By Philip Agbese
The positive public perception; the overall consensual verdict and even desirability of the more than 10 days #EndSARS protests have faded. It is fizzling out with the speed of a tornado surprisingly.
By this development, the general consensus among Nigerians is clear-#EndSARS protests originally conceived by Nigerians as peaceful expression of grievances against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an outfit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) over years of extrajudicial killings, brutality, bribery, extortions and unlawful arrests/ detentions have ostensibly become public nuisances.
Apparently, the protests have been hijacked by some politicians who are allegedly sponsoring hooligans, miscreants, criminals and deviants to cause massive public unrest, attack law abiding citizens, breach public peace, torching of public buildings and personal properties, prison breaks, vandalization and looting of businesses. The latest tales from the protests are the targeted assault on prominent politicians and personalities in cities rocked by the protests.
It is daybreak for the protesters now because the #EndSARS protests have become violent and bloody. Its mutation into such violent and undemocratic character has prepared its grave and coffin early enough. Indeed, the death knell has sounded for the protesters.
The reasons instigating the protests are genuine and the concern of every Nigerian. This is irrefutable. But its concomitant abuses have dealt a fatal blow on an otherwise noble cause. Nigerians have won the battle against SARS by drawing Government and global attention to the evils embodied by SARS, a microcosm of the NPF.
And at the same time, Nigerians have lost the battle in the sense that the veiled infiltration of the #EndSARS protests by reprobates and the conspicuous rebranding of its original agenda and concept signifies the defeat of the same populist cause and struggles. It now appears more like a replication of the aborted planned mass disruption of public peace before the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second tenure, the mild version, which later surfaced as #RevolutionNow protests.
Therefore, when the protests morphed from #EndSARS into the display of placards with inscriptions or hashtags like;” #EndBuhari; #BuhariMustResign; #EndMarginalization; #EndbadGovernance; #EndNepotism #OnResourcceControlWeStand; #EndNNPC; #EndModernSlavery; #FreeNigerDeltaRegion; #ShameOnNDDC; #LegalizeNigerDeltaLocalRefineries;#EndBadDrinkingWater #LegalizeNigerDeltaPetroleumProduction; and #EndGovernmentFraud among others signaled a trouble at its explosion stage.
And the sensed trouble is very near; lurking in the corner and dark rooms of Nigeria. The obvious politicization content of the #EndSARS protests gave rise to another group of Nigerians who displayed a poster in Abuja with the counter hashtag, #March4Nigeria. The messaged was lucid that a ten million -man march will be organized to appreciate President Buhari as a listening leader who granted all the requests of the original protests and engineering the needed reforms at the Unity Fountain, Abuja on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020.
These are not only worrisome signals, but witting romance with the path to anarchy, chaos, disruption of public peace and total breakdown of public law and order. No responsible government, unlike emperor Nero, would go feasting while the country is on fire. If times have ever been tough for Nigerians, they would now become tougher.
Let Nigerians take this precaution from Yobe state Gov. Mai Mala Buni, and APC national caretaker chairman, “… the protests should have ended since the Federal Government has responded and promised to address all the demands of the protesters; demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria and total reform of the entire Police Force…The ongoing protests show that there is a hidden agenda after the government has responded to the protesters’ demands. There are criminals who see the disbanded police unit as threat to their criminal activities.”
Dear protesters of #EndSARS and whatever other identity or agenda infused into the remonstrations’, the time to quit is now that the ovation is loudest. There is a strong sense in what Kimberly K. Jones uttered; “The time to quit is before you wish you had.”
The unpleasant howls of the chickens in the poultry yard signifies ominous danger of a prying hawk. Elvis Presley admonished that“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”Knowing when to fight and when to quit the stage with dignity, unbruised and unscathed defines the strength of one’s character.
A wise man who is fighting a battle knows when victory has come and when to accept defeat. Nigerians have earned the most important victories in the #EndSARS conundrum with Mr. President disbanding the discredited police outfit, and a promise of overhauling and reforming the NPF. In fact, Mr. President has promised to meet all the demands of the #EndSARS protesters.
Now, it is crucial for all and sundry to realize that actions on some of the demands of the #EndSARS protesters are immediate, which the President has responded accordingly; while others will definitely take weeks and even months. Therefore, continuous occupation of streets, cities, breach of public peace, violence and destructions can never be the panacea. This will only cause avoidable carnages and deaths.
Quite bluntly Nigerians, with the recent developments in the country on the #EndSARS protests, it’s obvious, the goal post has been missed after all the beautiful dribbles on the playing turf. But the protesting Nigerians failed to locate the 18-meter yard box when the goalkeeper was on the ground. The glory of the protests is also discloured by the alien and unacceptable tenor of the protests.
No one tells a blindman that it is raining, he feels the downpour. Nigerians again, it is time to quit the struggle honourably and give government time to act on the demands. Let compatriots learn from the quip of Sakeya Barns whosaid; “I refuse to let this house become my grave”or Lauren Oliver’s, “There’s always some relief in giving up;” because according to Curtis Tyrone Jones, “Life is never too heavy to pick up where we left off.”
The brazen breach of the democratic rights of other Nigerians in the guise of asserting and exercising what the protesters feels it’s their own liberties is pathetic display of dimwit and has irrevocably hamstrung the struggle. The ongoing criminal activities in the country in the name of #EndSARs protests should prick every conscience. In this regard, Nigerians won the battle, but lost at the same time. It is a time-honored lesson for all.
There is no victor nor vanquished! Definitely, Government has learnt from its past mistake of docility over the unlawful oddities of SARS; also, individuals have learnt a pile of lessons too. An American author, Dan Crenshaw in his book, “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Change,” unknowingly counselled the #EndSARS remonstrators; …. Quitting isn’t about succumbing to reality or failing to change what can’t be changed. Quitting is not the same as failure. Quitting means giving up – in a context where there are other options. Options you know you have.” The time to quit the #EndSARS protests is now!