EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate
#EndSARS protesters barricade Lekki Tollgate

…Lawlessness and descent into anarchy

By UCHE CHRIS

Last week witnessed a significant development that points to an irreversible descent of society into lawlessness and anarchy. When there is open defiance of the authority of government, and people are inclined and quick to resort to armed confrontation with government or those in power, then society is only a step to a state of nature where life will be nasty, brutish and short.

And the government and leaders are largely responsible for this trend. In two separate occasions last week, the Motorcycle operators, or Okada riders clashed with the Lagos State Task force on environment and traffic; and in both cases the Okada riders prevailed.

On Tuesday November 17, 2020, the group defied security agents attempt to enforce the law prohibiting them from plying on major roads in the state at Apapa-Oshodi expressway in Amuwo Odofin local government. It took the intervention of soldiers to quell the fracas, after the police had been overpowered by the riders, who insisted on having back their impounded bikes as condition for settlement.

On Wednesday November 18, there was another confrontation between the two parties along Ikeja Along, which paralysed movement. A video of the event that went viral showed the mob in hot pursuit of fleeing armed Task Force operatives. It marked a new and sad, but significant trend for the future of Nigeria, where unarmed people put armed security agents to flight. This is a direct fall out of the Endsars protest.

Since the protest the youth, most of who populate the Okada riders’ group, seemed to have discovered their power of the mass and it will be hard to dispossess them of it. The Endsars also seems to have dispossessed the government and its leaders, and the security agencies of the fear factor, which is troubling. But the protest is not the cause of this development. No! It is a consequent and historic reaction and response to our natural evolution.

Hegel first theorized about every action producing its antithesis, which leads to a synthesis – a theory that Karl Marx later popularized in his dialectical materialism. Although we are faced with an uncertain future and a new normal, which end we cannot determine in the present, we can optimistically say, it is a step toward a Nigeria where violence can no longer be the medium of inter-social relationships.

The open and brazen defiance of the traffic law by the okada riders and the inability and incapacity of the Task Force to enforce compliance has destroyed the fundamental objective of government, which is the maintenance of law and other. Today, it is the okada riders, tomorrow, who knows; another group may take up the challenge, and the virus spreads.

Of course, we can lament and condemn the looting and arson that followed the protest all we can but the fact remains that violence, whether latent or actual has become part of the general psyche of the Nigerian. It is unfortunate that civil rule has not truly purged us of the military culture, which relied on force of arms and intimidation to rule.

Some have said that we only transited from military to civil and not democratic rule. Nigeria is basically a military garrison in orientation and mannerisms, such that decent and open dialogue and superior argument are disdained. The end simply justifies the means.

Indeed, the fallout of the protest seems to have irrevocably altered the basis of social relations between the government and the people. It appears that government has lost the moral authority and political legitimacy to exercise power over the people. The power of government lies in the fear of the use of violence and once the people no longer fear this power, the government is at their mercy.

But government has itself to blame for this unsavoury outcome, and a potential degeneration of society into a state of anarchy. For too long, government and leaders, whether military or civil, have ridden roughshod over the people, cornering all the resources for themselves and their relations to the exclusion of others. People have suffered untold hardships, inhuman treatment and political abuse, to the extent that their votes no longer count.

It is a major wonder and amazement to the world that Nigerians have become so docile and resilient in the face of the worst indignities and oppression, and possessed of such infinite capacity for perpetually accept a life of humiliation and suffering so stoically. Our political elites have become so enamoured of their power and the fickleness of the people to apply caution to their brigandage. Power, it is said, corrupts and absolute power – power without checks as we have it – is intoxicating.

But whatever has a beginning also comes to an end – whether good or bad. The end of bad, corrupt, and dictatorial government and leadership seems to have come to a crashing halt. The power of government and leaders is in the gun and its use to intimidate and scar the people. Once this advantage of the fears of the use of the gun is removed, like in most democracies, the focus of power becomes radically reversed from the leaders to the people.

Although we have not reached there yet, but this seems to be the direction from the confrontations that took place last week. With government unable to enforce its laws it has lost the monopoly and legitimate use of violence; its very existence is threatened and in fact in jeopardy and society may be the worse for it, because where there is no law and order, there will be anarchy, and only might is right. This is where the selfish and primitive leadership of the elite has landed the country.