and incessant killings across the country.
The protest which started on a peaceful note later became bloody leaving in its wake pains, tears sorrows and blood. How did a well-coordinated peaceful protest in a twist became a violent protest that overwhelmed the entire security agencies? There are stories of how government-sponsored thugs attacked peaceful protesters, dispersed them and eventually hijacked the protest and turned it bloody.
Also, commonly referenced was the now famous ‘Lekki Toll Gate Massacre’, an encounter between protesters and soldiers which was live streamed. The sight of armed soldiers shooting at protesters in darkness was terrifying. It made everyone angry and gave way for hoodlums to now hide under the protest to vandalize, attack, raze and loot public and private properties. Lagos and Calabar were the worse hit.
Properties razed and destroyed in Lagos include 80 Rapid Transit Vehicles, 27 BRT buses, 25 police stations, private properties like the Palace of the Oba of Lagos, vehicles, banks, TV stations, newspaper houses and government buildings. Warehouses holding government strategic supplies and reserves were also broken into and looted by hungry and angry youths. It is estimated that Lagos will require as much N1 trillion to recover.
The protest brought out the beast in some of us. In places like Iwo, a police man was gruesomely killed, barbequed and his flesh roasted and openly eaten by some youths. In Anambra, a police officer was roasted and his beheaded head put on display. The Oko Prison was destroyed and thousands of prisoners freed. Similar prison break was also reported in Benin, the Edo State. Police armouries in different places were looted with hundreds of AK47 now in private hands. In Abuja, private cars belonging to some car dealers were razed.
The customs staff college was attacked and about three major palliative warehouses destroyed and looted. The story of Calabar was most pathetic. This is a state with one of the lowest federal allocation in Nigeria. In the past 16 years the state had used creative means to develop its tourism status to the admiration of all. But in a blink of an eye, all that were the pride of the state were mindlessly destroyed and looted setting the state back by another 50 years.
This is a big shame. A review of short list of some properties that were either destroyed, vandalized, razed or looted on the day the devil took over Calabar and unleashed terror will make the bravest of heart weep:
Access Bank Mayne Avenue, First Bank Mayne Avenue, Gershom Bassey Houses, SEMA office, DPR Office, NLC office, Atakpa Police Station, NDDC office, Cold Stone Creamery, Valuemart Supermarket, Ministry of Works Warehouse, Roll back Malaria Office, warehouse of palliatives, Nigeria Chronicle, First Bank 8 Miles, Oando Filling station, Calabar South Secretariat, Senator Ndoma Egba House, Mbukpa Police Station, PHC Office, Afokang Prison, Larfarge Cement trucks, Watt Market, Union Bank, NYSC Secretariat, Spar Mall, Cross River Garment Factory, Noodle Factory, Etta Mbora’s house, Psychiatric Hospital, Bassey Ewa house, Cross River State Water Board, Federal Government Girls’ College, LG Shops, APC Secretariat, Psychiatric Hospital, Calabar Road, International Conference and Convention Centre, Tinapa Resort, CRS Water Board, Cross River State Property Limited (CROSPIL), Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) office, Nigeria Police, Atakpa Division, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) office, West African Examination Council (WAEC) Office, Murtala Mohammed Highway, Ayade Filing Station, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Office, Cross River State Agric Development Project (ADP), National Television Authority (NTA), Hit FM Station, D. Lawrence Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Empowerment Warehouse, Henshaw Town, Royal Micro Finance Bank, UNICAL Micro Finance Bank, Carnival Calabar Treasury House, and the list goes on. Whereas peaceful protest is legitimate and part of democracy, violent protest leading to looting, vandalism, destruction of lives and properties remain condemnable.
It’s a good thing that the government has set up various investigative panels at different states to look into police brutality with a view of implementing the demands of the youth under the #EndSARS protest. No matter the outcome of such investigative panels, it’s important we give peace a chance and go right to reconciliation between the people and the police.
Many Nigerians believe the police need a strong tactical team like SARS to confront violent criminals, but the disbanded SARS committed unwholesome atrocities and went beyond their briefs hence the need for general police reform and retraining.
They also think there is need for an upward review of police salary. Though the streets have quietened and life gradually returning to normal, there are still people who believe that another protest will erupt again if there is a cover up and if the demands of the protesters are not met by government. Some have called for a truth commission whereby the proceedings of the panel will be made public. I wish to remind all that despite our justified anger we cannot destroy the country we intend to build.
We must reject every effort by mischief makers to tribalize the protest and pit us against one another. We are one big Nigerian family where our diversity is our strength, and the definition of family is people who hate each other without resorting to violence. Granted we have become too much polarized in recent times we must always see each other not as mortal enemies, but rather merely as roommates from hell. The Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba can still co-exist as one big Nigeria family.
The police can still be our friend in times of trouble and difficulty except if we have made peace with the devil and its children of violent criminals. If we want to survive, we have to find a way to live together and work together with the police and fellow citizens. The attack against police and their properties and looting of police armouries must stop.
Except we have lost our mind, we must admit that looting, destruction, vandalism and killings are bad and should not be our way of life. Now that some of our leaders have tasted first-hand how angry the youth are maybe they can seriously begin to purge themselves of their wickedness and inhumanity. I believe the event of the past few weeks will become a watershed towards reformation and good governance in Nigeria.
While we work towards a new Nigeria let’s find a way to live together in peace. We have to, because no other country will take us if we begin to destroy all we have and kill each other. I will encourage us to use 2023 to demonstrate youth power by wisely choosing our leaders not on the basis tribe or religion, but on capacity and experience. Instead of being afraid of our leaders, let’s make them fear our voting power.