It must be stated that the ongoing #EndSARS agitations is perhaps the most successful protest ever witnessed in Nigeria in recent time. People underestimated the resilience of the youths to sustain a long protest.
However, a leaderless and organic protest that began on social media and spread across the country has led to the disbandment of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Also, it has even forced President Muhammadu Buhari – well-known for his slow and measured approach to issues – to act.
The government is doing everything to appease the #EndSARS protesters. Of course, the government is a bad faith negotiator, always willing to acquiesce to demands; only to fail to keep its end of the bargain.
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But despite the terrible history of government in staying true to its promises; the #EndSARS protesters must also show good faith by suspending the ongoing protest. They have been heard and loudly too. Now, they need to give the government time to implement some of their demands.
There is an obvious danger in having a continuous protest when demands have been accepted. First, there is the risk of the hijacking of the protest by people with ulterior motives; or some who see the protest as an opportunity for limelight or achieving financial or political ends.
Secondly, when roads are blocked due to protests, it is not just government that bears the brunt. Lots of citizens do also. Some innocent citizens’ business activities have been disrupted for days. Anger is already building. Indeed, public support is important. However, a continuous protest threatens the public support for the cause.
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Some heavy prices have also been paid already as a result of the #EndSARS protests.
A number of casualties have been recorded across the country, as Police clamped down on protesters in Lagos, Abuja and Ogbomoso.
On Wednesday, the driver of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo was reportedly killed by a driver taking one-way while trying to avoid protesters in Abuja.
“I regret to announce that my driver, Mr. Yohanna Shankuk, died yesterday in Abuja as a result of the protests. A vehicle that saw advancing protesters at Berger roundabout made a U-turn; took the one-way back and ran over him as he was making his way on foot to my private office,” Keyamo tweeted.
In fact, a division is already emerging in the #EndSARS movement, with counter protests happening. Clashes between rival protesters will destroy some of the gains made. Therefore, there is a need to suspend the protests, while vigilance is maintained to ensure that government keeps to its promises of reforms.
Protesters can’t afford to be changing their demands in the middle of the protest. It puts a serious question mark on the motive behind the protest.
Furthermore, the strategy of remaining without a leader is a terrible strategy. Protests and marches are good for getting the attention of government, or even force the government to act. But now we are moving to the real job of implementation. People with knowledge and express endorsement are needed to monitor and negotiate with the government.
But right now, we need to step back and regroup to fight another day.