The event of the last couple of weeks demonstrated in an unequivocal term that Nigerian youths are indeed lazy and stupid. In my reverie, I have tried to make sense why anyone in his right mind would challenge a government headed by a retired general – a man trained in the art of annihilating human beings. For the record, President Buhari is a decorated army veteran who distinguished himself in the Nigerian-Biafran war and to imagine that unarmed youths could upend his presidency was sheer lunacy. I also opine that it is brazen rascality for unemployed youths to disrupt the streets of the realm scavenging to loot from hardworking countrymen who have laboured so hard where the prodigious youths failed miserably.
In this essay, I will offer sincere schemes that I hope would be helpful to deal with the menace of youth hooliganism and rid the country of the undesirables who would stop at nothing to tarnish the reputation of the most populous black nation on the face of the earth. My intention in this exercise is to preempt a repeat of the Lekki Tollgate massacre.
In the age of unregulated social media, any significant event anywhere in the world goes viral within seconds. It seems curious that while our gallant army officers were busy “keeping the peace” at Lekki Tollgate, the rest of humanity would label their conduct as horrendous. And because the youths were unarmed, they posed no real threat to our well-trained and disciplined army. No government worth anything would allow lawlessness anywhere in the polity and Nigeria is not an exception. Even those who accuse the government of highhandedness will admit that the country would not be better served if the youths were allowed to disrupt an ordered society especially when there are laid-down rules on how to ventilate one’s grievances.
And as it turned out the army of this realm achieved one of the most brilliant successes ever recorded in the history of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. The ignominious role of the social media in disseminating the protest to the whole world is evident. Thus, lending credence to the argument Minister Lai Mohammed has made for a while – that the social media was long overdue for censorship. The counter-narrative, though, is that the Nigerian army exposed an underlining weakness when it fired the first shot that felled several unarmed youths and the fear of death vanquished. It became apparent that the rank and file of the Nigerian army are officers without bones – weak, for only the weak would use violence against an unarmed opponent.
What is not certain, though, is whether the army would have achieved the same extraordinary success if the youths at the Lekki Tollgate were the Fulani herdsmen who are, apart from the army and the police force, about the only subgroup in Nigeria endorsed by Buhari’s government to carry guns. Perhaps, if the quality of the intelligence and virtuoso strategies the army demonstrated in routing the unarmed youths at Lekki Tollgate were deployed to combat the menace of Boko Haram in the North East, Boko Haram would have been history.
No one should empathize with the families that lost their loved ones during the protest. It was evident that they lost control of their children and should be ashamed of themselves for poor parenting for they allowed their children to confront the government with bare hands – now that is stupidity amplified. And to think about it, what indeed was the protest about – to highlight that SARS was violating the citizens’ human rights? The excuse does not sound intelligent! What rights, if one may ask? The youths acted as if Nigerians had any rights, to begin with. The rights they took to the street to demand and defend never existed. How does a Nigerian talk about human rights violation when he is not even human? If indeed humans inhabited the geographical space called Nigeria, the government would not slap them with a higher electricity tariff and higher gas prices at the pumps in the midst of a global pandemic; the governors would not hoard the palliatives meant for needy Nigerians to cushion the impact of the pandemic. Those palliatives would have rightly ended up in the markets across the country or be distributed to gullible Nigerians in the next election season.
In places where people without brains run the country, recovery of debts has been postponed; laws have been made to prevent eviction due to nonpayment of rents or mortgages; foods have been provided without ceasing to those hard-hit by the pandemic. And indeed, some governments advanced stipends to their citizens to alleviate the economic hardship occasioned by the pandemic. Now, those are people who should talk about human rights violation and not Nigerians.
It is unfair when people deliberately denigrate and misrepresent the activities of SARS without paying close attention to how those fine officers have placed their lives on the line to secure the lives and property of the citizens of this realm. SARS is the acronym for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, an elite Nigerian police unit formed to deal with the threat of insecurity in the country. Those who have made the country insecure include, but not limited, to Nigerians whom SARS suspect to be criminals – Nigerians who cannot defend their means of livelihood, who deal in drugs, credit cards fraud, and destroy the country’s great image outside our shores.
SARS also was after Nigerians who challenged the payment of taxes at the various checkpoints spread, especially, in Southern Nigeria. Those were the criminals that SARS dehumanized and murdered and the country is better off without them. And because this country is led by people who have their heads rightly positioned on their necks, they do not see the connection between the country’s poor economic performance and the pervasiveness of armed robbery and other social misalignments as symptoms of policy failures.
Keep in mind that the criminals are not those in Aso Rock, who are mired in the form of nepotism that the realm has never experienced since the birth of the country. The criminals are not those fat members of the National Assembly, who are paid to slumber and party around while the rest of the clueless humanity discuss ideas and programs that would lift their citizens from the ashes of poverty and hopelessness. The criminals are not the Yahoo Yahoo judges, justices, and “technicians” who would, with a stroke of the pen, subvert the will of the people to pander to the whims and caprices of their bloated benefactors. The criminals are not the well-connected, the fronts for the honourable political class, who launder the wealth of the country in “safe havens” because of fear of the country’s volatile economic environment.
No one should celebrate those lousy youths. They have been taught a lesson they will never forget. They have realized, I hope, that a revolution could not succeed without a leader. If the protesting youths had leaders, Governor Sanwo Olu could have successfully negotiated with them to avert the bloodbath at Lekki Tollgate. Conversely, the youths acted smarter because their leaderless structure made it impossible for the governor to frustrate their efforts with money and patronage.
No one should lose sleep over the miscreants who lost their lives during the protest. Nevertheless, the success of the protest clarified some things for those who are sensitive to how societies evolve throughout history – that the days of insulting the integrity of Nigerian youths are over; that the days of characterizing Nigerian youths as lazy are gone forever; that the days of toying with the destiny of any generation are about to cease. When Nigerians demanded a better and quality education for their children, the government licensed their cronies to build more private schools and universities. These youths took advantage of those schools and universities at a significant cost to themselves and their families. And now they have learned that an educated populace is an empowered population and the truths of those realities, no government can stop.
The success of the #ENDSARS gives me hope that someday, something good would occur in Nigeria. I know Nigerians who have given up on the country. I plead with them to exercise patience for something grandeur is right at the next turn. A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of my nephews. This was what he said to me, “uncle, your generation failed us. My generation is ready to fight to secure what belongs to us.” I thought he was right because in those lines lie the future of Nigeria – in citizens who can defy the barrel of guns to demand what belongs to them.
I wish the youths destroyed Aso Rock to epitomize that a hungry man is an angry man. I wish the youths reduced the National Assembly to rubbles and tracked down those perverse hoodlums to their homes to justify their fat salaries and benefits. I wish the youths tore down the Supreme Court of Nigeria – the symbolism of intimidation, inequality, and injustice.
When all is said and done, let us not forget those gallant men and women who gave their lives to remind us of what is possible when we stick together. I hope that there would be a memorial for them at the Lekki Tollgate – that Lekki Tollgate would become a hallowed ground so that when children yet unborn ask why we venerate Lekki Tollgate, we would be proud to tell them that at some point in our history Nigerian youths defied religious and ethnic differences to demand to be taken seriously for they realized that poverty and hopelessness did not have religious or ethnic coloration ; that Nigerian youths at some point in our history defied the barrel of guns to fight for their future and the future of the generations coming behind them for they realized that it was better to die for a good cause than live in hopelessness. My hope is that those who lost their lives on that fateful day would be remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice. They are the real heroes of Nigeria.
For once in my life I have hope in Nigeria – a hope founded in the realization that there is a critical mass who believes in the Nigerian possibilities. My prayers continue to be that out of the chaos that characterize our founding, a new Nigeria would birth; that out of the ashes and skeletons of those youths would emerge a country shinning like the full moon in the cool of a quiet African night piercing the thick dark recesses of Africa; that out of the ashes and skeletons of those youths would emerge a new Nigeria where no one would be judged by his or her ethnic nationality or religious affiliation, but by what he or she is able to contribute to the ennoblement of Nigeria. And until their blood is appeased by good governance, equal opportunities, and justice, Nigeria will never know peace.
By Nwike Ojukwu
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