What you need to know:
- But the protests aren’t solely about Sars; the latter is a decoy, having provoked the citizens’ pent-up resentments against general misrule.
- A hopeless youth will not be cowed by death threats; hopelessness is death enough!
In 1984, Chinua Achebe penned The Trouble with Nigeria, which, upon scrutiny, depicts the trouble with Africa’s leadership in general. For weeks now, mainly young Nigerians have sustained a revolt that began as a protest against a police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars). The 28-year old unit has a history of human rights violation: Torture, rape, extortion and extra-judicial execution of suspects.
Under the social media hashtag #EndSARS, the highly organised mobilisation of like-minded people within and without Nigeria has evolved into a spontaneous and ubiquitous global protest.
But the protests aren’t solely about Sars; the latter is a decoy, having provoked the citizens’ pent-up resentments against general misrule. The ills that Achebe had observed in his book — corruption, social injustice, tribalism, indiscipline, cultic mediocrity and inequality — are not only alive but thriving.
A nation’s worth is known by the way it treats its youth, for the latter are its posterity. Like all other African nations, Nigeria’s population is largely youthful, with 70 per cent under 30. Abuja must see the writing on the wall and recalibrate its priorities.
The strongman antics, ‘shoot-to-quell’ orders, won’t wash. In any case, they have served to embolden the youth. A hopeless youth will not be cowed by death threats; hopelessness is death enough!
Africa abounds with leaders who are out of touch with reality. But history has never been kind to such, as evidenced by the 1989 French Revolution that roused Marie Antoinette from royal slumber. The Tiananmen Square protest is a recent example. Leaders must step up the plate or be run out of town.
We can relate to Nigeria. Endemic corruption continues unabated, causing massive economic hardships. Borrowed funds are squandered or looted. Police brutality is unleashed on unarmed innocent civilians. The business environment is riddled with hurdles. And we are still expected to be calm?
Remember, Nigeria sets the agenda for Africa. And did I hear that the daughter of Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo joined the Sars protests?