Nigerian Youths: This is Our Chance
Written by Francis Akoji. Edited byJeremiah Adama.
There is a loud ululation beyond leaps and bounds. The cock has finally returned home to roost. The lions have finally broken their silence and have sent chills down the spines and marrows of the self-imposed elephants. It is no doubt that recent national events have shown that Nigerians are growing increasingly and have woken up to their challenges and sufferings. This is glaring in recent political activities; and now, we tilt towards full blown maturity, if only we are consistent with the momentum. Nigeria has been reckoned for long as the giant of Africa, but in reality, it passes for a failed state. Her woes are handcrafted by the people who are in a fiduciary relationship to the populace. As it is often said, "everyday is for the thief, one day is for the owner". There is no better time to be alive than now. The blogosphere is laden with news of active youths clamouring for a change. The protest which started as a reaction to the gross human rights abuses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a rogue unit of the Nigerian Police Force has transcended to a demand for good governance and a call of duty for all in the corridors of power. It will be restating the obvious to state that Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended guarantees the freedom of association and assembly, which by extension includes peaceful protest. This provision is however subject to Section 45 which provides instances of restrictions such as defence, public safety, order, morality or health. See also Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966 and Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. The Public Order Act 1979 precisely Section 1 provides for modalities for Public Assemblies, meeting and procession. However, the provision for license has been declared unconstitutional and undemocratic in the case of INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE V. ALL NIGERIA PEOPLES PARTY (2007) 18 NWLR (Pt.1066) 457. The Nigeria Police Code of Conduct 2013 requires Police officers to exhibit neutrality during labour disputes, political protest and other public demonstrations in their official capacapacity. What this means is that care must be exercised not to violate the rights of the people. The commonsensical response to the call by the youths is a reassurance by a government who has the interest of her people at heart. However, the inclination of the government of the day to cook up propaganda to justify unleashing the military on the public goes beyond sound logic. Leadership position is that of service; it does not crown a leader a lord or a law unto himself. The reaction of the people to the poor mode of governance received now is long overdue. It took 60 years for this consciousness to be regained; so treating it with a wave of hand spells doom. It is pertinent that the President rises to the occasion and take decisive and deliberate steps. Brute force and a show of strong hand has never been justified in situations where the grievances are deep rooted. Nigerian youths are multi-talented; you can force them out of the streets, but you cannot end the protest because it goes beyond the street. The right to demand for good governance and reforms by the citizens forms part of the fulcrum of a good and functional democracy. Political leaders are ordinarily servants of the people and the people they represent have the right to demand for accountability. There is a bad blood by lovers and beneficiaries of the current administration who have misconstrued the ongoing protest as a fight against the person of the President. Such notion is misleading and obviously built on hypocrisy; let our leaders know who their true lovers are. While there were clear attempts by the protesting youths to co-ordinate themselves and protest peacefully, there are also grave allegations of deliberate use of disproportionate force leading to the death of several innocent protesters by Nigeria’s security forces. Certain hoodlums backed by sponsors (as alleged in videos and images trending on social media) have also attempted to disrupt several protests across the country via threats, attacks, maiming and the killing of several innocent protesters while also attacking and destroying state structures. This is appalling and highly condemnable as amidst the protest is the revelation of so much love with several beneficiaries of the youths' acts of benevolence. Worthy of mention is how the youths try to eschew bad behaviours and promote discipline. The nation looks clean amidst this because the youths use the same opportunity to clean up the cities. It is the view of the author of this article that no protest has witnessed such coordination in the checkered history of Nigeria. Even when there is no clearly defined leadership structure, there are organised and effective crowd control mechanisms, regulated impulse and respect for the rule of law. To the protesting Nigerians, it is beyond just ending SARS and government; it is about the demands for better governing structures; it is about instilling the virtue of discipline and love amongst us as a people and above all, it is a call for mental re-orientation by unlearning so many bad habits that has contributed to bringing our nation down on her knees. This generation of protesting Nigerians are tired of the incessant security challenges driven by the lack of commitment to our shared ideals as a nation and are seeking positive change starting with a cry to her government to scrap a core symbol of oppression closest to them (SARS). The current mayhem being experienced is no doubt occasioned by the mistaken belief that the person of the President or his office is what is being attacked. In conclusion, we hereby urge all and sundry that the course should be for good governance and not for division or creating unnecessary turbulence to our national peace. In the words of the Catholic priest Fr. John Chinenye Oluoma, "We don't need to change government, all we need to change is governance."