By UCHE CHRIS
Nigerian leaders may have realized too late that the country they lead has suddenly changed; and for the better!
“The protest is for our lives; it is for our future. We want SARS to end but that is just the beginning. They (ruling class) should just wait for us. We are not quiet anymore. They call us lazy youths, but we are not lazy. We just kept quiet. Now, we have woken up. We know what we are fighting for and we know what we want. We will not budge until we get what we want”
. An anonymous #EndSARS protester!
Nigeria has changed; and for the better. And the credit goes to the youths – the future leaders. My generation – those above 40 but below 60 years – failed the country because some of them could get some crumbs from the masters’ table; yet we are a wasted generation, unable to achieve our great potential, because of the economic and social odds stacked against us by a system that destroys its best talents.
Some of my generation found disappearing opportunities to earn a living and make something out of their miserable and meaningless life – or is it existence? Others managed to squeeze water from stone in a bid to secure a space for self actualization and give meaning and relevance to their life. But on the whole, my generation is largely a wasted one with less than 20 percent of its potentials realized.
How can this be empirically proved? Very simple! Just look around you – online and off line. How many of your school mates – secondary and university are doing great things in the country? Except a few countries in the world, including of course, Nigeria, leaders in different aspects of society in most other countries are of my generation, and even below.
How many of them are leading their generation in this country in various sectors of society? How many of your ex-classmates are doing very well today, if you are in this group. I, for one, have not read or heard any great thing being done by any of my varsity mates – not classmates. One or two outliners are those who went abroad or in some paid employment. Which is heart breaking, because my school generation was some of the best you can imagine; yet nothing to report about us! You can do your own census.
This is the story behind the ongoing #End SARS protest, but the end has come for this culture that kills the best of its people. It is not about fire brigade or half hearted apologies by both President Buhari and vice president Osinbajo – a trivialisation of a very serious matter – which reflects the insensitivity of our leaders. If nobody is resigning, why can’t somebody be sacked? Is public office an entitlement that cannot be denied or removed?
This is the point: Government has been privatized and those put there see it as their birth-right – the national cake. This must stop, because Nigeria will not be great without her people – youths having the opportunity to aspire for greatness. It will not happen, as the greatness of any society is the sum of the greatness of its people. Nigeria is potentially great simply because her people – over 200 million of which 65 percent are youths – are not great. So how to make our people great should be the first business of government.
Government has to change its strategy for once; they should listen and design a response from the conversation with m rather running helter skater – rushing for solutions – without proper understanding of the issues and the desires of the protesters. Lack of leadership by the protesters is a problem for engagement but also its strength; lack of leaders makes it impossible to compromise or intimidate them, which is the normal strategy of government.
Understanding the issues is important; SARS is only a symptom, and should not be construed as the problem. SARS is a manifestation of the lack of respect and value for human life and the dignity of Nigerians. It is a reflection of impunity in government and public officers, who believe the country belongs to them because they are in government and have power. SARS is a consummation of everything wrong with the country, and should form the basis of approaching the issue.
To see it as just an agency problem as the government has so far done, which has been the problem of changing things in the country, is shortsighted, counter-productive, and defeatist. These youths are saying something, which is simply that the country and its leadership have failed them, and something has to change. Those who had been in government before they were born are still there with the same old result, which we all bemoan and regret. The world has become a global village, and they see things happen in other countries. They are simply replicating what had happened in the Arab springs, Hong Kong and U.S in the Black lives matters movement.
There is no quick fix anymore in this matter: Government would have to climb down the high horse and negotiate with them, or crack down on them, which would be a grievous mistake that may end this administration, in spite of the assurances by the military. Government will be the greatest losers. No foreign government would touch it with a long pole anymore; and APC may never come near power again.
Government has lost the initiative and has to find the way to regain public confidence and trust. History teaches that everything – leadership and civilization – usually comes to an end. This is the end of the Nigeria we have known these 60 years; a new Nigeria has been born by these young people and the situation can never be the same again. They have discovered something – the power of the masses – and nobody will take it away from them. Government has just made the worse enemy of any leadership – the people – and they never lose.
It is sad the NASS, which should be in the vanguard of the discussion, is playing dumb and protecting their little privileges that can no long be sustained. These people are not their usual youths, who they use for their political hatchet jobs; no they are not. Yes, they are youths but they not the usual people used by politicians to rig elections and kill opponents. These are skilled, well educated professionally trained people, who worked in well run business organizations and understand the principles and standards of modernity.
Government has to meet them at their level not the usual flip-flop tactics and policies we are accustomed to. A new Nigeria is emerging and nobody, including the army can stop it. The honey moon is over for the country and its un-performing and despicable leadership, who has no regard for the interests and wellbeing of the people. Nigeria needs a change from poverty, corruption – even in the government that pledged to fight it – underdevelopment etc.
Only those benefitting from the incompetence and selfishness of the government since independence would be comfortable with the situation confronting these youths. Which country are we bequeathing to them? Do we expect them to be clapping for the politicians, who are squandering the resources we should be conserving for their future? The country is borrowing as if its life depends on it, yet they are the ones who will be affected by bearing the burden of the debts or actually paying the debts?
Let us wake up and think. Many of those in government send their kids to the best schools at home and abroad to acquire the best education, lifestyles and tastes, only to return to a country without a future. What a paradox and irony? The future of Nigeria is speaking to us and we have to listen. Times have changed and our leaders must also change if they want to continue to lead because the game has changed. Nigeria has lost her innocence, and only deep and deliberately changes can assuage the situation.
But it will not end here because power has shifted from the government houses and Mobil police escorts to the people and the street. This is the end of an era, and unless our leaders recognize this and scramble together policies and actions to address issues relating to governance and the quality of life they have a different thing coming.
The youth can decide to stop the next elections, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. How many can the soldiers and police kill without global backlash? Remember the soldiers and policemen too may have brothers and sisters among the protesters. Russia is a good example.