The Sense and Senselessness of the #EndSARSProtest; A Record Gain and a Record Lose By Muhammed Ibrahim

Like the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970)this, too, shall come to pass.

And so be it with the #EndSARSProtest as it has finally taken its queue in the catalogue of many historical protests in the anal of history of this great nation.

After all, it was never the first, and may not likely be the last. Yet, no one has ever witnessed a protest of a large scale proportion of its kind.

The momentum, wanton destruction of lives and properties, the crowd, the fanfare, the fear and scorching uncertainty of a seemingly unsavoury outcome, brought the entire nation to a standstill.

However, unlike the Nigerian civil war, fought to the end by both veterans, mercenaries and ragtag army, this time it’s the entire nation that’s at war with itself. A full-blown civil war of a sort and it was all made possible, thanks to information technology.

There’s hardly anyone who has not contributed, either in fueling or quenching the embers of the protest. From Facebook to Twitter warriors, to the mainstream media intelligentsia, it was a field day galore.

A postmortem examination of the last few days event would reveal the stark reality of the different perspectives of the protest, in which there was neither a victor nor vanquished.

For the umpteenth times, it was always predicted, by the naysayers, that Nigeria would not survive its next independent celebration.

The apocalypse prediction was even made more terrifying in 2012 when a certain “urban legend” had it widely believed that the United States government predicted that the country will break up in 2015.

Interestingly, not only the stratospherically tension-filled pre2015 election chicanery, nor the ensuing post-election violence, were enough trigger to set that record straight, though, a ticking time bomb was set in motion.

Hence, one could be forgiven to argue that the aftermath of the #EndSARSProtest provided a whole new vista to understanding such underlying historical tension and the dire need for both quick-fixed and long-time healing process.

More so, a deeply sober reflection on the whole saga, generated on and off the scene of the protest, should be of utmost concern to both the government and its citizenry.

As our healing process is non-negotiable, as much as our indestructible unity, the quest speaks volume of the need for a deeper reflection, introspection and panoramic overview of the gain and loss of the whole eventful quagmire.

“Time heals all wounds,” says the ancient wisdom. And this aphorism couldn’t have been more fitting, as we began the process of healing and rebuilding.

Innocent lives were lost, properties destroyed and our deepest fear and mortal mistrust of each other were revealed to the world. Our fragile unity put to the test, accentuating the yawning suspicion from within and without.

Not only that our primordial instinct of barbarism was revealed, but we also revel in its orgy and ugliness.

The killing and maiming of a fellow human being made us no different from whatever monster we were fighting against. This is our biggest loss in all ramifications, and they could’ve been avoided, nonetheless.

When it was cristal clear, the protesters had cordoned the government and all their legitimate demands listened to, from both moral and political high ground, it required tact and ancient wisdom to allow reason prevail over emotion.

Genuine negotiations, within acceptable time limit, supervised by credible individuals and organizations should’ve followed suit.

Unfortunately, the protesters thought it otherwise and that was their tragic flow; a fetal hubris. They should’ve learnt to step down when the ovation was high.

Regrettably, this turns out to be the climax of their undoing and strengthen the resolve of the government in the process. Inevitably, for every action, there’s equal and opposite reaction.

As in both spiritual and circular sense, nature abhors vacuum. A rudderless protest begets rudderless outcomes. The absence of a genuine leaders for fear of compromise is the protester’s biggest undoing.

Leaving their defence line opened proved costly as their ranks swell with all manners of bad eggs many of whom harboured a sinister agenda. This drailed the entire focus of the protest and snowball out of proportion.

From #Endpolicebrutality, #Revolutionnow to #BuharimustResign and ultimately to breaking of shops, looting, arson, vandalism and total break down of law and order. A record brigades of sizeable proportion, swept across the land like a wild west wind, leaving in their trails destructions, ruins, tears and blood.

However, from both economic, moral and humanist perspective, the resultant outcome is the triumph of evil over good. And the lost of properties proved no less costly than the loss of lives of the innocent souls, many whom were striving to make ends meet.

Yet, as with the loss of lives, the loss of properties is equally telling and would be visible sooner than imagined. From unemployment level, to increase in the crime rate would be Immeasurable.

Prisons were broken and violent criminal set free. Ministries were set ablaze and properties worth billions of naira lost in the mayhem.

An uncorroborated report of one of those jailbirds hacking to death a witness at his trial is mindbogglingly scary. And, needless to say, this may just be a tip of an iceberg.

There could be a far more reaching fallout of gargantuan proportion in the coming days. The futility of the protest was even made more poignant by the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, thereafter.

Arguably, one dangerous precedence set by the #EndSARSProtest is the trail of negative suspicion in the wake of the northerners refusal to participate fully in the protest.

As usual, sectarian narratives, ethnic and religious jingoism served the staple diet of the mischief-makers. Suddenly, the north was made the scapegoat, vilified and chastised for compromise.

This, however, discredited the legitimacy of the whole protest as a national outcry and provided the government with the leverage and genuine momentum against the protesters.

The ensuing tirade and abuses on and off the social media proved unhealthy for the fragile coexistence of the nation.

Some even went as far as mocking the ‘northerners’ in that the deteriorating security situation in the north is the region’s reward for supporting the president.

These and much other negative fallout, from both micro and macro perspective, proved the colossal failure of the whole protest.

For the benefits of hindsight, however, the #EndSARSProtest proved invaluable in the ongoing cleansing of our nascent Democracy. For many reasons, the protest helped to expose many chasms and brought about a mass political awareness of the people’s strength.

In fact, It is reassuring that the saying that in Democracy, true power lies with the people, is not a scam. The collective strength of the #EndSARSProtesters proved this beyond any spec of doubt.

That the government bowed to the demands of the protesters in one fell swoop, speaks volumes of the strength of a popular will.

Although the #EndSARSProtest may have failed spectacularly, the echo of the people’s popular opinion left no one in doubt about what people can achieve using their collective strength. This is the triumph of the popular will against tyranny and mysticism.

More so, the #EndSARSProtest helped reveal the true loyalty of many people. That the #EndSARSProtesters gained sympathy from all and sundry, clearly indicates the shared concern of the people with collective wellbeing of the society as against the individual.

Interestingly, many of the president’s staunch supporters are openly condemning him in the face of resurgent security challenges in the country. If anything, it serves to prove that their political loyalty is borne out of devotion to their country and not some individual hero worship.

In the same breath, the #EndSARSProtest couldn’t have come at a better time, indeed. In the wake of the recent security challenges in the country and the government lackadaisical attitude toward its failing structure, the #EndSARSProtest served as a catalyst and a powerful salvo to the government.

Hopefully, the government is reminded of the danger of sleeping on duty. And should the rot continue, the next nationwide protest could be the mother of all protest, and the #EndSARSProtest would’vepaled spectacularly by comparison?

And, of course, the government is quite aware of its inability to contain such gargantuan uprising. This is a record gain by both parties.

Undoubtedly, #EndSARSProtest revealed the yawning gap between the government and its citizenry. The level of frustration expressed, the wanton desire by the citizens to destroy public properties, all revealed the restiveness as a result of lack of economic opportunity and poor government policies to tackle that.

What’s of paramount importance is, the government should watch the unfolding event as a ticking time bomb that must be carefully studied and immediately disable.

Most importantly, the three weeks siege and the ensuing breakdown of law and order in the country serve to remind both the government and the citizenry about the nature of a failed state and a state of anarchy, respectively.

While the government might’ve learnt a hard lesson, the citizenry is reminded of the futility of taking law into their own hands. Violence begets nothing but violence and that only dialogue can guarantee a genuine understanding.

Moreover, as many of the protesters and their invisible cohorts basked in the euphoria of removing a democratically elected president, speaks a lot about the dire need for a robust political awareness and enlightenment in the country.

The reintroduction of History subject in our curriculum would prove important in this perspective. The citizens should be tought about the working mechanisms of Democracy and the danger of civil strife and its untoward consequences.

Evidently, the whole #EndSARSProtest would’ve been a record success, but for their lack of blueprint and genuine leadership structure, which led to its ugly end.

That their slogan metamorphosis from #EndSARSProtest to #BuharmustResign is the last straw on Carmel’s back; a costly dealbreaker.

Clearly, the opposition was gloating over because, in their assumption, any condemnation of the president is a direct validation of their own alternative.

Yet, that would’ve been reasonable, with a fresh opposition party, with no history of power. Therefore, the challenges are on whosoever thinks that Buhari’s failures can erase the failures of those before him or make them look a better alternative.

Whether it was Jonathan in 2015 or Atiku in 2019, those alternatives did not offer Nigerians any genuine way forward.

In fact, unlike the above-mentioned duo, Buhari’s emergence represents an optimism; the idea that men of individual integrity and personal credibility could be elected into office through sheer force of popular will.

If Buhari’s performance so far betrays that very idea, that is enough a tragedy. Individuals can fail, but the idea that propels him to office still remains our last lifeline.

We must not, therefore, resort to violence through protest to make our demands known. Nigeria no doubt needed (and still needs) change, but not a change via the gunpowder back to the old order. This would be akin to the proverbial journey back to square one. Our collective existence requires our collective dialogue and nothing else.

That notwithstanding, If Nigeria’s fundamental problems continue uncontrollably under the helpless stare of successive Nigerian president, irrespective of party affiliation, then we need to start doing something radically different to obtain a positively different result differently.

Thus, by leveraging on the lessons of the fast few days, we have the collective responsibility of nation-building through mutual coexistence. That the only feasible alternative for the preservation of our nation is through dialogue.

As our history is replete with unsavoury tragedies is enough a warning. It’s obvious that despite the great losses and the agony suffered by the nation during the “war of unity”, Nigeria is still far from being united fifty years after the end of hostilities.

This is confirmed by the constant altercations between the various parts of the country and should serve as a warning that the current scenario of inter-ethnic conflagrations is a replica of the events that precipitated the darkest chapter in the anal of our history and which serves as the fundamental factors that led to the outbreak of war in 1966.

This, should keep us on our toes and guide our collective outburst. That we must agree to disagree should be our next slogan. That there’s no alternative to peace except peace through dialogue should be our watchword. That this country is our plough and not to plunder is nonnegotiable. And that a house divided against itself can never stand is the sum of them all.

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