The youth uprising against police brutality in Nigeria has taken many by surprise. Conventional wisdom is that the youth are more likely to dance at a concert than sing a protest song. Events of the last couple of weeks have altered this narrative as youthful Nigerians have taken to the streets in a vigorous campaign to shoot down police brutality, with the notoriety of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) serving as the trigger — no pun intended. With the help of the hash tag, #EndSARS, the agitations have gained international attention. And the government has seen that this is not business as usual. Are we finally at the tipping point in the battle for the soul of Nigeria?
While the protests have, in the main, been about police brutality, interpreting them purely as such would be a massive mistake. We would be making a mistake if we focus on the fact that other interests, especially political, have seized the opportunity to fuel the fire. We would be erring by looking only at the disruptions being created all over by protesters who have refused to yield an inch despite their demands being met by the government. We would be missing the point if we focus too much on the fact that even the yahoo boys are eager to see the end of SARS, which itself grooms and harbours a legion of police officers that are yahoo boys and robbers by nature.
For sure, every struggle has its own opportunists. All kinds of characters will jump on the bandwagon to pursue their own agenda. That’s the way life goes. We have to look beyond that. My reading of the real situation is that there is something deeper going on out there. Deeper than SARS. Deeper than SWAT. Deeper than police brutality. What we have in our hands is the unloading of pent-up anger, frustration and resentment by Nigerians — with the youth leading the line. The SARS situation is what Yoruba would describe as “ara ran bombu l’owo” — that is… now I don’t know how to interpret that. Let me just say: “A thunder strike has helped detonate a bomb.”
In 1988, when I was a student of Kwara State Polytechnic where I studied for my A’Levels, we hardly had water at our residential halls. We queued up with our buckets every morning and every evening for water supply by tankers. Then one evening, guys played football. The tankers did not show up. How would they go to bed sweaty and smelly? A few of them started beating their buckets, singing “aluta” songs over water scarcity and poor welfare. Before we knew it, it had progressed to a protest march across the campus. And then a full-blown riot. Overnight, some of us trekked 10 kilometres to Ilorin town, afraid that soldiers would soon invade the campus and start shooting.
You would find it hard thinking a simple football game would lead to a bloody riot in a matter of minutes. In fact, if you were the cynical type, you would argue that the students were unserious, that they were in school to study and not to play football, and that it was the unserious students that caused the riot in order to be sent home. But you would be missing the point. Students were already frustrated. Nobody was paying attention. The anger was building up. The authorities did not see it. The resentment had reached a peak. They ignored it. It took a meaningless football match to fan the flame into an inferno. That is what happens when you fail to read the writing on the wall.
Let’s now return to #EndSARS. For decades, Nigerians have been complaining about police brutality. For decades, the Nigerian state has turned a blind eye, despite panels upon panels set up and recommendations upon recommendations made. As Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, respected political scientist and newspaper columnist, pointed out, all presidents since 1999 have set up one panel or the other on police reform. The reports are gathering dust on Aso Rock shelves. Meanwhile, the police have been gleefully stockpiling dead bodies, cocksure that there would be no consequences. SARS went on robbing and killing with impunity. Is the day of reckoning finally here?
But SARS apart, youth frustration has been building up. We asked them to go to school. They did. Write WASSCE. They did. Write UMTE. They did. Go to university. They did. Do national youth service. They did. Yet years later, they are still begging to apply for vacancies that do not exist, vacancies reserved for the children of the high and mighty. There are those that keep writing entrance exams but are unable to proceed because of lack of space or funds. There are those that never went to school, and those that dropped out in primary or secondary school. Millions are underemployed, unemployed or unemployable. What a huge army of frustrated youth.
But in the same country, if you manage to get elected into a state house of assembly, you will get a brand new SUV, currently sold at N50 million per machine. In some states, there are 40 lawmakers. That is N2 billion. Judges will wake up one day to realise the governor has just bought “tear-rubber” SUVs for them. Governors ride long convoys with the most modern bullet-proof technology. In the same society, hospitals are rejecting patients because “there is no bed space”. People are struggling to pay rising bus fares but their leaders can afford to charter jets to attend weddings and rallies. The youth see all these things. This is a society built on injustice and inequality. And we want peace?
Poverty, unemployment and inequality are the biggest triggers for uprising in any society. Some young persons taking to yahoo, drug dealing and armed robbery are products of a system that does not reckon with the implications of unemployment and poverty. An idle hand, it is said, is tempting the devil. No human being will sit at home and die of hunger. Self-preservation is a basic human instinct. If it is to steal, beg or borrow, the human being will strive to survive. Let me be clear: I am NOT justifying crime. However, a wise society will make a connection between unemployment, poverty and crime, and act decisively to address the problems at the root.
For decades, we have been asking the government to make the economic environment less hostile to businesses, especially small and medium scale enterprises, so that they will be able to create jobs for the millions of skilled and unskilled Nigerians. For decades, we have been putting up with the dissonance — government, on one hand, claiming they are trying to improve the ease of doing business; and government agencies, on the other hand, continuously terrorising SMEs with extortionate levies and taxes in a mad revenue drive, using task forces loaded with thugs and police officers to make the business environment unbearable for the engine room of the economy.
For inexplicable reasons, the government —whether federal, state or local — cannot understand the link between policy and prosperity. They think by making life difficult for businesses and their owners, the economy will grow and create the jobs needed to address the unemployment, poverty and inequality ravaging the nation. Does that make sense? For instance, if you run a business in Abuja, right under the nose of the federal government, the ministries, departments and agencies will violently come after you in such a way that you would think you are a Boko Haram member. Serious countries are encouraging SMEs. We are killing them. And we want to tackle unemployment.
In FCT, at least three units of the Abuja Municipal Council Area (AMAC) do “health inspection” on an eatery every year. You pay a levy for each visit. NAFDAC, NSTIF and SON will also do the same “health inspection” for a fee. There is an annual licence for “operating in FCT”. There is a levy for “using a car to distribute food”. You will be forced to pay Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and AMAC again for “fumigation”. There is also the AMAC “sanitary inspection” fee. AMAC’s department of environment charges for yearly inspection. There is yet another AMAC fee for “food and water-related handling”. That is how we want to encourage economic growth and create jobs in Nigeria!
In all, the #EndSARS protesters need to have an articulated game plan. They must have an end game in mind. At what stage do they sheathe the sword and seize this golden opportunity to begin to hold leaders at all levels accountable as a movement? No government official, whether elected or appointed, should sleep at ease again. What are the lawmakers doing with the constituency projects? Why are the roads so bad? Why are the hospitals and schools in such horrible state? Why are government officials chartering jets to attend political rallies? How are the budgets spent? These questions should shape the next stage of agitation, which should be peaceful and orderly.
If #EndSARS is going to be Nigeria’s tipping point — the point at which pockets of protests and agitations will trigger a major, sustained clamour for good governance — there is a need for strategic articulation, with an end game in mind. This is a lifetime opportunity for the youth to channel their anger, frustration and resentment into positive energy to bring about a fundamental change in Nigeria. The biggest gain should not be just to enforce an end to police brutality and impunity. Those are just symptoms of the chronic mismanagement of Nigeria. After #EndSARS, we need to end the biggest obstacle to our progress: appalling leadership at all tiers of government.
2023: It’s Tinubu or Atiku, not Obi, by Tunde Odesola
Broken in every bone, life hangs by the thread for 62-year-old comatose patient, Nigeria, inside the intensive care unit of the decrepit Ass-o-Rock hospital, Abuja, where it nurses diseased kidneys, liver cirrhosis and an enlarged heart while the Chief Physician, Dr. M. Buhari, stands by with a shroud, clutching a book entitled: “From national hero to regional zero.”
This doctor is as useful to the patient as glaucoma is useful to sight. As a novice, I lay no claim to science but I love the art and science of science.
I’m fascinated by pharmacy, a branch of clinical health science that links medical science with chemistry in the discovery, production, disposal, use and control of medications and drugs.
“Na madness we dey use cure madness” is a pidginised proverb that means: “Wèrè la fi n wo wèrè,” in Yoruba translation. Nigeria is gasping. It urgently needs a miracle drug. But drug production is a deep and technical endeavour. Sometimes, it entails a fire-for-fire approach, that is, a particular virus could be remodified and synthesised to make drugs for the treatment or cure of a particular viral disease as it is the case with HIV, for instance.
However, in the case of some viral diseases such as COVID, for example, a non-viral drug, vaccine, is used for treatment. COVID vaccine, in this case, is a novel drug synthesised from either natural or artificial components to fight the viral infection. I’ll call this a fire-for-water approach.
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Conversely, for the fast-approaching 2023 presidential election, the dying patient, Nigeria, is faced with either taking the fire-for-fire approach or the fire-for-water approach.
If Nigeria takes the fire-for-fire approach, it means she is settling for a candidate that had been part and parcel of the old political order; a politician who had been elected on the platform of one of the existing dubious political parties as vice president, governor, senator or minister.
But to take the fire-for-water approach means Nigeria breaking away from the politicians of old to elect a new-breed politician who has never tasted political power. An example of this type of politician is Mr Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress.
Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress)
The former Lagos governor is faced with a dual-action Buharian pill that can both kill and save his ambition. The atrocious performance of Buhari in two terms of office is a sword of Damocles hanging over Tinubu’s head, and for which he has been justifiably criticised in the South, but, on the other hand, President Muhammadu Buhari still wields a great influence in the large North which votes on the command of its leaders, ethnicity and religion.
If the APC northern governors and Buhari fully support Tinubu in the election, the Iragbiji-Lagos political strategist, with a baggage of birth, education and corruption controversies, will be Nigeria’s next president because majority of northern votes and South-West votes are what he needs to earn a four-year tenancy in Aso Rock. Tinubu’ll win all South-West states.
Tinubu cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand because doing so may come at a peril. An old warhorse, whose health is suspect, Tinubu understands how to exploit the master-servant nature of Nigerian politics to the hilt, offering the carrot where necessary, and whacking down the stick on the heads of threatening rivals and proteges disturbing the peace of Bourdillon.
Having been senator in the aborted political experiment of the Third Republic, Tinubu is the most experienced, sophisticated and shrewdest of the three leading candidates, whose political tentacles cover the length and breadth of the country.
With his war chest of dollars, federal might and the uncanny ability to deploy science and fiction to win elections, Tinubu is one of the two major forces most likely to win the election.
Tinubu is a fire-for-fire drug. Will he prove a remodified virus to be injected into the sick patient, Nigeria, for a cure? Or, is Nigeria now so cancerous that an attempt to destroy the cancer cells by a Tinubu pill will lead to death?
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Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party)
Atiku stands a good chance to emerge Nigeria’s president next year if the Hausa-Fulani political hegemony decides that power should remain in the North and condemn Tinubu to gaze at the bye-bye evening sun, singing ‘Mai kolo kolo, to your tent, oh Tinubu!’
Former Vice President Atiku’s admission of the corrupt and woeful performance of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the area of power supply shows candour. It also shows contempt because he never apologised to Nigerians over the issue.
His controversial role in the privatisation of Nigeria’s companies and the hazy Halliburton scandal are sore points in a mixed-bag political career.
Because the North doesn’t subject its leaders to public scrutiny as much as the South does, coupled with the fact that ethnicity is a big factor in Northern politics, Atiku’s foothold in the climb to Aso Rock is strong.
However, the internal crisis wracking the PDP may whittle down Atiku’s chances to the ultimate advantage of Tinubu, who would be glad if the planned move of Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to Labour Party materialises because it would mean Labour Party would share votes with the PDP in the South-East and South-South.
That Buhari defeated Atiku in the North in 2019 reflected the former’s large following. Without Buhari being on the 2023 ballot, however, the North may decide to allow ethnicity dictate its choice for president, and swing their votes for Atiku – given the backing of General Ibrahim Babangida, General Theophilus Danjuma and General Aliyu Gusau, who are PDP power brokers from the North.
Also, the way Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, withdrew from the presidential primary and queued behind Atiku showed that he acted in the interest of some powerful northern forces, shocking the Wike camp, and wrecking their permutation to pave the way for an Atiku victory.
Wike is politically hurt, and he’s fuming with vegeance against certain interests, mostly retired generals within the PDP, who decided to cut him to size by scuttling moves to make him VP candidate after he lost to Atiku because his group was seen as trying to check the influence of the generals, which saw former Governor of Osun, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, lose the bid to become PDP chairman.
The crisis, if not resolved, will hurt the PDP.
Peter Obi (Labour Party)
If any tribe should feel entitled and stake their claim to the Presidency, chanting, “Emi lokan,” it’s the Igbo that should – in a federation that has grown suspicious of them since the January 1966 coup and the July 1966 retaliatory counter-coup, yet the Nigerian political knee has been hard on the Igbo neck, making breathing difficult.
It’s in this light that the psychology of Obi’s quest for the presidency is mainly backed by the Igbo vociferously.
In Nigeria’s political demography, however, the South-East region possesses the least voter population among the three main regions whose indigenes are contesting.
Inarguably, the Igbo, being itinerant, have presence in all states of the federation, but there’s no state where they outnumber the natives.
Inasmuch as I’ve repeatedly canvassed for the Igbo to ascend the presidency of this country for fairness sake, it, sadly, won’t happen in 2023.
That politics is an organised, structured and money-gulping game is the reason why no ‘structureless’ independent candidate has ever won the US presidency since the advent of party politics. Nigeria is no different.
Though Obi has a smaller bag of controversies, to win the presidency in a nation with 176,846 polling units spread across 774 local government councils nationwide, Obi needs to win majority votes and 25% of votes in at least 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states, mobilising party agents.
The Obi movement hasn’t the clout for this yet – evident in the poor performance of his party in the Osun governorship election, despite his involvement. Obi would be ready in 2027 if he builds political bridges and provides credible alternatives to the victor of this impending election charade.
Email: email@example.com; Facebook: @tunde odesola; Twitter: @tunde_odesola.
Opinion – Buhari: Yoruba can go to blazes by Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 26, 2022)
Until science unmasked the myth of the jungle and brought the secrets of wildlife home to man via the television, little did the world know the lion wasn’t the king of animals. Yep, the world never fully realised that the lion, when alone, was a potential danger, whose presumed invincibility is magnified by the strength in collective hunting, otherwise known as collective looting in Nigeria’s political circles: Kill and chop.
Partly owing to man’s predilection for royalty and the lack of adequate understanding of the jungle, humans ascribe kingship to the lion because of its crown-like mane, overlooking the biggest, fiercest and most powerful of the cats, the tiger; as well as the biggest of the beasts, the elephant, both of whom can kill the lion – one-on-one.
It’s a lesson in survival tactics when a full-grown lion tactically strays away from the path of the hippopotamus or swishes its tail in respect when a rhinoceros scuttles past.
One-on-one, the lion would be dead meat to the grizzly bear, neither can it single-handedly kill the giraffe, who can kick with the four legs, and would only stand a 50-50 chance in a duel with a silverback gorilla.
When I watched a video, in which a threatening pride of lions was afraid to go near a battle-ready porcupine, I remembered the Yoruba proverb, “kí kéré labẹ́rẹ́ kéré, kìí se mímì fádìyẹ,” and understood the taboo which the needle in the haystack has become for the chicken.
Brimming with muscular pounds of strength, the bull’s physicality is etched in stone. Mentally, however, its head is a vacuous cavity lacking the brain needed to survive jungle predators. The meat of the bull cannot be food for a lone lion except lions hunt in packs to beat starvation.
Predictably, there would be an imbalance in the food chain if bulls were wise enough to collectively repel lions. But bulls won’t attack lions because it’s in their DNA to be docile, to be big-for-nothing and stupid, except for occasional acts of resistance when the hunted turns around to gore the hunter.
We, Nigerians, are bulls. The retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari-led government is a pride of lions – cowardly bullies devouring ancestral patrimony and trampling on the rights of the timid masses incapable of thinking because that’s the way the governing lions want them to be in the jungle called Nigeria.
If the lineage of lions had not messed up the minds of Nigerians, the masses would have realised the power in their numbers and risen to liberate themselves from insecurity, totally collapsed infrastructure, poverty and starvation. Nobody, except uniformed servants like the members of the Lagos transport union and destined slaves, would be associating with the All Progressives Congress today.
In the nonsensicality of his wisdom, the king of Nigeria’s namby-pamby pride of lions, Buhari, approved for state-owned security corps in Katsina and Borno to bear AK-47 guns but he denied the request of Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, for the Western Nigerian Security Network Agency aka Amotekun security corps to bear arms.
Although I’m not at all sold on the candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and that of the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, for both are cut from the worse-for-wear Peoples Democratic Party cloth, the hypocritical actions of Buhari since 2015 are nails long enough to seal the coffin of the APC.
Akeredolu, miffed by the nepotism of the Emir, Northern caliphate, Sheikh Muhammadu ibn Buhari, accused the ex-soldier who was booted out of the Army in August 1985, of deliberately exposing Yoruba lives to marauders and destroying the region’s agricultural sector.
Akeredolu, who is the Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum, said, “Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism, which we have been clamouring for. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with AK-47 means we are pursuing a one-country, two-system solution to the national question.
“If the Katsina situation confers advantages on some, in the face of commonly faced existential threats, it means that our unitary policing system, which has failed, is a deliberate method of subjugation which must be challenged.”
Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group, and former Secretary General, National Democratic Coalition, Honourable Wale Oshun, also accused Nigeria of double standards in approving arms for Borno State JTF and Katsina State security unit while denying Yoruba states of the same gesture.
In a telephone chat with me on Sunday, Oshun particularly bemoaned the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the South-West, warning that the instability in the system portended grave danger for the entire country.
He asked in the video, “Why should Borno JTF and Katsina State Security Unit have arms approved for them by the unitary government yet Amotekun, in the face of flagrant incursion into Yoruba land by unidentified ethnic terrorists of both local and foreign origins, cannot carry arms, why?
“Afenifere Renewal Group contends that it is this kind of impunity by the unitary government of Nigeria and the subversion of federation principles that brought us to this low levels of flagrant insecurity, collapse of our educational system and the massively impoverished populace in our country.”
Oshun, who commended Akeredolu, said irrespective of the 2023 elections and the pretence that democracy was on course, Nigeria would only survive as a country only when the required constitutional restructuring was carried out.
“No section of the country can hold it (Nigeria) together on the sheer force of arms on a permanent basis. It will only remain together if we, all Nigerians, agree to let it remain together,” he said.
Like a people with bull brains, Nigerians rankadedelise our tormentors, who shut university gates against our children, we live in abject darkness, daily waste five hours of our lives on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and nod to ghastly Emi Lokan rhythm by the minstrel of Bourdillon.
I’ll reiterate for the umpteenth time that none among the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, Atiku and Obi is seeking office to genuinely develop Nigeria; all are seeking office for the power, perks and paraphernalia therein.
I say this because each of the presidential candidates knows that no development can emanate from the continued use of the pro-North 1999 Constitution, which supports the current madness ailing our dear country. But none of them has said the obvious nor explained how to bring about the desired constitutional amendment alias restructuring.
Going by political history and emerging indications from the camps of the APC, PDP and LP, the reading of the political barometer of the APC in the South-West shows a propensity for vote buying, ballot snatching and violence, exactly the same indications on the PDP Northern barometer which has child-voting to boot while the LP barometer on the South-East axis shows divisive comments, ethnicism and cyber bullying.
Conducting the 2023 elections without restructuring, and expecting a change in the fortunes of the country is like fetching water with a basket or heading up North from Abuja and expecting to land in Calabar.
No matter the amount of prayers and well wishes, nothing good will come out of Nigeria except we, Nigerians, lay the foundation for greatness by addressing the inherent injustices in the system.
God has never come down to help any people develop their country. As we lay our bed, we will lie on it.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
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