THEWILL EDITORIAL: Nigerian Youths Are Taking Back Their Beloved Country

SAN FRANCISCO, October 20, (THEWILL) – Nigerian youths may have sent a very strong message to the world that they are determined to take their country back; and they are dead serious about that.

The ongoing EndSARS/EndSWAT peaceful demonstrations across the country, which unfortunately have turned violent in some parts, are not going to end in a hurry either as the youth might have resolved to put their lives on the line for the restoration of their country.

Though they might be acting a bit late, they appear to be more determined than ever that now is the time to effect the change the ruling political class had promised but only paid a lip service to.

The ruling elite had thought they could continue to do whatever they liked with the destiny of the country through clueless leadership, empty arrogance, name-calling and oppressive use of state powers.

They continued to perpetrate their feudal cum nepotistic and corruptive tendencies as they live under a grand illusion of a never-ending power. But the signs are already here, and clearly too, that it is no longer going to be business as usual.

The youth the failed leadership had arrogantly referred to as being “lazy”, however, sprung a surprise that indeed hit the government and their cronies below the belt.

The surprises of the past days of protests, not only in organisation and accountability but also the sincerity of purpose and unity, have sent cold shivers down the spines of the corrupt and analogue leaders.

It is interesting that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo could be apologising to the protesting youth for the failure of the leadership to act in good time as he pleaded for more time to effect the necessary change.

We however wonder where those insensitive lousy bunch, who have turned governance into propaganda and would lash out at sincere, objective criticisms and suggestions, have suddenly disappeared into.

The youth might have sent them into an unplanned sabbatical as the ongoing wind of change has simply shut their lousy mouth up. The ongoing movement appears really set to sweep them off their comfort zones with shame after selling their conscience, if they had one in the first instance, for a morsel of bread.

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The EndSARS/SWAT protest which started just six days after the country’s 60th independence anniversary has become the largest single movement of youth since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

The leaderless movement, which has received unprecedented huge support from far and near, including women coalitions, has been able to make the government accede to its first request – the scrapping of the police terrorist unit – SARS – along with four other demands.

But the youth want more than just an official pronouncement from a government they could no longer trust. They want to see real actions and not just a change of name for the killer police unit from SARS to SWAT. A total reform of not only the police but also the entire governance structure is their ultimate goal.

THEWILL recalls that police had announced the disbandment of the notorious SARS five times in five years, yet nothing has happened. Amnesty International had also reported SARS as being “responsible for widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment) of detainees in their custody.”

In a 2016 report, entitled You Have Signed Your Death Warrant’: Torture and other Ill Treatment By Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Amnesty International listed the methods found to be used by SARS to include “severe beating, hanging, starvation, shooting in the legs, mock executions and threats of execution.”

Though the Inspector General of Police’s announcement of the disbandment of SARS and its replacement by SWAT was a first score for the youth, they would not be deceived and have come up with another seven all-encompassing list to end every irresponsibility in governance and inequality in the structure of the country.

The beauty of the demonstrations is that the youth are calling for a change without using force. The peaceful protests and their organisational style and tactics have been hailed across Nigeria and abroad. The support for the Nigerian youth movement by global IT giants – Twitter and Google, among many others, has further placed the country fully in the eyes of the world.

The Nigerian leadership therefore appears to be in a real dilemma as to how to deal with the unforeseen crisis at hand. While the die-hard oligarchies, desperate to maintain the status quo, are advising the Federal Government to resort to the use of force, we want to advise President Muhammadu Buhari and his advisers not to look at the ongoing protests as just one that could be crushed with the declaration of State of emergency or the use of force as being suggested in some quarters.

We want to maintain that if the use of force had worked in the past to quell politically-motivated uprisings, it might not work this time around as the youth movement has nothing to do with politics but the demand for freedom, human rights and good governance.

THEWILL also commends the Olumide Akpata-led Nigerian Bar Association and other professional associations for not only identifying with the youth movement but also supporting the youth with professional services to achieve desired goals and also offer succour to those who have been injured.

While we encourage the youth movement to remain focused, objective and sincere in their demands, we strongly condemn the activities of some desperate politicians who have resorted to hiring thugs and hoodlums to attack the peaceful protesters and destroy their vehicles.

We urge Nigerians to simply see the inconveniences they are going through at the moment, in terms of traffic gridlock and total blockade of roads in some cases, as the price to pay for these great actions of the youth, who are risking their lives to tell the government the bitter truth it has refused to hear over the years.

The pains are definitely not going to be long as the liberation train is surely on the move for Nigerians and the generational shift that many have advocated for could happen in the general elections in 2023.

THEWILL unequivocally condemns the violence, killings and anarchy that have engulfed the protests particularly in Lagos, Abuja and Edo State.