Editorial, Nigerians will not forget the EndSARS Movement that rocked the nation in October in a hurry.
What began in 2017 as a campaign against police brutality blossomed into a nationwide movement in 2020.
The protest left in its wake arson, looting and fatalities. It generated serious tension in the land. It also caught world attention.
Could restructuring the country help to douse tension at this point? A social movement like EndSARS is a contentious political activity.
It almost always speaks to power relations in the state. All the participants want, in most cases, is make their voices heard; and they stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
Therefore, social movements can manifest as episodic deviance, group campaigns, legal action, industrial strike, rallies, demonstrations, riot, arson, massacre and even looting.
The choice is often dependent on the character of the state or authorities at which the movement is targeted. For the EndSARS movement, there seems to be a window currently because the irate youths are out of the street.
Sadly, the federal and states governments are currently attempting to criminalize the movement and frustrate the idea behind it.
Tension is rising again. The youngsters are threatening to return to action. Some opinion leaders have suggested a series of reforms in several segments of the society as a way of dousing this tension.
Aare Gani Adams, Pastor Tunde Bakare and Professor Pat Utomi have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to utilize the current window for restructuring of the country.
This idea has always been in Nigeria’s political discourse since the Fourth Republic. General T.Y Danjuma once made a similar call using ‘re-negotiation’ as nomenclature.
But, like others, he is also drawing attention to the need to revisit the entity called Nigeria. We need to ‘re-Nigerianise’ Nigeria.
A timeline narration of the EndSARS movement may help foreground the increase in such calls. Police brutality that triggered the EndSARS Movement is a global occurrence, but the way Nigeria has handled it since 2017 does not show that the state is in control of her police force.
Before 2020 SARS had been banned twice. Yet its officials continued their impunities across the nation.
This was while court cases between the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission over who has the final authority over the Police were ongoing. This battle continued till the October 7th killing in Delta State which re-ignited the Movement into protest rallies and demonstrations.
By October 20 the action got to the peak resulting in fatalities at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. The October 20 violence completely forced the educated youngsters and celebrities from the scene.
In their place, rioters, arsonists, and looters hijacked the hitherto peaceful exercise. The North-South ethnic divide also surfaced and IPOB as well as Niger Delta militants seized the opportunity to renew their agitations.
There was a voice from some northerners that the EndSARS was a Southern Nigerian agenda to destabilize the administration of President Buhari.
Yet, in the Western part of the country, there were spurious allegations that some Igbo groups were behind the Lekki Toll Gate controversies and the attack on the palace of the Oba of Lagos.
Although the country appears to be fast recovering and re-settling after the violence and confusion of EndSARS, tension continues to rise due to the manifest political rendition of the movement.
The emergence of the EndSARS movement, the impunity that followed, the way the Nigerian state has reacted so far, the politicization by IPOB and Niger Delta Militants, the North South divide clearly shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the country that must be addressed without delay. What is wrong is structural.
The exclusive and concurrent lists must be tinkered with to devolve some or share more powers with the states.
The intimidatory tactics of the federal government against organisers of the EndSARS movement is dangerous and duplicitous.
Why prevent citizens from travelling if the government has acknowledged the legitimate right of the protesters? President Buhari should not ignore renewed calls for restructuring lightly.
The agitation for a better structured Nigeria dates far back and has continued to generate tension.
READ ALSO: EDITORIAL: The Lekki tollgate saga
To douse the tension, government needs to stop profiling and persecuting EndSARS organisers as terrorists.
The substance of the movement should be the focus of government’s response. Youths are angry and restless.
They cannot be repressed for long. We can predict that there will be another eruption in no distant time because of inequalities in the country.
The EndSARS offers the Buhari administration a golden opportunity to once and for all do the needful towards achieving a modern Nigeria.
We call on opposition politicians, secessionists, and resource control agitators across the country to desist from hiding behind EndSARS to create anarchy in Nigeria. We need peace and justice for the nation to thrive.