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I have suddenly discovered to my dismay that many people have started an unnecessary and unwarranted “mea culpa” in various media, ‘blaming’ our youths for starting the “End Sars” protest. This unfortunate shift from rational judgement started after the unfortunate shooting and carnage at Lekki toll-gate on Tuesday night and the subsequent ‘high-jacking’ of the legitimate and noble protest by opportunistic miscreants and hoodlums.
Let me say unequivocally and unapologetically that the protest by the youths was not only laudable and noble but timely and sorely needed.
That the protests have now degenerated to indiscriminate looting and damage of private and public property as well as the unnecessary and avoidable loss of life is not the making, intention or fault of the original motivators and drivers of the protests.
Let’s not forget that recently in the US, there were several protests over the unfortunate death of George Floyd (“I cannot breathe” infamy ) on May 25, 2020, in the custody of police officers which further highlighted and amplified the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Our youths’ “End Sars” protest is almost identical to the US protest over similar rampant cases of police excesses and brutality.
The lawful, noble and peaceful US protest however quickly degenerated into widespread looting and damage of private and public property by the depressed, disenfranchised and underserved masses not unlike what has happened here in Nigeria in the past one week. The protests, arson and damage to sundry properties even continued in Portland Oregon, for several months, long after it had ceased in most cities of the US! Should this degeneration into chaos and anarchy in the US therefore invalidate or discredit the “Black Lives Matter” protests or movement? Or the fight for justice for George Floyd’s violated rights and murder? Or should it lead to feelings of regret or remorse? Certainly not!
And in spite of these protracted protests in various cities in the US, the US police NEVER shot live ammunition at the unarmed protesters, and the army was never invited to quell the protests.
Let’s be real and fair folks, and accept that our youths did no wrong in starting and sustaining the protests, even if unsavoury unintended consequences followed the protests.
Any Nigerian who therefore apportions blame to our youths for starting the “End SARS” protest has to be either a dishonest or an evil person, a totally unpatriotic citizen and even a coward.
True, our youths certainly made some mistakes in organising and executing the protests, (they are youths after all!) and were over-exuberant and maybe even unfocused, ambivalent and unrealistic in their demands. But heck, we needed to be more patient and accommodating with our youths. This is why there is even a phrase called “Youthful Exuberance!”.
I must also put down on record that the Federal government also committed a lot of errors leading to the breakdown of trust. The government initially claimed to have disbanded SARS, but then perversely and disingenuously renamed it SWAT 24 hours later, which was really an asinine action in bad faith. It was a no-brainer that the government was just trying to put old wine in new bottles! That was an unforgivable blunder that indicated to the protesters that government was neither serious nor trustworthy in addressing their grievances or demands. The protesters naturally became more recalcitrant and unyielding in their demands, which was understandable and inevitable.
However, under no circumstances should the government ever shoot live ammunition at our unarmed defenceless youths. That’s an abomination. No civilised country does that any more. Let’s not give our international detractors the excuse or ammunition to refer to us as animals.
Evil only persists in society when good people keep silent out of fear or cowardice during periods of grave social and political injustice.
We must always be ready to come out from our comfort zones to confront injustice and bad governance, which nobody can deny is staring us in the face right now.
The Federal government is clearly the guilty party in the current fiasco, and President Muhammadu Buhari must accept responsibility for it. He has not done well, period.
My heartfelt condolences go to the families of all who lost their lives in this struggle for our country where peace and justice shall reign.
Dr Seyi Roberts

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