There is no point pretending that all is well with Nigeria. Things are not looking good. We have had enough of impunity of the ruling class and the brutality of the police. We have had enough of corrupt judges and executive recklessness. The youth, our moral army through the #EndSARS protests have said enough is enough. It’s either the current leaders build a better Nigeria based on justice and equity or give way.
The youth are exhausted with failed promises by a succession of failed leadership that didn’t provide them with the much-needed safety, prosperity and opportunity. Tired of being lied to, deceived and neglected for too often they decided for the very first time to stand up and speak out.
They converged under the #EndSARS Movement to protest against police brutality, insecurity and incessant killings across the country. The protest which started on a peaceful note later became bloody leaving in its wake deaths, destructions, pains, tears sorrows and blood. How did a well-coordinated peaceful protest become a violent protest?
There are stories pointing to how government sponsored-thugs attacked peaceful protesters and eventually hijacked the protest which they saw as an opportunity to vandalise and loot private and public properties.
Also, commonly referenced was the now famous ‘Lekki Toll Gate Massacre’ – an encounter between protesters and soldiers. The sight of armed soldiers shooting at protesters angered a terrified nation and robbed the government of any sympathy.
The ‘Lekki Massacre’ gave way for hoodlums to vandalize, attack, raze and loot public and private properties. Lagos and Calabar were the worse hit. Properties destroyed in Lagos include 80 Rapid Transit Vehicles, 27 BRT buses, 25 police stations, private properties like the Palace of the Oba of Lagos, banks, media houses and warehouses holding government supplies and strategic reserves. It is estimated that Lagos will require as much N1 trillion to rebuild damaged assets. The story of Calabar was most pathetic. It brought out the beast in the people.
This is a state with one of the lowest federal allocations in Nigeria. Since 1999, the state has used creative means to develop the tourism potential of the state. But in just two days of violence, all that were the pride of Cross River were mindlessly destroyed and looted.
This is a big shame.
A review of public assets that were either destroyed, vandalized , razed or looted on the day the devil took over Calabar will make the bravest of heart weep for the state:
The list include SEMA office, DPR Office, NLC office, Atakpa Police Station, NDDC office, Ministry of Works Warehouse, Roll Back Malaria Office, warehouse of palliatives, Nigeria Chronicle, Oando filling station, Calabar South Secretariat, Mbukpa Police Station, PHC Office, Afokang Prison, Larfarge Cement, Watt Market, Union Bank, NYSC Secretariat, Cross River Garment Factory, Noodle Factory, Etta Mbora’s house, Psychiatric Hospital, Cross River State Water Board, Federal Government Girls’ College, LG Shops, APC Secretariat, Psychiatric Hospital, International Conference and Convention Centre, Tinapa Resort, CRS Water Board, Cross River State Property Limited (CROSPIL), Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria Police, Atakpa Division, Ministry of Works Warehouse, West African Examination Council (WAEC) Office, Murtala Mohammed Highway, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office, Cross River State Agric Development Project, National Television Authority (NTA), Hit FM Station, D. Lawrence Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Empowerment Warehouse, Royal Micro Finance Bank, UNICAL Micro Finance Bank, Carnival Calabar Treasury House, shops in Watt Market, Calabar Municipality and Calabar South Area Council’s, Accountant General Office, World Health Organization (WHO) and Cross River State Health Insurance Scheme Office, Government Secondary School Henshaw Town, Peace Mass Transport, PMT, Etta Agbor, Auditor General Office, Ecobank Plc. and these are aside private homes and elite supermarkets and grocery stores that were either razed or looted.
Whereas peaceful protest is legitimate in democracy, violent protest leading to looting, vandalism, destruction of lives and properties is condemnable and not acceptable. It’s a good thing that the government has established investigative panels in states to look into police brutality, it’s also an opportunity to awaken political will in leaders to address all the other ugly demons bedevilling the country.
While we give the needed time to the government, it’s important we embrace peace. It’s good we unite as one to stop the arson, looting, destruction and killing giving the protest a bad name and go right to reconciliation between the people and the police.
There is no gain saying the force is now demoralized. They need not blackmail the citizens. Their moral need to be raised to an all high level because today we have too many guns in private hands and these guns were stolen from police armouries. Many Nigerians believe the police need a strong tactical team like SARS to confront violent criminals, but the disbanded SARS committed unwholesome atrocities hence the need for its disbandment and general police reforms.
Though the streets have quietened with 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 government refuse to meet with the demands of the protesters and the general aspiration of the people. Restructuring remains a key factor that will address most of the problems underlying the protest and aspiration of the people. I hope the regime will stop dragging feet on the issue and commence the process of restructuring.
Restructuring is in the interest of the country as it will engender progress, peace and unity. Despite the justified anger of the youth, it will be ill advised for them to destroy the country thereby jeopardizing the safety we all want and the prosperity we desire.
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. Though we may hate each other we must avoid resorting to violence to settle our differences. We must always see each other not as mortal enemies.
Rather than destroy the police force, lives and properties we can still reform them to be our friends in times of trouble except if we have made peace with the devil and its offspring. If we want to survive or sleep with our eyes closed, we have to find a way to live together with one another in peace and work together with the police as friends not foes. To do otherwise is to have lost our minds.
Those guns looted by hoodlums will soon be turned on harmless citizens. The journey of rebuilding a new Nigeria where no one is better than the other on account of tribe, religion or tongue have just began with the youth protest, and we need justice and we need peace to get to that destination.
We have to live in peace, because no other country will take us if we begin to kill each other and all that we have. I will encourage us to use 2023 to demonstrate our citizens’ power by wisely choosing leaders not on the basis of tribe or religion but on the strength of the capacity, experience and competence of such leaders to lead well. In 2023, we must help elect leaders with global, economic and political experience.
We must resolve to choose leaders whose involvement in politics is service; a leader who is decent, selfless and sincere, resourceful and highly productive. The future president must be someone with an excellent reputation for integrity and outstanding character who can inspire and earn the trust of fellow citizens.
What Nigeria need is to innovate and we need a president who will lead the innovation, a president who will be a steady hand against an uncertain future, a man whose oath of office will be his promise to the nation.
And there are good men who fits this bill. Mr. Peter Obi is one such character and there are others like him if only we can cast our own ethnic demons and religious bigotry and see ourselves as one people, one nation under one God.