By Dons Eze, PhD
“Our mistake, the mistake we Africans made was to have forgotten that the enemy never withdraws sincerely. We never understand. He capitulates, but he does not become converted. Our mistake is to have believed that the enemy has lost his combativeness and his harmfulness. If Lumumba is in the way, Lumumba disappears. Hesitation in murder has never characterized imperialism. Look at Ben M’hidi. Look at Moumie. Look at Lumumba.
“Our mistake is to have been slightly confused at what we did. It is a fact that in Africa today, traitors exist. They should have been denounced and fought. The fact that this is hard after the magnificent of an Africa gathered together unto itself and subject to the same requirements of true independence does not alter facts… “. – Frantz Fanon. Funeral Oration at the Graveside of Patrice Lumumba.
All of a sudden, we started hearing about #EndSARS protests, that some Nigerian youths have mobilized themselves and taken to the streets, to protest against a particular unit of the Nigeria Police Force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), noted for its brutalities and abuse of human rights.
The protesters, without any identifiable leadership, but perhaps, with a clear set objectives wrapped in their brains, went round major cities in the country in carnival-like from, accompanied by some popular musicians and celebrities, denounced the brutality and abuse of human rights by members of SARS, and called on the federal government to scrap or disband the unit without delay.
For many days, the #EndSARS protests went on smoothly and peacefully without recording any untoward incident, while the protesters made no distinction as to their ethnic or religious origins, whether they came from the North or from the South, the East or the West; and whether one was an Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Tiv, Kanuri, Ijaw, etc., Christian or Muslim. It was indeed a pan-Nigerian movement of youths who were fed up with the lacklustre leadership in the country over the years, and who were determined to make a change.
At first, the government wanted to break the ranks of the protesters through some subtle means of inducement, bribery, and what have you, but did not succeed, as the youths stood their ground and refused to yield. For days, they remained firm, unbending, and focused on their goal.
Even when the government accepted to scrap SARS and replaced it with SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics Team), the protesters still refused to bulge. Instead, they extended their demands to many other things that were wrong in the country. In no time, the #EndSARS fever caught every major city in the country and even outside the shores of Nigeria.
The youths were resolute in the protests. For twelve days, they were organized without a formal leader, only with social media tweets, retweets, posts, shares with hashtag. They wanted a new political order, a fresh political party separate from the already registered ones. 2023 was their target, and it was going to be different. They were not going to vote for anybody who had been in politics from 1999 till date, or anybody above 50 years of age, from the President down to the Councillor.
That was when the government knew that the youths were damn serious in what they were doing, and they decided to lay out plans to deal with the youths. Accordingly, they began to take some panic measures aimed at disorganizing the #EndSARS protests, or diverting people’s attention from the demands of the youths.
As a result, they began to recruit some hungry youths from the streets, street utchins, gave them little money, and asked them to infiltrate the protesters, to disrupt the protests and to also unleash the orgy of violence on the country, or cause mayhem in society. The aim was to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it.
When these miscreants or hoodlums began to destroy both private and public properties, burned down police stations, released prisoners from cells, and virtually set the entire country ablaze, the government turned round to invite the army and the police to deal ruthlessly with the protesters. In the process, many people were gunned down, killed, or injured.
This was what angered the youths, and they went wild and began to destroy goods and properties. Along the line, they discovered that there were COVID-19 palliatives meant for distribution, but were not distributed, and they pounced on them. It was a rein of anarchy and disorder.
To further destroy the #EndSARS protests, they brought in ethnicity by alleging that the hoodlums who destroyed and vandalized public and private properties in their respective states were people from another ethnic group, and was aimed at destroying the economic base of their own area. That was how the #EndSARS protests nose-dived, so to speak.
People now forgot about the demands put forward by the #EndSARS movement, their ideals and their demands, and began to focus on loss of lives and properties, the palliatives that were looted, as a result of the #EndSARS.
Thus, the mistake the #EndSARS protesters made was to have underestimated the super intelligence of the enemy, those who hold the levers of power. They did not know that these people were dangerous and clever as to be able to devise various ways of frustrating any of their plans, aimed at edging them out from their privileged positions.
The #EndSARS protesters also failed to reckon with the reality that there is hunger in the land, that many people were readily available to do whatever thing they were asked to do so far there is a little cash in their palms, and that the people could be easily recruited to cause confusion among them, or to derail whatever programme they had.
With no identifiable leadership, and perhaps, no ideological base, the #EndSARS protesters did not seem to have a solid foundation, and also to have properly articulated their programme of action beyond street protests. That was why after the protests was hijacked by street utchins, hoodlums, and looters of COVID-19 palliatives, the movement collapsed, or lost steam.
We now no longer hear about the #EndSARS Movement, but about the setting up of panels of enquiry by various state governments to investigate the orgy of violence that was unleashed on the country by hoodlums and miscreants, following the protests. The killings, destruction of properties and looting of palliatives following the#EndSARS protests have therefore eclipsed or diverted people’s attention from the initial demands of the protesters.
In other words, what has now taken the centre stage is no longer about the demands initially put forward by the #EndSARS protesters, but about the criminality that followed the protests. May be, at the end of the day, we may not be surprised to hear some of these investigative panels blame the cataclysm that befell the country in the month of October 2020, on the #EndSARS protests!
We are now told that “Nigerians are not hungry”, but that it was the #EndSARS protests that brought criminality in them, which made them began to loot hoarded COVID-19 palliatives. That was the gospel according to Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Addiser on Media and Publicity.