Protests:Time for tactical retreat

#EndSARS Protesters should take a tactical retreat

…Stay off the streets to retain your credibility

 

Strategy is key to every endeavour. Context is very important for every agitation, protest or activity. Without strategy and context any protest or agitation can be easily hijacked, corrupted, defeated and neutralised.

It is common knowledge that protests have rocked many parts of the country in the past twelve days against activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad known as SARS, and the against police brutality in Nigeria. The protests, led by the youths, have been peaceful and well-coordinated in an unprecedented manner. The protesters have shown high level of decorum in public gatherings of this nature, while pressing their demand – that SARS be ended and the Police brutality be stopped.

Initially, the protesters made a 5-point demand. The government responded by scrapping SARS, but regrettably replacing it with SWAT, another agency that had existed within the Police Force. This action angered the protesters as they argue that the government did not conduct due diligence, but only changed the name of an alleged notorious group in the force.

Presently, the protesters believe that government’s response to their demands is half measure. They are disappointed that the issue of Police brutality has not been addressed at all. For instance, Government has not admitted that Nigerian Police Force has engaged in systemic, indiscriminate extra-judicial killings, extortion, intimidation, arrests and detentions of citizens, as alleged by the youths. They have not accepted that the Police has engaged in systemic profiling of Nigerian youths and treated them ruthlessly. So far, government has remained silent over these allegations. This is part of the grouse of the protesters.

By this silence, the protesters suspect that Government is tacitly in support of the undemocratic behaviour of the Police, perhaps because it serves specific purpose of crushing a segment of society that is perceived as opposition.

This hypothesis seems to receive validation going by differing responses of state Governors to the protests since it began. Obviously, the Southern Governors have shown their support for anti-SARS protests, but their counterparts from the North have either remained silent or voiced their rejection of the protests, even though it has been peaceful.

This divergent responses once again bring to the fore the divide that exists in the Nigeria system. It is a fact that there is a high preponderance of SARS activities and Police brutality in Southern Nigerian than in the North. Although Boko haram, banditry and cattle rustling activities, which are high security challenges, are prevalent in the North, the South is heavily Policed, and allegations against SARS operations and Police brutality are at peak in the Southern states.

Given the current security architecture of the nation, it is easy to understand why the protests seem to hold predominantly in the Southern States, with only pockets of protests in Kano, Katsina, Plateau, Benue and Kwara States. With the exception of Kwara and Benue State Governors, no other Governor in Northern Nigeria has spoken up against SARS operations in Nigeria in spite of the noise made by the youths on this matter. This is different in the South, where all the Governors have had to publicly address the protesters to assuage them.

Evidently, the protests have been incredibly peaceful and well organised. Public and private properties have largely remained untouched by the protesters; although private citizens have suffered disruptions in movement as protesters block roads and high ways. Arguably, the protest has shocked and embarrassed the government particularly as it gains international exposure.

Of course, Government knows what to do. Governments over the world are masters in the game of divide and rule. Governments are masters in the art of infiltration, corruption and neutralisation of popular movements. The EndSARS protest is no exception.

Already there have been reported cases of hoodlums attack on the peaceful protesters. This has been reported in Lagos, Abuja, Owerri, and other places. Just yesterday in Abuja, hoodlums set a whole car mart ablaze even when the owners were not involved in protests. In Benin City, the reported jail break is attributed to the Protesters, but eye witness accounts contradict this position.

Obviously, the integrity of the EndSARS protests has been compromised. Paid hoodlums have infiltrated the ranks of genuine protesters. Therefore, it is time for the real protesters to take a tactical retreat. The time has come for them to leave the streets and resort to other credible platforms to continue pressing their demands. Street urchins, groomed for a time like this, have been released to undermine the integrity of the protests.

Certainly, the youths have shown the future truly belongs to them and that they are willing to reclaim that future by themselves. But they should not allow their efforts to be corrupted. If you do not retreat quickly, the actions of the unscrupulous agents in the coming days might meet you napping.

The adage says, ‘he that fights and retreats will live to fight another day’. Because you have demonstrated a high level of responsibility in carrying out your protests, you must demonstrate leadership by disbanding your protest by yourself. This will add to your credibility and give you room to explore other platforms of engagement.

Future World assumes your protest is for total reforms in the Nigerian system, but not for a regime change, as that is not acceptable in a democracy.  Therefore, do not allow any segment of your group to harp “this leader must go, or that leader must go’. You have made your point. You have registered your frustration against a system that has rubbed you of your future. You have put your protest in context.  It’s time to leave the streets. Tell your friends to re-align. Take a break to re-strategise. It’s time to disband the EndSARS public protests. But your protests over other systemic debilitating issues against you have just begun.

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