Sars? But It Has Since Stopped Being About Sars

By Ikenga Chronicles October 25, 2020

Sars? But It Has Since Stopped Being About Sars

— Vitus Ozoke

SARS has already been ended in Nigeria, but the END SARS protests have not ended. Why? Well, what you are watching now is unemployment. More than 50 percent of Nigerians are either unemployed or severely underemployed. So, ending SARS was the easier part, a simple stroke of the pen ended SARS.

Now, the government is dealing with a group of desparate, hungry, and angry young men and women who have nothing to lose. Protests are quick when protesters have jobs to lose if they don’t vacate the streets and return to their day jobs. But when protesters have no jobs to lose, protest becomes their job. The indignity that comes with not having a job is now replaced with the dignity of joining the noble cause of protest.

The street now offers dignity and a sense of self-worth to an otherwise hopeless and jobless youth. They now feel like patriots and comrades, sharing camaraderie with other similarly disaffected citizens engaged in an existential struggle for the soul of the nation. They see themselves as the real compatriots who have obeyed Nigeria’s call to keep the labors of her heroes past from being in vain.

Not only do they see themselves as overnight heroes, they also savor the instant gratification and other opportunities the street offers. The street solidarity is being crowd-funded. People are donating money and offering food, drinks, and cigarettes. Phone companies are giving free call credits. Beautiful women and handsome men are connecting to a common national cause, and might be connecting in other ways that are sure to outlast the protests. It is the NYSC orientation camp all over again.

So, this ceased to be about ending SARS a long time ago. It is now an escape from the painful personal realities of unemployment and the indignity that goes with them. Even if Buhari replaced the entire Nigerian police establishment with the Swiss police, the protests may still continue. The protests have taken a whole new life of their own. The Buhari government will be naive to believe, at this stage of the game, that it is still about SARS. It is not. Not any more.

If tens of thousands of jobs existed in the police, military, immigration, customs, banks, oil and gas, the protest hotspots could so easily be transformed into mass recruitment job fairs. Wouldn’t it be a national magic to be out protesting SARS and police brutality only to end up being gainfully hired into the police? No greater irony has ever been known. But, alas, the jobs don’t exist.

The jobs don’t just exist. And so we end SARS but not the protest that ends SARS. The protest that ends SARS will not be ended by just ending SARS, it will end by beginning something. It will end by starting jobs – and ending youth unemployment. Unfortunately, ending something is easier than starting something.

But there is an opportunity for Nigeria to end and start something concurrently. If you end the criminal heist called lawmakers’ insane salaries, you can save up enough money to hire hundreds of thousands of protesting Nigerian youth and put them off the streets, and to work, today. These things are not rocket science. No, seriously, they are not.

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