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Social and human development requires a conducive environment to explore human potentials towards creating better life for the people. The current state of the nation occasioned by the protests by youths under the #EndSARS movement seems to threaten this. The initial demand of the protesters to primarily end the impunity of the officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police was greeted with applause by the majority of the citizens who had experienced one form of infraction or the other in the hands of SARS operatives. To many helpless Nigerians, including adults and the elderly, it initially felt as if a Messianic movement that was long awaited had come to their rescue.
However, what started as a peaceful protest suddenly turned violent as it was hijacked by elements who had other motives due to the inability of the organisers to manage the initial success that greeted their actions. A lot of destruction of lives and property were, and still being, witnessed. Following the violence, schools were closed, businesses were destroyed, security became highly compromised as weapons were looted from the armories of some security posts while some correctional centres were thrown open. Government appeals and actions were either too late or too little to assuage the protesting youths. The nation stood on precipice. The development led the Government to declare curfew in some States. Worst hit are the vulnerable groups including children, women and people living with disabilities (PLWD) who were exposed to multiple jeopardy.
While we at FSHD acknowledge the multiple factors that could have precipitated the protests and those that possibly served as catalysts, there is need to appeal for calm on the part of the protesters. We also charge the government to take a sincere and comprehensive review of the state of the nation with a view to improving on the welfare of the people. It should be noted that the level of social insecurity, unemployment and inflation rate have led to despair and heightened fears of the fragility of our nationhood, as evidenced in the constant calls for fragmentation of the country along ethnic lines. There is also need to change the direction of governance and ensure that people do not only have access to basic necessities of life, they should actually be able to maximise their potentials in an atmosphere that supports real growth and development.
Information available in the public space on the crisis has been largely manipulated bringing the people against the government. There is need to work on the image of the government as perceived by the citizens. There cannot be social and human development where there is high level of mistrust of the leadership by the citizens. The country has created a class for the poor without access to the ladder to climb out of poverty. The youths are the worst hit by this challenge.
We want to remind that all levels and arms of government have duties to ensure they provide welfare services and make life worth living for their citizens. We note that most state governments have practically lost the initiative for good governance. The States should respect the significance of the independence of Local Government Areas towards bringing the dividend of democracy to the grassroots. The consequences of the manipulation of the grassroots are now crystallizing with the public display of anger by the youths which makes the nation to bleed. The Federal Government is not, and should not be, the only arm responsible for developmental activities, and welfare of the people. The concept of principle of separation of power should be used to better the lot of the grassroots. People give legitimacy, authority and power to government.
We appeal to the protesting youths to use the opportunity of the protests to push for real empowerment. There is need for a reorientation of the youths towards making them socio-politically active and economically productive. The youths should use their access to technology productively to contribute to economic growth and political emancipation to create the kind of country so desired by them. Same youths should not be easy tools for manipulation by politicians to subvert any electoral process. They should actively participate in political education of the people to push for changes in their political culture. They should use the powers of their voter cards to make strong statements and create the society of their dream.
They should make statements of changes through the ballots. The active politicians amongst them should show examples. It’s only when the youths are productive and stay off crimes that they can be appreciated. Though the future of a nation is not determined by only the youths, the activities of the youths today will determine whether a future is even assured. The youths should adopt peace and dialogue so as not to aggravate the already perilous state of our economy. Our youths are a measure of our today, and our tomorrow lies with them.
We all have to do whatever we can to stop the nation from any further bleeding.
Lukman Tunde FASASI, PhD
Foundation for Social and Human Development (FSHD)