End SARS: Here and after
The aftershocks of the end SARS protests are still with us. It is not uncommon for Lagosians these days to threaten bus drivers with protests if they hike their prices. The government is not left out, ghost projects have been reportedly vandalized by hoodlums and the protests also caused the current recession.
Much has been written about this generation of youths, especially the women who helped organise and spearhead this protest. The sòrò sókè generation. The ones who had enough, who decided to become their own messiahs. Like all great events, everybody has a story to tell about this one, this protest that was reportedly the first organic nationwide non-political protest in Nigeria's history. I will not tell you mine but I can only tell you that I was thrilled like it was my personal project.
Until things went ugly, for me that was when queer people became targets of violence. I was lost at that point, I realised that the oppression we suffered didn't teach us that nobody else should be oppressed. Things went south after that. The overall assessment of the success or not of the protest however, I defer for now, it is still too early.
As a reliable Debbie Downer, my main grouse is with the spirit of unprecedented achievement that saturated the movement. Why really, do people have to be in disbelief at the numbers of people who came out to protest or the solidarity of people during the protest. It is not as if the government has been, up to this point, conscientious, proactive and diligent and suddenly changed. It is not as if the people have not been incensed before. Reactions in form of protests, strikes and other demonstrations are supposed to be norm in any democratic country whatsoever. So why did it take so long for it to happen like this? Why is a normal reaction being accorded a standing ovation? I understand that this is Nigeria and every single sensible convention is thrown out the window. So congratulations may be in order. But there is a danger to this. Only reacting to situations never solves them. It just opens a chain of reactions that don't do anything. Or it encourages complacency. People think that this outpouring of anger is all we need to effect a change. I cannot think of any higher form of self-deception.
We need a strategy, not reactions. Nation building is a long term project. Youths between the ages of 18–39 make up more than 40% of the country's population, more than 42% of the country are children between 0–14. It is a no-brainer that youths should be in charge of the nation. It is naïve to believe that the elections in 2023 will automatically solve our problems. We have to fix the system first because it gave us what we have now. If you are given a list of terrible choices there's nothing you can do but to pick one, the lesser devil is still a devil.
We need to start having conversations like:
How do you make sure only the best candidates come forward to seek political office? How do we remove the obstacles obstructing them? By electoral and political reform. What does that entail? Removing the monetary constraint? Breathing life into organising at the lowest levels.
How do we do away with our current crop of leaders and make sure they never influence the course of governance again?
How do you remove a useless and tyrannical president or governor or a public official who misuses power while in office? Without violence.
How do you keep the government in sync with the needs of the people? Creating an honest channel for feedback not propaganda.
How do you create an efficient, independent judiciary and independent legislative arm?
How do we make sure protests become a part of our culture and protesters are not treated like terrorists but are listened to?
How can we make the best use of our federal (only on paper) system before we begin to talk about restructuring?
How do we get more women in governance? How do we get the state to protect every citizen no matter the gender or sexual orientation?
It's time to talk and work.
Moses Chukwuemeka Chimeremeze lives and teaches in Lagos, Nigeria and absolutely detests the place.He writes uncomfortable social commentary, poems he does not understand and is a firm believer in eloquent tragedies. He is an obsessive recluse who was married to Jorja Smith (now on a break). He always, always got the blues. You can find him on twitter @thechimeremeze
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