By Azu Ishiekwene
You will have to go back almost a decade to find something similar to what has been happening across the country for the last week.
Back then, civil society deeply offended by billions of naira stolen by government officials and campaign donors to the ruling party in the name of the gasoline subsidy mounted protests that shook the country and nearly brought the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to its knees.
As it turned out, he almost didn’t kill that bird. However, it sparked #BringBackOurGirls, which sent waves of protests, as far away as the US White House, against the arrogant way the Jonathan government handled the abduction of more than 200 girls from their bedroom in light of the day in Chibok.
However, even the protests at that time are only a shadow of what has been happening in the country since last week. #ENDSARS is what happens when deep-seated injustice and oppression meet with determined courage and determination.
How to kill them young
It’s hard to say which of the stories that sparked the protests is the most heartbreaking. The story of the woman whose brother was killed by the Special Anti-Theft Squad, SARS and whose pain was compounded by SARS men demanding sex before the young man’s corpse was released? The body was released after a radio announcer intervened. But the victim’s mother died while waiting.
What about the case of the young Aborisade who was forced to get off an interstate bus because he was carrying an iPhone, and after the SARS men didn’t find enough money in his account, they charged him with theft?
Or the case of Ifeoma Abugu, a young woman who had just completed her national youth service who was arrested in place of her fiancé, sexually abused in detention, and left to die in her cell? Or Tiyamiu Kazeem, who was detained by SARS men and when they tried to stop him fell out of the SARS van and was hit by a moving car?
Have we forgotten the cases of dozens of young people humiliated, detained and brutalized for their dreadlocks, tattoos, long beards and avant-garde clothing? Or the filmmaker who escaped death through the skin of his teeth by wearing props intended for an action movie?
Even if the trauma of the survivors is overlooked, which is a great mountain to climb, the 82 people who, according to an Amnesty International report, were extrajudicially killed by SARS in the past three years present unique stories of aborted dreams without piety. While each affected family has endured their own pain in their own unique way, no perpetrators have been reported.
Ochuko, the young man whose shooting in Ughelli last week sparked the latest protests, barely escaped alive. It doesn’t matter if it was SARS or “Operation Delta Safe” that pulled the trigger: they are cousins of the same deadly heritage.
And that’s precisely the point: how long that inheritance would be endured, tolerated, and even enabled.
As the protests spread, former Inspector General of Police Suleiman Abba shed some tears, not for the victims of heinous crimes and brutality, but for SARS. He said we are going to miss SARS so much, we would regret the day they were redistributed.
When he finished texting, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that he had not won the All Progressives Congress, APC, nomination to run for Senate in Jigawa. So would he have been speaking in the Senate?
Abba doesn’t understand. It will not. In his 30-year career in the police force, in addition to his tour of duty as an aide-de-camp to General Sani Abacha’s wife, his retirement from police deputy former spokesman Aminu Tambuwal,
And on the day that Dr. Reuben Abati announced his appointment as IGP in a short press release, he will have to scratch his head to remember that he rose so high in strength. Apparently he loved to leave decomposing corpses in the force exactly where they were buried, with a large mask over his nose.
Abba is not the only one who thinks we could still send roses to SARS for dismantling. I’ve heard some say that while the SARS operating in most of the north are good, those in Lagos and several southern states (and especially the southern ones among them) are bad.
Why dismantle the good guys with the bad guys? Why? When there is an epidemic of rape, the way to save potential victims is not to try to find which potential perpetrators are wearing tribal markings or to wear a tape measure underneath.
There is no question that there are good cops and I have met some of them in my life. The question is whether the culture of brutality in the force – and indeed in the security services – is not so deeply ingrained as to disable any cosmetic change and endanger even the good few.
Even amid the protests, the police continued to cut the tires of the cars of the social crusade Aisha Yesufu and those of other protesters; they were being tear-gassed and sprinkled with water cannons when the Fire Service could not find enough water to put out the fire in the Federation’s General Accountant’s office, right next door.
Is that the force that redeems with a sermon or saves by preaching like IGP Mohammed Abubakar Adamu did that they shouldn’t be inspecting people’s phones for the fun of it?
What the protesters are asking for, and what the country now deserves, is a radical change; not symbolism for vested interests who behave as if asked to donate their manhood.
The good news is that regardless of the distractions and efforts to hide things, protesters are clear about what they want. And they know twisting your arm to make them give in is worse than giving SARS another welcome party.
The protesters do not want money from the government because they have seen how the protest leaders paid off and nothing changed. They don’t want a “seat at the table”, because they have seen the White Papers on police reform turn brown and things only got worse.
And yes, they are not burning tires or looting shops because they have also seen genuine protests hijacked in the past and have seen reactionaries use such incidents to compromise or blackmail demands for action.
They have learned from the mistakes of their parents suffered, and at least have learned a lesson or two from their striking teachers to whom they lied or lied to themselves that change is best served piecemeal.
They are charting their own course by having their skin in the game. They are imposing themselves to pay for food, drinks and music while maintaining the protests.
While Tunde Lemo, president of fintech start-up Flutterwave, was apparently absent to relax, for example, his company’s staff donated the first N2 million to fund the protests and gave details on social media to the latest kobo how others were arriving. donations and were spent.
Bundle Africa, another fintech, did the same. Anyone with a brain bite’s worth would know that all the talk about some people taking over these companies to transfer illicit funds is bullshit.
Some of the smartest and best young people I’ve ever met, including some with high-paying jobs and wealthy parents, were on the streets, taking advantage of technology, social connections, and their place as citizens of the world. – push for fundamental change. No PDP, no APC.
Worse than predators
We may not like the inconvenience caused by roadblocks. Or embarrass yourself like Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, whose appointee posted a sarcastic comment against President Muhammadu Buhari. Honestly, I didn’t know that Ganduje still had the ability to feel embarrassed after all the dollar stories.
But after years of watching us play ostrich, our children seem to be saying that the game is over. They are not angry. And in this particular case, SARS is not even a predatory cop. A predator hardly wastes its prey. SARS is worse than the predatory police: it has been infiltrated by a criminal gang that bought the right of access and transformed the force in its own brutal image.
Georgia faced a similar problem. In an article in the June 11, 2020 issue of Foreign Policy, former Georgian President MikheilSaakashvilli said when he took office in 2004, “Law enforcement agencies functioned like criminal gangs. The officers demanded bribes, trafficked drugs and weapons, and worked for political and business elites as a mercenary security force. “
Saving the fruit basket by removing the bad apples was not an option. It eliminated the system completely as well as changing “the mindset of a broken, cynical and fearful society.”
The process of creative destruction, according to him, involved dismantling the legacy of the politicized police, dissolving the traffic police and replacing it with an entirely new force with no track record in law enforcement and therefore no ties to the old network. corrupt. It’s the culture, stupid!
The new recruits were subjected to competitions and courses on the criminal procedure code, while being taught new skills in persuasion, negotiation and mediation. The system had to be rebuilt from scratch.
Its stations were torn down and each of them rebuilt with clear glass frames. There was no longer any hiding place. The net result was a 66 percent decrease in violent crime and more than 50 percent in the overall crime rate. At the end of Saakashvilli’s presidency in 2013, law enforcement agencies ranked among the most respected institutions in Georgia with an 87 percent approval rating.
It is fair to argue that Georgia’s population is roughly the size of a local government in Lagos and that what works there may not work here. Okay, but why not take the principle and start by truly decentralizing the police and holding them accountable? Redistributing SARS agents to the regular police force and throwing more money at the problem will not solve it.
And the lesson about band-aid change is that it only causes the wound to become infected. Those who resist fundamental root and branch change in the police do not do so out of benevolence.
They want enough change to keep their current privileges and nothing else. And they would do anything, even blackmail protesters and spread lies and hysteria, to get what they want.
Only creative destruction can produce something lasting. It remains to be seen if this moment will bring it.