20th October, 2020
By Rupert Ojenuwa
Dear Mr. President,
#EndSARS: A Golden Opportunity for Mr. President
Some 13 days ago, I was looking to write you (to thank you for the adjudged freeness and fairness of the Edo and Ondo State elections and to request that you graciously sign the electoral bill passed by the Eight Assembly into law to further strengthen our democracy, so that leaders can be truly installed by the people and not by rigging. I believe that that will help leadership to be supper accountable) when the END SARS PROTEST began. So I was constrained to jettison that to write you on the ongoing #EndSARS protests which has to be managed with uncommon wisdom.
For the first time in Nigeria, the youths of our nation seem to be coordinated, speaking with one voice without any prior meetings or script designed for them. The request for SARS to be ended has been acceded to by your government but the protests seem far from being over. That has been the worry of many leaders of thoughts across the length and breadth of our nation but what we have all failed to consider or perhaps neglecting to consider is that the protests are far beyond a need to end police brutality. It is more about ending bad governance. All these had been bottled in the hearts of the youths and quite frankly, all well meaning Nigerians. It only found expression through the #ENDSARS agitation.
With the advent of social media, Nigerians are the more abreast of developments in other climes. Can you imagine reading that the Ghanaian passport holds more value than that of the supposed Giant of Africa? Can you imagine that Ghana made it to top ten whilst Nigeria trailed behind making it to the last ten valued passports? Can you imagine that graduates seem to go to school for excursion because there really appears to be no hope for a good and decent job after the rigor of study? Can you imagine the free fall of the Naira?
Your Excellency, Nigerians are truly suffering and there seem to be no end in sight and to add police brutality and injustice to these very stressful and deplorable conditions of living is to complete the recipe for anarchy, violence and all. This is why all protesters who have conducted themselves in a peaceful manner require commendation. After all, when a man is pushed to the wall and the hunter refuses to retreat, where do you expect such a man to go?
However, the protests and protesters have made their point and aired their view. It has to be converted to a roundtable discussion to chart a course. There is the need to step in to mitigate and to ensure that this doesn’t snowball into real time disaster for our nation. The youths want a New Nigeria and not a destroyed one. This is why I write you this letter as the Convener of Restore Nigeria Initiatives.
Even as we ask for the protesters to be wary of hoodlums hijacking the peaceful protests by destroying government properties, the way to go is not by unleashing the Army or the Police. You can’t be sure that they are not on the part of the people as they also have been affected one way or another by the many issues that plague our nation and if they stand with the government, the stakes will be too high to take the risk because I fear that it may become the case of the “killer meeting a willing killee’ . So I recommend a National Address in the following mold:
- A National Address by no less of a person than the President and Commander-in-Chief. Speak from your heart and from the place of empathy.
- The Address must be re-assuring and inspiring
- The address should contain timeline for addressing the demands of the people. It can’t be on an open ended manner.
- The address should paint a picture of the Nigeria of our collective dreams with steps the government will take going forward to ensure that these are not empty promises. This will help bridge the gap of mistrust.
Other Issues Include:
- A deliberate and urgent reduction of the cost of governance.
- End to impunity and tribalism in governance
- A deliberate and revamping the nation’s economy so that Youths can be gainfully employed
- Upgrading of health facilities to handle complex illnesses and cancellation of medical tourism for government officials particularly the Executive Arm whose duty it is to upgrade our health system
- Restructuring our nation so that natural resources which spreads across the nation can be fully tapped into by all regions and not feasting on the Niger delta oil which can’t sustain the whole nation
- An end to insecurity, corruption and nepotism
Your Excellency, the End SARS protest can either be a blessing or a curse. It depends on how you see it and how you respond to it.
Should you respond in a manner that is reassuring and you clearly put your words to action, you would have written your name in gold. A similar opportunity presented itself to President Jonathan when there was the need to concede defeat and he grabbed it. Let me urge you to rise to the occasion and provide the inspiration that Nigeria clearly needs at these very crucial and sensitive times.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
-Rupert OJENUWA, Convener, Restore Nigeria Initiatives (RNI), writes from Lagos. @pasrup; [email protected]