Editor's note: Public affairs analyst, Jeremiah Bassey writes on the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country, warning that the protesters must seize the moment to advocate for purpose-driven change, reforms leading to the end of segregation and prejudice that has since been built on over the last 50 years.
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The last two weeks have been a watershed moment for decades-long calls for reforms of institutions in the nation, and the unfolding events have stirred emotions and soul searching as the youth of the country have brought to the fore the importance of these reforms for the first time to take front and centre of national discourse.
The Nigerian youth have proven themselves in every characteristic as true millennials; those who have come to take the very heart and soul of the nation into the 21st century. The protests have garnered worldwide support and the public opinion has been overwhelmingly in support of their cause and demands. Beginning as just outrage to police violence, it has metamorphosed into a genuine call for social reforms which have been long overdue. It is clear that the attention the protests have given to these societal issues is now be given attention and dialogue has become the next logical step in seeing the actualization of the demands.
But timing is of utmost importance.
As with any movement of people or ideology, timing and clarity of purpose is everything.
Following the masses protests that rocked much of the South in the United States following the discrimination and violence in Birmingham, Alabama the US government under the leadership of John F Kennedy were called to action and move to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, religion or gender. The protests, very much like the #EndSARS protests, were also largely peacefully carried out by protesters and the government had no other option but to hastily listen to their demands and act on them. The protesters seized the moment to advocate for purpose-driven change, reforms leading to the end of segregation and prejudice that has since been built on over the last 50 years.
The #EndSARS protesters should seize the moment and not become complacent. Every day is critical to taking the initiative and engaging in dialogue, especially when leadership in states like Lagos, where the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been at the forefront constantly engaging with protesters across his state and readily making himself available for dialogue as the protesters continue to block off major thoroughfares and highways, crippling economic activity across the state.
It would appear that most of the protesters themselves, who have stayed true to the demand of the protest the week prior, have indeed begun to lose sight of their agenda. This can be seen in most protest grounds been converted into street parties and raves, where the atmosphere is carnival-like. Young revellers have flocked daily to the grounds of the protest to frolick into the late hours, indulging in wild drinking, indecent exposures and use of banned substances. It would appear that the message is being lost in translation and not all the protesters are happy with this.
Feyikemi Adetiba, a 24-year old protester who has been at the protests all week said:
“We believe we have made our point to the world and have demanded a seat at the table to end not only police violence, but to force reforms in society.
“But we seem to be losing our focus. Some of us come here just for the fun. I don’t know if I can continue to partake in these parties if it is all we come here to do.”
Felicia a 20-year old student said:
“This is the change we have demanded for and we can take this to the next level now. We believe we can sit with leaders and they have heard our voices loud and clear.
“But it’s like we are just not coordinating ourselves. Many of my friends have stopped coming because it is only the party-goers that come here now and have made this into clubbing.”
This presents a problem for the protests as the growing concerns from within their ranks is becoming evident and sooner than later, the interest will stay to wane as moral and financial support will only see images of party revellers.
With the 5 point plan already accepted by the Nigeria Police Force which represents a landmark in the first step for wider social reforms, timing is most crucial to transport what has widely been seen as a major victory into lasting progressive action through dialogue and this can only be achieved after the protests, which started as calls for real change stop being transformed into a wild session of youthful indulgence in wild parties and debauchery.
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