Nigeria

#EndSARS: Between trust deficit and tears of fury

EndSARS
EndSARS

By Ladesope Ladelokun

WHEN the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, initially announced the ban on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, from carrying out routine patrols and stop-and-search operations after public outrage against its activities reached a crescendo, it was understandable that some Nigerians took it with a pinch of salt.

Like Abiku(a child believed to cycle through life and death in a family), the notorious unit of the Nigeria Police had literally died and resurrected three times before it was finally disbanded by the Inspector General of Police. But, tear-provoking tales of man’s inhumanity to man linked to the operatives of the now-disbanded police unit abound.

They remain shouting evidence of how Nigeria needlessly kills her own and plunge many into the abyss of anguish. Little wonder the fear of SARS became the beginning of wisdom for decent and financially successful young Nigerians.

Like many Nigerians, the story of Oluseyi Akinade, aged 23, still leaves yours truly gutted. Akinade, who was a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta committed suicide due to alleged arrest and torture by the Special Anti-Robbery SARS. The suicide note of the enterprising young Nigerian read in part: “I slept in the cell that night for doing nothing, the police slapped and beat us, prisoners also dealt with us when we entered the cell.

I cried till next morning. Not because I slept in the cell for doing nothing but because I was on a losing trade with thousands of dollars online and I was going to miss my project presentation which cannot be repeated…That day, I lost $20,000 to trading and missed my project presentation in school. They still wanted to collect bail after beating and harassing us for nothing. Since then, I’ve been in massive debt, I couldn’t complete my education.

“And my life has been in shambles. I have receipts for everything I said here in case anyone thinks I’m lying. Suicide has been the only thought on my mind every day. So, in case I hurt myself and anyone is curious as to why I did it. This is my story.”

But, the anger of a people pushed to the wall cannot always be suppressed. Unlike previous reactions to cases of police brutality, the anger and frustration of Nigerians reached boiling point after a video revealed that SARS operatives allegedly threw one Joshua Ambrose out of a moving car in Delta State, sparking a peaceful protest that eventually turned bloody.

No doubt, before a damper was put on the expectations of Nigerians who desired a protest devoid of bloodied bodies riddled with bullets, we got a peep into a new Nigeria birthed by young people across Nigeria. We saw ingenuity at its best when they leveraged technology to outsmart agents of the state to escape financial asphyxiation.

In a country where corruption crawls on all fours, we saw accountability and transparency in the management of resources by the people called leaders of tomorrow; something we hardly see in the manner today’s tribe of leaders manage our commonwealth. The leaders of tomorrow became the teachers of today’s tribe of leaders in prudent management of resources. Until the devil visited, it was a protest made in heaven.

How then did a peaceful and well-organised protest turn bloody? Of course, the story of the EndSARS protest cannot be complete without the Lekki shootings that changed the complexion of a protest made in heaven. Many right-thinking Nigerians are still shell-shocked that men in army uniform could open fire on unarmed protesters demanding an end to police brutality under the cover of darkness.

If Lekki were a Boko Haram camp, it would be understandable. After all, it is said that those who kill by the sword shall die by the sword. Not the Lekki protesters who were not seen with a sword, let alone a gun.

Yet bullets reportedly dispatched some to early graves. At least, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos told Nigerians that two people died despite claims by doubting-Thomases and mischievous elements that a shot was not fired.

Also, a witness, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, who spoke with UK’s Mirror said he saw 10 people who were shot, and soldiers removing bodies. Curiously, no one has taken responsibility for needlessly spilling the blood of Nigerians. Nigerians are still asking: Who gave the order to kill unarmed protesters?

Interestingly, after keeping Nigerians in the dark for days as per how it got to Lekki Toll Gate, the Nigerian Army revealed it was invited by the Lagos State Government to restore normalcy when the security situation in the state got deplorable but insisted it did not shoot anyone.

Now, it is commonsensical that either Sanwo-Olu or the Nigerian Army is lying to Nigerians . The revelation of the Army raises more questions and answers. Didn’t the Nigerian Army earlier deny that its men were at the Lekki Toll Gate? Didn’t the Lagos governor say forces above him sent soldiers to the Lekki Toll Gate? What role did the President play in all of this?

Ideally, one should wonder why angry protesters across the country remained in the streets despite promises by the government the issues raised by the protests would be addressed. Perhaps the needless killings could have been averted if young people trust their leaders. Isn’t that what happens when trust is shattered in a country where promises from public office holders are not worth more than a kobo? Is it a fairy tale that public office holders in this part of the world make and break promises, even shift goalposts after a goal has been scored?

When a man’s word is his bond, even storms listen to him. Indeed, renowned author and businessman, Stephen Covey, hit the bulls eye when he quipped: “Trust is the glue of life. It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the foundational principle that holds relationships.”

Beyond trust deficit, history is replete with horrific tales of crimes against humanity perpetrated by security agents. One reason acts of impunity among security agents have remained a recurring decimal is the fact that there are hardly consequences for their actions .The EndSARS protest presents another opportunity for concerned authorities to send a strong message against impunity and kill-and-go security agents.

When the dust of EndSARS protest eventually settles, it will be clear to all that a new culture of socio-political mobilisation has been birthed. Already, young people are conscious like never before of what they can achieve with their numerical strength, energy, unity and resilience. Nigeria will not remain the same again.

VANGUARD

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