By Dr. Victor Adoji
It began as a litany of protests against misdemeanors perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police against citizens and occasionally, against visitors to the country. As the protests codenamed EndSARS metastasized into a crusade, they elicited several other demands in furtherance of their frustrations, desires, hopes and expectation under varied subheads.
It is important to acknowledge and applaud the newfound courage of the youths who are genuinely motivated by an equally legitimate yearning for responsive and responsible governance and inclusiveness. The protests portrayed one of the most heterogenous and superbly organized protests in Nigeria’s history in terms of its effectiveness, reach and depth at least, until it was usurped. As an aside, we saw where the needs of some citizens were spontaneously met, protesters managed with such disciplined proficiency and with cutting-edge administrative protocols around health, security and sundry logistics.
That said, the protests also revealed the categorization of Nigerian youths into three typologies: The informed, the disinformed and the uninformed. The informed are the ones who are aware of the issues at stake and have knowledgeably articulated them in form of demands with a view to opening channels for openminded negotiations. The disinformed are those who are also fully aware of the issues at stake but would rather deliberately contortion them through the instrumentality of rumors, third-party advocacies, obscuration and influencing opinions to achieve inordinate favors for themselves or their sponsors. The uninformed are those who are oblivious, propagandized and who misconstrue opinion for facts. They are also those who easily offer themselves as hooligans and/or tools with arson and destruction as their main trademark.
The informed and disinformed are equipped with profound knowledge of information management and its inherent capacity for influencing and calling-to-action. For this reason, much more than the retinue of street protests, the new media operating either as service, infrastructure or platform escalated the demands of the protesters to the relevant, related and interested quarters. In the same vein, these attributes were leveraged to misinform a lot of people who inadvertently became purveyors of the cacophony of falsehoods birthing the escalation that warranted the imposition of a curfew. From there/then, Murphy’s law reigned.
It is important to state that to succeed in enthroning the Nigeria of our dream, the Informed youths must as a matter of urgency initiate a system that will comprehensively engage the disinformed. The resultant union should then establish a framework to absorb the uninformed (as co-owners) into the fold to begin the process of protecting and preventing them from opportunistic interests that are antithetical to the intentions and desires for themselves and the country.
The vicarious liabilities emanating from the terrible actions and indiscretions of the uninformed youths are rightly viewed homogeneously and as is expected rubs off negatively on all the youth population, without exception. To this end, it should worry everyone that the youth and the worthy cause they champion may remain dangerously solitary, inchoate and susceptible to interests that are self-serving and malevolent until all salient undercurrents are addressed.
Some youths destroyed police facilities, but some other youths protected and in fact fought some youths who were angling to torch a police station. Some youths put out numerous falsehoods meant to injure emotions, but some youths put out counters and followed through with incontestable facts that assuaged sentiments and calmed nerves. These are classical instances of the actions and transgressions of some informed as well as some uninformed youths. Many more of such instances abound.
Narratives exist as to the complicity of government(s) and certain individuals as the fillip behind some of the activities of the uninformed youths to the extent that they were engaged to undermine the protests and adorn the demands of the protesters in secessionist raiment.
Obviously, the amalgam of the informed/disinformed on one side and selfish/opportunistic interests on the other side competed for the energies and fortitude of the uninformed youths. As it appears, the latter group had an upper hand in enlisting them. Without a grain of doubt, if the former group had absorbed the uninformed, they would not have been available to carry out the vicious devastations we experienced. Herein lies the albatross all the youths must contend-with if they must garner sufficient tailwinds for the flights ahead.
And while the protests, hysteria and declarations lasted, two informed Nigerian youths, Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, founders of Paystack concluded a merger with an American financial services company in a deal valued at Seventy Four Billion Naira (N74,000,000,000:00K). These two well informed youths fall within the kind of profile that often attracts the ire of most of the disinformed and uninformed members of the disbanded SARS. The youngsters who are products of Nigeria’s education system have qualified for a place at the table by their breathtaking ingenuity and entrepreneurship; attributes that are replete in our youths and ready to be unearthed by stimulating policies and merit-based opportunities.
A number of truths emerged from the EndSARS protests but the one that came with a louder decibel is the unanimous avowal that the youths are agreed and decided on the essence of governance as it pertains them and how they are governed. The sad reality is that there seem to be a lack of unanimity of purpose and this offers the manipulable flaw that can be capitalized by furtive power scroungers who are ominous and determined to maintain status quo.
*Dr. Adoji writes from Lokoja, Kogi State