By Gabriel Amulu
The ongoing street rage, against the infernal torture and criminality that is the hallmark of the proscribed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), calls for immediate restructuring of the Nigerian Police Force, not the infantile change of name to SWAT. As the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, must have realised, the Nigerian youths are tired of double-dealing, with respect to the debilitating insecurity that is threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, this column commends Nigerian youths responsible for the ongoing campaign to end police brutality across the country, tagged #EndSARS. They deserve praise for galvanising and channelling youth energy to a worthwhile venture. Their few days in the street have shown that if Nigerian youths can mobilise to demand change in the way we are governed, many of the shenanigans that pass off as governance at various levels of government will stop.
But while police brutality and insensate corruption is endemic, it is just a bit of the challenges faced by our dear country. One of such other challenge is captured in one campaign poster, in the social media. It says: “what about the other SARS killing us too? Senators And Reps’ Salaries (SARS).” In my view, that second SARS is more virulent than the first SARS. So, if the campaigners can force a change of that second SARS, the vices in the police force can be dealt with through the promulgation of efficient laws and regulation.
This column believes that the gross inefficiency at the various branches of the executive arm, including the police, is because, fundamentally the legislative arm which is constitutionally empowered to checkmate inefficiencies in the executive arm, is itself weighed down by corrupt practices. By disregarding the 1999 Constitution (as amended) in determining its emoluments, the legislative arm, especially the National Assembly, surrendered its moral authority to checkmate the executive arm.
To make matters worse, the National Assembly has become populated substantially by the fantastically corrupt, and it continues to attract characters, who go there not to make laws, but merely to enrich themselves. With such characters in the majority, what you have are extortionists who would rather extort than “make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation”, as enjoined by section 4(2) of 1999 constitution.
So, when public hearings are set up to examine the laws or the committees go for oversight functions, what you have is a jamboree. The most recent of such scandalous outings was between a House of Representative Committee, set up to probe allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Development Commission.
At the height of the inglorious affair, when accusations and counter accusations were flying about, the committee chair begged the Niger Delta Minister Godswill Akpabio, to stop exposing them to the world. Such is the tragedy that has befallen the National Assembly that no person takes them seriously. This column therefore supports the call for downsizing the senators and representatives salaries (#EndtheotherSARS).
If President Muhammadu Buhari and members of the National Assembly have a sense of history, they would seize the opportunity of the ongoing agitation to start restructuring of Nigeria, so they can be remembered well. Even without the ongoing #EndSARS agitation, anyone who thinks that Nigeria, as presently configured and governed, is sustainable in the long run, must either be an ignoramus or a fraud.
As I have argued here severally, the core-northern part of Nigeria, which is seen as advantaged by the present status quo is in worse shape than the south, which feels oppressed and marginalised. Just like in the 1950s, in the match towards Nigeria’s independence, while the south is getting impatient with the state of affairs and want an immediate change, the north which is lagging behind, also needs the change.
The northern governors who are resisting the #EndSARS campaign, are doing so, to safeguard their plum positions, not because their people are benefiting from the failing state. It is common knowledge that large swaths of the northwest and the northeast remain some of the most dangerous places on earth. And if there are no economic and political restructuring to allow states earn more income, and develop the police to provide basic security, how on earth can those states survive the crisis bedevilling them?
Common sense dictates that with about 30% of youth unemployment, arising from lack of economic activity in most states of the country, the criminality and banditry that has overwhelmed the north, will not go away. With war addling the banditry, how sustainable is it for Nigeria to keep borrowing to prosecute the war, and save it from its internal contradictions?
That is why President Buhari and those mouthing threats on his behalf, must wake-up from their slumber and realise that though the ongoing agitation may have been triggered by instances of police brutality, the malaise agitating the youths go much deeper than that. The National Assembly, without more prompting, can come clean of its past mistakes, call itself to order, and mend its ways.
It will be foolish for the government to fall to the temptation to send the army against the people. If they have a sense of self-preservation, they should weigh the possibility that that army may instead chose to storm the Bastille. Should that happen, the price to pay, by both the currently oppressed and the oppressors may be too steep. So, why don’t the authorities wake up and save everybody from the bloodletting and uncertainties that may follow.
Instead of mouthing platitudes, the youths have asked the government to initiate actions that would convince Nigerians that the government mean business. People like the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, should be given new assignments, instead of allowing him to further heat up the charged atmosphere. If the government which he speaks for, has the ability to rein in anarchists and trouble makers, it should concentrate energy in the northeast and northwest.
What the government must do, is to initiate concrete changes, which will give the youths the encouragement to enter into dialogue with them. If by their action or omission, the government allows the ongoing public agitation to morph into a revolution, the monumental tragedy that would befall our country can be better imagined than experienced. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine.
Clearly, the demand for police reform championed by the youths, is a wake-up call for all those abusing the privilege they have to govern, to mend their ways while they can. Let none of the abusers be fooled, unless they change, there would be no country to govern, in no distant time. That is if the apocalypse is not already at the gate, with the rage raging out there in our cities.