By Moses Adeniyi
Ongoing ENDSARS protest to contend Police brutality has spread into a wide fire to assume expression of broad grievances over the state-of-the-nation on various political and socio-economic deficiencies facing the Country.
The protest which began online has out grown its expected life span unto resolute communal movements that has put the polity on serious heat. The fact that the protest has been sustained after the dissolution of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force, speaks to the fact that the protests transcends grievances over the brutality of Police, but a broader campaign of displeasures over mismanagement and worsening conditions in the Country.
The protest has now snowballed into such hashtags as “#End Police Brutality”; “#Reform Nigeria”, “#Lazy Youths Are Tired”, “#Sack Service Chief”, “#Nigerian Want Their Country Back” and “#Reform the Police” among other reflections of displeasure over challenges in the Country.
Opinion moulders joining train
As the protest continue to assume stronger outlook, with grievances expanding from #ENDSARS to demands of political reformation feared to be movements toward revolution, Opinion leaders are increasingly beginning to identify with the movement.
Joining the train, motivational speaker and leadership expert, Fela Durotoye, on Sunday said that all that the young protesters need is support and encouragement, stressing that “they are all owning this movement, owning the change.”
The Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) 2015 Presidential Candidate, in a short video shared on his social media handle, said: “I have been getting a lot of messages and people saying to me that Fela you need to step up, the young people need a leader and I said no, this is the most amazing generation we have ever seen and they are doing what we all desire to have seen and done in our own time.
“The young people don’t need a leader, they need our support, our encouragement. You know what, the leader will emerge amongst them or a group of leaders will emerge. They are all owning this movement, owning the change. Anybody should not try to emerge as the leader or to lead them. let them be, support them.”
The Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, (A.K.A Winners Chapel), David Oyedepo, has lent his voice to the ongoing protests, stating that he was silent for a while because he had warned “this nation vehemently, consistently in 2015.”
Bishop Oyedepo, who spoke on Sunday at the Faith Tabernacle, Canaan land, said that “every man has a right, legitimately so to express their displeasure and pain, in a Country “where lives have no value”, adding that “any system that has no value for human-right is irrelevant”.
He said: “We have been having spades of protests across the nation, Every man has a right, legitimately so to express their displeasure and pain, everybody does. Amen
“I kept quiet for a while because in 2015 I warned this nation vehemently consistently because I saw the danger ahead and you can tell.
“The most gruesome season in the history of this nation is the last 5 years, where lives have no value, quantum killing, now they have face the youth, and because they don’t know who is next, they have a right to say enough is enough.
“Any system that has no value for human-right is irrelevant. If they were killed when they were youths will they be where they are today? And now it would be a sacrilege to shoot the protesters who are not looting, who are not ravaging.
“When you push a goat to the wall then you will know that goats have teeth to bite. It is a sacrilege to kill youths during a protest, this protest is legitimate.”
As the protests continually receive widespread support, the Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Pastor Sam Adeyemi, on Sunday urged the protesting youths to stay focused on using their voices, stating that they must be comfortable with being unconventional.
Declaring that they “are called to redefine leadership, the Cleric encouraged them to “hold the vision of a developed Nigeria” in their heart.
Pastor Adeyemi who gave the encouragement through a series of tweets (thread) using his personal Twitter handle said: “It is understandable that you are hearing many voices, like the biblical David. But you’ve been called to be unconventional. Be comfortable with that.
“Your movement did not start on the streets; it started on your phones. Your ability to move from being an invisible force to being a visible one is a miracle— ‘The word became flesh’.
“I suggest you don’t worry about having defined leaders. It’s part of your using unconventional means to solve old problems. You are called to redefine leadership. You are all leaders. Your dialogue is on the street!
“Please, stay focused on using your voice. Listen to one another with humility. Many of us are praying really hard for you. Hold the vision of a developed Nigeria in your heart. Much love.”
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, had Wednesday last week, expressed support for the peaceful protest, stating “that young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive.”
The iconic cleric who barely two weeks at the wake of Nigeria’s independence at 60, called for a restructuring of the Federation, tweeted: “Our daughters will not be able to prophesy and young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive.
“I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they “speak up” to #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS #ENDSWAT.”
Prof. Kingsley Moghalu
Recall that last Friday, the Convener, To Build A Nation (TBAN) and 2019 Presidential Candidate of Young Progressive Party (YPP), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, joined the train of lending voice of support to the protest, stating that “the #EndSARS protest has many merits.”
Stating that “it is a means to ventilate pent-up frustration by the youth on the diminishing economic opportunities for them in the country” he lamented that Nigerian youth unemployment is above 30 per cent and is rising.
The former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in a statement had said that: “The #EndSARS peaceful demonstrations by Nigerian youth against police brutality are a necessary and welcome response to the culture of impunity represented by the FSARS.
“The protests have been largely peaceful. I commend Nigerian youth for the maturity, determination and discipline they have shown in keeping the protests peaceful.
“My objective assessment is that this stance has not changed six days into the protest, despite the occasions of high-handed responses by the police that have resulted in the death of some protesters.
“By their peaceful conduct, the youth have shown that they are coming of age. I commend them for this. It is important that while it lasts the protest must remain peaceful.
“The #EndSARS protest has many merits. Many citizens have been reporting their experiences of victimisation by operatives of the now-defunct FSARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force,” he said.
“#EndSARS is a metaphor. It is a means to ventilate pent-up frustration by the youth on the diminishing economic opportunities for them in the country. Nigerian youth unemployment is above 30 per cent and rising.
“The #EndSARS protest is also an opportunity for the government to show understanding in the plight of the youth.
Accordingly, the government needs to go above and beyond the demands of the youth.
“What it is unable to deliver with concrete action and because of very limited resources now, it can compensate for with empathy.
“Across the country, they have been united in their purpose. It should remain so. They should also engage responsibly with the government, holding the latter to account for its promises while recognising credible actions taken by the government to address the demands of the youth.
“The deep lesson of the protest so far is that real power belongs to the people in a democracy. This should be an abiding principle that all stakeholders must respect as we seek new and better realities for the country and the people.”
Protests across the Country were sustained on Sunday, grounding socio-economic activities as demonstration continues for over 12 days.
Protests in Lagos has been sustained with doggedness as demonstration took a violent turn on Sunday. Scores of people were reportedly injured while commercial and vehicular activities were disrupted in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State.
The violence in Ikorodu reportedly started on Saturday morning but escalated till Sunday as shops, vehicles and business apartments were vandalised by supposed street urchins, believed to be taking advantage of the protest.
Attacks on government authorities
A move by Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola on Saturday, to identify with protesters turned sour with attacks on the Governor’s convoy in Osogbo, the State Capital.
It was reported that while the Governor, who had joined the protesters, was rounding off his speech, some hoodlums, wielding dangerous weapons, attacked his convoy and damaged several government vehicles in his convoy.
The governor was, however, immediately whisked away from the scene, while those who sustained injuries were taken to a nearby hospital for medical attention.
Before his attack, the Governor, while addressing the protesters before the attack, had said that the youth had spoken loud and clear, stating that “the excesses of the SARS personnel are too much and they have to be checkmated. So I agree with you and we understand your plights.”
Following an allegation that he is involved in the gimmick to use the attack, which reportedly claimed the lives of two protesters, in dispersing the protest, the Governor dismissed the claim stating that there was no way he could have done such.
In a later development, on Sunday, the Governor however alleged that his attackers on Saturday were hired political thugs and not youth protesting against police brutality in the State Capital.
Governor Oyetola in a statewide broadcast on Sunday described as false the report that his convoy killed two persons during the attack, saying that one of the victims had been involved in an accident around 12:30pm, while the other one was said to have died at Ayepe area of the town.
His words: “Yesterday evening (Saturday), political thugs and hoodlums made failed attempts on my life and those of my aides while identifying with our beloved youths who were engaging in legitimate protest against the alleged brutality of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“My entourage and I joined protesters from Alekuwodo area to Olaiya Junction chanting solidarity songs with them and encouraging them along the way. During the course of my address to the protesters to reiterate our cooperation and support, political thugs hijacked the exercise and hurled stones and dangerous weapons at us and vandalised several cars in my convoy.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the commando style with which the assailants carried out their attack was deliberate and pre-planned. It was also evident that it was not the genuine protesters that carried out the violence.
“Preliminary investigation further revealed that no live bullet or cannister of teargas was fired at the rampaging political thugs. Therefore, no life was lost at the scene of the incident. I was properly evacuated to safety.
“Regrettably, two lives were reportedly lost yesterday. But none occcured during the attack on me. One of the said deaths which was caused by a lone motorcycle accident occurred around 12noon, long before I got to the protest ground.
“The second death was said to have occurred around Ayepe, about 5 kilometers away from Olaiya where we held the protest.
“I have directed that the incidents be properly investigated with a view to ascertaining the causes of the deaths.
“What happened on Saturday is objectionable, unacceptable and a blight to the Omoluabi ethos that the State of Osun stands for.
“Attempt on the life of the governor cannot be planned by the youths who constituted over 60 per cent of the voters that elected us into office and had embarked on successful and peaceful road walks with us several times in the past.”
One of the victims, reportedly killed during the protest in Osun was said to be a motorcyclist, hit by stray bullet at Oke Ayepe area of the state capital while the other, yet to be identified, fell off his motorcycle and died during the commotion that accompanied the attack on Oyetola.
On Friday, the protest in Lagos, sustained, its tempo as protesters took to major highways and inner routes as early as 8:00am, while commuters were stranded. On Friday, protest in Makurdi, Benue State capital, Abuja, Kaduna and Port Harcourt, River State Capital, Abia State, Ondo, Delta, Ekiti, and others were also recorded.
Government’s move to quell protest
Based on their resolutions at a teleconference held last week Wednesday, State Governors, particularly in the South, where Police brutality have been rife, have began the process of constituting Judicial Committee to try Police Officers who have been caught in brutalities against citizens.
Recall that Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the 36 State Governors had, during a meeting last Thursday, relatively agreed that judicial panels be set up by the Governors to investigate the activities of SARS and other police units in their respective states.
The Vice President, had also last week said that the Federal Government is concerned about the feelings of Nigerians as the #ENDSARS demonstrations continue to linger.
Prof. Osinbajo, in a series of tweets, had said: “Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so; we could have moved faster and for this we are sorry.
“I fully understand how many young people feel. Many feel that we have been too silent and have simply not done enough; these feelings of frustration are justified.
“There are far too many people who have been brutalised at the hands of the police and this is unacceptable; we must take responsibility for protecting young people, even sometimes from those who are paid to protect them.
“Over the past week, we have been following the protests, and I have had a number of discussions with key people in the administration that you deserve to be informed about; transparency, after all, is a key tenet of government.’
“We understand that you want to see action from us and I am here to tell you that work is ongoing; I chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the FCT Minister, National Economic Council (NEC), where we resolved to set up judicial panels of inquiry so we can see justice served, and fast.
“The reason being that only state governors, by law, can set up judicial inquiries in their states. The hearings will be public.
“With the President’s approval, SARS has been completely disestablished, and none of its former members will feature in any police tactical units.”
Under the pressure of the protest which in some quarters have included calls for resignation of the President, a meeting led by President Muhammadu Buhari, with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was reportedly held on Sunday.
The disclosure was made by the Special Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, in a tweet which read: “President @MBuhari currently meeting with Senate President, @DrAhmadLawan and Speaker, @femigbaja on the ongoing
#EndPoliceBrutality protests. — Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad)”
After the meeting, it was reported that the NASS representatives, Lawan and Gbajabiamila, “appealed to Nigerian youth to end the #EndPoliceBrutality protests across the country as the government heard and accepted their genuine demands and working to address all of them.”
Speaking, the Senate President, Lawan said; “Since the issues (raised by the protesters) have been accepted (by the government) the time has come for the protests to stop, government needs to have time to implement the demands of the protesters”.
The Senate had earlier on Friday urged the Federal Government to speed up the implementation of the five-point demands of #EndSARS protesters.
Speaking on a television programme on Friday night, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr Ajibola Basiru, representing Osun Central Senatorial District said the two chambers of the National Assembly had inaugurated their constitutional review committees on the reformation of the Nigeria Police Force.
He had said: “Beyond legislative action is the need to take timeous executive action. For instance, stopping the SARS is an executive action because no law actually set up the SARS. The 5-point demand of the protesters has been passed to the presidential committee and they agreed to it and we are expecting implementation. In terms of implementation, it is faster for the executive arm of government to make implementation.
“Personally, as a senator from Osun Central, I have sponsored a constitutional review bill to have state police. I believe the country is so large, our security challenges are so huge and there is a need for us to marry the rule of law and human rights of our people and it is in this context that we will be able to address the issue.”
Recall that the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad had approved the five-point demands put forward by youths protesting against the brutality and extrajudicial killings by operatives of the disbanded F-SARS
The five point demands include the release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; increase in salaries for police officers as well as the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct.
As insinuations of political sponsorship begin to trial the lingering protests, All Progressives Congress (APC), National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has faulted the allegations of his involvement in sponsoring the movement.
A statement by his spokesman Tunde Rahman, on Saturday, had read: “There is a need to set the facts and record straight for fear that such a fake story may be taken on its face value by some unwary and gullible persons.
“Asiwaju Tinubu could not have sponsored the #EndSARS protest that has blocked one of the main entries into and out of Lagos and one of the economic arteries of the Lagos State Government. He could also not have sponsored such a protest where he too has been labeled a target by the organizers.
“Secondly, whereas Asiwaju Tinubu believes in the right of Nigerians to freedom of expression, assembly, and protest where and when necessary, he has always canvassed the need for people to explore peaceful channels to ventilate their views and demands.
“He believes the #EndSARS protesters have made their demands, which the Federal Government is studying. Like most Nigerians, Asiwaju believes that SARS’ brutality and untoward conduct against innocent youths and other Nigerians have gone on for too long and that security outfit ought to be disbanded as demanded by the protesters.
“Asiwaju Tinubu believes it’s now time for our youths to wait, exercise restraint for dialogue and reform to commence. It is therefore the height of illogicality to ascribe the sponsorship of the protest to Asiwaju. The sponsors of this fake news forget that the protest is so widespread and cuts across the country.”
While protesters have declared their resolve to sustain the protest this week, the resultant outcome of the protest which has lingered for barely two weeks, remains shrouded in obliquity, as the stretch of demands keep on sprouting new wings; a development that the Government may not in any nearest moment be able to fix.