By Dons Eze, PhD
I am thrilled by the ongoing protests across the country, where thousands of youths are pouring out on the streets, demanding immediate disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force, due to their recklessness and fragrant abuses of human rights.
From Lagos to Abeokuta, to Ibadan, to Akure, to Oshogbo, Ilorin, Benin City, Warri, Asaba, Onitsha, Awka, Enugu, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Uyo, Abuja, Kaduna, indeed, all over the country, and even outside Nigeria, Nigeria is on fire, as our youths are angry, furious, demanding the immediate scrapping of the notorious killer squad.
They defy adverse weather conditions, rainfall or sunshine, threats and intimidations by some top government officials as well as law enforcement agencies, as they march through the streets, asking the federal government to disband SARS without delay.
For a very long sometime, we have not witnessed any such seriousness and steadfastness on the part of our youths, even without any identifiable leadership, as they troop out to the streets, making more demands from the federal authorities, every new day. We salute their indomitable spirit, their determination, their courage, their doggedness, their fearlessness, their resoluteness, and their boldness in calling for a better society, and standing firm to what they believe would be injurious to the growth and development of their country.
Our interest, however, is not so much on the fact that Nigerian youths have succeeded in bringing down the federal government on its knees, when the government claimed to have disbanded SARS and rebaptized it SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics Team), thereby trying to pool wool over our eyes, as if monkey go London and return e no bi monkey again, but that the #EndSARS protests have woken our youths from their slumber.
The #EndSARS protests have opened the eyes of our youths to the many evils and injustices going on in their society. The protests have made our youths become conscious of the fact that if the future really belongs to them, it is their duty and responsibility to begin to nurture and shepherd it now. The protests have made our youths become active participants in the Nigeria project, and no longer passive onlookers.
Hitherto, before the #EndSARS protests, our youths have been missing in action. They have been sleeping. They showed no interest, nor actively participated on issues or events happening around them, even when those issues concerned them, directly or indirectly.
For instance, majority of our youths hardly voted in any of our elections, because they never registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and so, possessed no voter’s cards. During those elections, many of them would be out in the field playing football, while some others would be employed by politicians as political thugs, to snatch ballot papers, and carry ballot boxes.
For many of these youths therefore, their interest was only how to satisfy their immediate needs, or their insatiable appetites. They would not be interested on who would give the country good governance, who would provide democracy dividends to the people, like job opportunities, build roads, schools, health centres, electricity and other social and physical infrastructures.
So, instead of our youths assiduously helping to enthrone enduring political culture through normal democratic processes, they preferred to become pawns in the hands of political desporedos, thereby institutionalizing the culture of violence through thuggery and other electoral malpractices, like the snatching of election materials.
All over the world, youths are the vanguard of social revolution. They never sat on the fence. Youths are visionaries, who project and fight for brighter and glorious future. Youths are the cornerstone upon which every society is built. Most, if not virtually, all the people who made history in the world, who effected changes in society, were youths, who were either in their late 20s, or early 30s.
Nigeria has had her own youths who helped to transform the society. For instance, it was Nigerian youths under the auspsis of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), that organized a rally against the Richards Constitution of 1944/45, in which both Herbert Marculay and Nnamdi Azikiwe attended, which led to the formation of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroun (NCNC), as the first truly national political party in the country.
In 1962, Nigerian students marched all the way from Ibadan to Lagos, to demonstrate against the Government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, for signing the Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact, which would have made Nigeria remain a satellite state of Great Britain, even after independence. This forced the Balewa government to quickly abrogate the treaty.
In the same vein, it was Nigerian youths in the Nigerian Armed Forces, that carried out the January 15, 1966 military revolution, when the country’s leadership had lost its compass and bearing, even though these military boys were later to perpetuate themselves in office, and also had turned Nigeria upside down.
The point we make is that today’s Nigerian youths have very important roles to play in society. They should not sit idly by or feel unconcerned when many things are going wrong in society. They should not allow or leave the elders to mortgage or to destroy their future. They should take up the gauntlet, take up the challenge, and fight for the betterment of their society, and their future.
Thanks to #EndSARS protests, for waking our youths from slumber.