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Post-#EndSARS and national healing

The #EndSARS protest which lasted for 12 days this past October has exposed how fragile and delicate the fabric of Nigeria social harmony is. For too long, government officials, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, inclusive, have glossed over the fault lines of the country.

 

 

 

 

But the protests aimed at the excesses of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, brought to fore the stark reality of the divisions that permeates the Nigerian society.

As the protests gained traction in Southern Nigeria and Abuja, it was viewed with deep suspicion in the north as it was seen as means to undermine the administration of President Buhari.

Leading the charge in this direction is the Northern Governors Forum. The forum in a statement by its chairman, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state, stated: “Forum appeal to all citizens to restraint themselves from unwarranted disposition of sentiments, harassment and intimidation of other citizens’ resident in their home states. Forum notes that all these are antics of the enemies of the country who are violently pushing for regime change outside the ballot box.”

Nothing can be farther than the truth. The #EndSARS agitation is an aggregation of long years of abuse and extra-judicial murder by the police. It so happened that Buhari is in office when forces converged to bring to fore the decay and unlawful conduct of officers and men of the police.

The manner and wave of the protests and the unfortunate arson, looting and vandalism that followed the peaceful protests should serve as a wake-up call to governments at all levels to the danger of ignoring the huge underutilized youth force in the country.

It is regrettable that for several months now, tertiary students are yet to return to school over industrial dispute between the government and academic staff.

It is expected that by now, the federal government should have been able to reach some sort of truce with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to diffuse the situation and build on the prevailing fragile peace.

The idea of finding culprits in the whole macabre dance will do no go in building consensus on how to move forward. While it is necessary that people who might have aided in the breakdown of law and order are brought to book, the deliberate demonizing of certain actors like DJ Switch could be counterproductive and signals that the government is not committed to building confidence and trust.

In going forward, the federal, state and local authorities ought to bring to the table youth groups and focal persons on what should be done to engender youth inclusion in governance and decision making.

Town hall meetings, faith-based organisations and professional associations are necessary avenues to reach a broad array of youths. Government should demonstrate its willingness to sustainable peace by giving timelines to achieving some of the demands of the protesters as well as improvement in the governance structure overall.

While the government is at it, the youth should demonstrate their readiness to give peace a chance and organize towards joining the political process for the much needed change they desire for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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