Post #EndSARS Protests: Nothing Will Change Until…

48 hours after the horrific incidence of 20th October 2020 at #LekkiTollGate where #EndSARS protesters were shot at in the dark by security operatives, the President, Muhammad Buhari, finally addressed the nation.

There have been many reactions to the speech made by the President. While many were happy that the Commander-in-Chief finally addressed the nation, some expressed their disappointment about the content of the address.

Whichever side of the divide you are, one thing is sacrosanct: as Nigerians, we all want a better country, a nation with systems that work for all, irrespective of class, tribe, or religion. A country where basic amenities of life should not turn into prayer points before they’re met. A country where quality healthcare is affordable and accessible.  A country where good education is available in public schools and private education is simply an option. A country where the security of lives and properties is guaranteed for all citizens, not only for the rich and privileged. A country that creates equal opportunities for its youth and merit gets the jobs, not connection.

However, it is important to note that nation-building is a collective responsibility of all citizens. The hydra-headed problems hindering our national development did not start today, not with President Buhari, even though as the leader today we expect him to solve most, if not all, of the problems. The policeman that extorts and brutalizes is a product of the Nigerian system. The corrupt politician that plods at our commonwealth is a product of the same system. The civil servant that loots the treasury is a product of the system; while the citizen that refuses to demand his/her right or hold people in public offices accountable is also a product of the same system. So, there is no doubt that the system that makes it all too easy for anyone in Nigeria to do the wrong thing and get away with it is faulty and needs urgent repair and total reform.

The #EndSARS protests have shown a good example of citizens summoning the courage to demand and force change, self-led by the new generation of young and fearless Nigerians in their 20’s and 30’s, most of whom all they know is freedom: 20 years of uninterrupted democratic rule, freedom of expression through social media, non-traditional means of livelihood through the Internet, etc. These brave young men and women, leveraging the power of social media platforms organized one of the most coordinated and peaceful protests Nigeria has ever witnessed, sending a clear message to anyone and everyone that young Nigerians are ready to birth a new and working country for the collective benefit of all.

They shared a common vision and responsibility with no superhero – speaking volume about their Leadership capability.

They raised funds and accounted for the donations – that shows Accountability.

They fed and took care of each other, and even non-participants of the protests, irrespective of tribe and religion – that demonstrates Unity.

They cleaned their protest grounds – that shows their understanding of Common Good and Responsibility.

They also recognized the victims of Police Brutality – talks of Empathy.

But unfortunately, the ugly turn of events on 20.10.2020 and the hijack of the protests by hoodlums who took over the streets of major cities, killing, maiming, looting and destroying both state properties as well as the livelihood of individual citizens leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many and raises the question of whether the protest is enough.

Young Nigerians have now realized how much power they have and are able to wield, but that power should not only be demonstrated via street protests because after all is said and done, one thing is clear: Protest is Protest and Power is Power. The people in power will always direct the affairs of the nation. Therefore, young Nigerians, the youth, should pick interests in politics by either vying for offices or determining who becomes the next President, Governors, Legislators, down to Local Government Chairmen.

Young people should not only be card-carrying members of political parties but also negotiate for their own generation’s inclusion in governance. It is not written anywhere that being a young person or a youth implies that you can only be an agitator, protester, political thug, personal assistant, or an appendage to people in government – at least not in the same country where the current crop of leaders became heads of state and ministers in their 20’s and 30’s.

In 2015, young Nigerians did a good job of packing President Buhari to look impeccably good for the job. While some were paid handsomely for their marketing communication expertise, some performed at rallies for fees, and others collected stipends to vote, but they failed to negotiate their interest and involvement in the government. Again, in 2019 younger aspirants found it difficult to come together to give the established candidates the needed fight.

Power is not freely given; it is taken. 2023 is just around the corner. You can’t be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Young people need to pivot the #EndSARS energy into coordinated political movements and take their own destiny into their hands by negotiating their own future through active political participation. That is the only way to effect the much-desired change we crave. Nothing will change until the best of us start getting involved in the deliberate process of nation-building.

“The change that we desire is never going to come from the government, but from ordinary people like you and me doing the right things every day.”

God bless Nigeria!

Taopheek Babayeju, CEO iCentra, wrote in from Abuja

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