Buhari And Sars: Enough Reggae, Play The Blues

By Ikenga Chronicles October 25, 2020

Buhari And Sars: Enough Reggae, Play The Blues

— Vitus Ozoke

This END SARS protest movement is not a joke. I hope Abuja realizes that. And somebody had better get their ass off their desk and start doing something. These protests look peaceful and disciplined for now. But if there is one thing I know about prolonged mass protests, their discipline and peacefulness are not guaranteed to last long. A point comes when opportunistic criminal elements capitalize on the protests to commit crimes of opportunity, such as looting and arson.

The opportunistic criminal elements may be self-directed and self-sponsored, or third-party funded. Politicians and government have interests that are seriously threatened and endangered by these revolution-style protests. Governments have been known to have sponsored anti-revolutionary elements to infiltrate and hijack mass protests. Governments do this in either of two ways. One, they pay anti-protest elements to infiltrate, discredit, and weaken the solidarity among the protesters. Two, they pay anti-protest elements to join the protests but only for purposes of looting and other criminal behaviors.

And what do we know about looting and shooting? When the looting starts, the shooting starts. Looting by protesters offers governments justification to start shooting. Of course, no government, worth its name, can fold its hands and watch public or private properties vandalized and looted. Government is formed for that reason fundamentally. Even the international community recognizes looting of public and private property as justification for lethal force even by dictators.

Already, we have seen images of pockets of anti-protest vigilantes who have attacked protesters in Edo and elsewhere. I doubt that they are self-directed and self-acting. My suspicion is that these are people who have been paid handsomely by local politicians. And handsome payment to an unemployed Nigerian thug could range from N1000 to N10,000 (equivalent of $2 to $20).

So, I have my fear for both the protesters and the protested, and by the protested is meant the Nigerian police and the Nigerian government. For the protesters, who have already performed beyond the wildest imaginations of every Nigerian and watchers of Nigeria, I fear that the longer this protest lingers, the more the chances that they get infiltrated, hijacked, discredited, and exposed to justifiable anti-riot police action, including lethal force. For the government, which has bungled its response to these protests so far, I fear that it may do something stupid. I fear that if it does not resolve this matter quickly, it risks either of the two scenarios I have alluded to. It risks opportunistic thugs capitalizing on the protests to engage in provocative criminal behavior and give government reason to (over)react. Or, in desperation, the government may plant criminal elements among protesters with the sole goal of looting, thus, justifying shooting. Either tactic is escalatory and can only worsen an already bad situation and make the task of resolution even more complicated.

Look, this is no ordinary protest. This has evolved into a revolution. A youth population that has no job and no future has one more thing as a consequence: it has nothing to lose. Those people are not leaving those streets. They are not going home, not because they don’t want to go home, but because they have no home to go to. In the absence of a vision for a future, a present life is already dead. Those millions of Nigerian youth on the streets in cities across Nigeria, have nothing to lose. A man whose brother and, in many cases, two, three brothers, have been murdered by the Nigerian police, have everything but fear for the police bullet.

So, if some bureaucrats are huddled in emergency meetings in Force Headquarters this morning, and the use of force to break up the protests and disperse the protesters is on the table, they had better perish that thought. The one mistake Buhari cannot afford is to allow one more police bullet to be shot at these victims of the Nigerian police. That will be one mistake he will not survive, one mistake Nigeria may not survive. This is a time to get serious. I know we play too much in Nigeria, but these youth protesters ain’t playing. Don’t play games with them. That jig is up. You don’t just rebaptize SARS into SWAT. That doesn’t cut it. These protesters are graduates, not idiots. You must do more and better than that game.

What is coming out now are specific and verifiable accounts of the atrocities committed by named SARS officials. You must set up nationwide investigative commissions in all locations where SARS operated. And you must do it immediately. Victims and families of victims of SARS must be allowed to submit their complaints, and Nigerians want to see these criminals in handcuffs on national TV. Do that and the protesters will vacate the streets – for now. Anything short of that is just the reggae. After the reggae, you play the blues.

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