#EndSARS: Out with SARS, in with SWAT – Viola Okolie
Not too long ago, and before the latest #EndSARS protest, we talked about how Nigerian youth CAN be focused; irrespective of the perceptions about them that they are lazy, disinterested and disenchanted with the entire Nigerian process; especially when it appears that they are fully aware that disenchantment is an expected outcome of any electoral process supervised by the Nigerian state.
So where they find any process that they can literally take into their own hands and be in charge of; they almost always “arise and shine” and show that it can be done. This conclusion was easily drawn following the outcome of the various real and virtual reality shows dogging the Nigerian entertainment space.
Nigerian youth will sit at home on election days and watch whatever catches their fancy on their smartphones; or even television sets, but where their pet reality shows are concerned; they organize and mobilize and coordinate and except for the past two seasons where for some reason; rabid followership seemed to be the other of the day – Nigerian youth seemed to understand the concept of fair sportsmanship better than their elders.
No grudges held, the winners congratulated the losers who gracefully conceded loss – they and their followers. Thereafter, they moved on to the next reality show needing their “urgent” attention.
If the issue “touches” the Nigerian Youth, they will stand up to be counted.
Small wonder the way they trooped out and amazed Nigerians as a whole with their reaction to the constant harassment by the employees of the Nigerian Police Force Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). This will not be the avenue to glorify those wicked souls gleaned from the underbelly of hell; populating a nation’s police force, but let it be noted that Nigeria should be gaining international notoriety for being one country that peoples its security agencies with unrepentant terrorists and hardened criminals.
One means through which the average Nigerian youth expresses themselves, as indeed do their counterparts the world ove; is by the way they dress. The brands they identify with. The music they love. What they are able to achieve on their own steam. Terefore, it is not a rarity to see youth bedraggled with ridiculous (and obviously worthless) jewelry; scribbling stuff on their body, and changing their hairstyles (or not), to reflect their current mood.
Phones are also some of the easiest brands people queue up behind. Do you want to take a bite out of the apple; or you would rather take a trip down to the Asian Tigers and explore the various offerings they display?
Imagine therefore the chagrin of the Nigerian youth when the men of the SARS; of whom one of the enrollment requirements is “must be an ex convict” (I kid you not, this is real); now begin to harass and police the youth based on their preferred means of self expression. With a keen look of eye, these criminals claimed to be able to identify criminals among Nigerian youth by pure sight.
In these days when the world has gone digital, porting a laptop or phone has become a crime.
These miscreants would not only harass innocent citizens just seeking to simply survive; they would steal from them, rape the females who fall into their unfortunate clutches. And when the victim appears to be a little bit too vocal or smells like trouble, they would kill without remorse. Again, this is not a forum for glorifying criminals that Nigeria chooses to people a federal security agency with. So, I will share no stories of personal encounters here.
So, choosing to target the youth was their biggest error as their preferred demographic took to the streets to register their protest at being treated like criminals and because the world is focused on Twitter; where the youth of all nations do exploits, their rallying outcry #EndSARS became a global roar.
But what does the government do?
When they see that the youth are determined and #EndSARS was gaining ground;, stories of the atrocities were coming out and the world was booing at them; they tried to pull a sleight of hand.
Out with the SARS (in order to keep the outcry under control); in with SWAT.
Permit me to expatiate further:
A dog by any other name, is still a dog. Like the Igbos would say, “when you sell your dog in order to buy a monkey; you are still hosting something that squats in your house”.
Nigeria seems to have a problem with containing their criminals. It seems to prefer to “rehabilitate” them by arming them and unleashing them on innocent citizens. Today, we are trending #EndSARS, complaining about SARS or SWAT. But just imagine what may be brewing in the departments where “our misguided brethren”; otherwise known as Boko Haram, are being re-assigned with little to no training.
Why not build bigger prisons? Reform the prison systems. Make them rehabilitation centers instead of the torture dungeons that they are now. Hold convicts there and rehabilitate them before slowly integrating them back to society. Hold firm to criminal records.
Nigeria may well be the only country that does not just make it easy for ex convicts to hold jobs; they hand them over the life of the country.
Whatever else you choose to do, peopling the Police Force with them either as SARS or the rebaptised SWAT; is not going to work.
Dear Nigerian youth, maintain the energy.
The streets are yours for the walking.
Both SARS and SWAT are unacceptable.
You are indeed the future that we were promised and we lend you our full support.
Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer.
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