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Published On: Mon, Oct 19th, 2020

#EndSARSNow: Is protest a way out of the problem?

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By James Sunday

And so, here is the scenario, a good friend of mine asked a question while responding to my intervention on the #ENDSARS protest on Facebook. “Is protesting a way out of the problem?” he queried.
After responding to his question on Facebook, the music of Bob Marley echoed in my head “Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.” That song is a classic but beyond its melodious aura, it is laden with strong divinatory memos.
To answer the question posed by my friend I’d like to begin by quoting William Falkner who posited thus: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
Protesting is an integral part of democracy. It strengthens democracy and helps it to grow because If concerned citizens did not activate and rally to demand their rights and push for reforms, the politically powerful would not grant them.
The END SARS protests do not constitute a threat to the legitimacy and stability of the current political system, it is only an attempt to push for democratic responsiveness and spark a debate towards a reform process that would bring about the much-needed change.
If you ask me, this protest is long overdue and we must commend all those that have been on the frontline and those supporting remotely. The future will have no pity on any man who fails to speak the word of truth to their oppressor’s haven taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, mute indifference, or sometimes of cold complicity. Now more than ever, it is pertinent to state that it is a great time to be alive in this country. The people have finally found their voice. Nothing strengthens the authorities so much as silence, but not this time though, the people have woken up from their slumber and they are speaking in one accord. I chose to disregard the pockets of distractions on the sideline
In a democracy, the will of the people should naturally prevail. Clearly, this protest has the attention of the authorities. Certain demands of the protesters are being met. The key to fostering a positive link between protest levels and democratic quality is the openness of political institutions to protesters’ demands and the willingness of protesters to engage with those institutions.
This protest speaks to institutional reforms and such reforms are not automatic. While some demands are being met, others will take some time to effect because reform processes have a lot to do with engagements, extraction of commitments, and follow-up processes for implementation.
This protest needs a strategy to ensure a win situation. Obviously, the protest has no known leaders or conveners. This is excellent but everything falls and rises on leadership. They must coalesce across the board and chose highly trusted persons to lead engagements on their behalf. This must happen while the goodwill and sympathy still last.
There have been a series of attacks against these peaceful protesters, this must stop. It is on the government to provide security for the protesters. We have heard of attempts to clamp down and repress them, but it is apt to sound it to those who wish to hear that this must not be contemplated or they risk radicalizing and redirecting the protest against the political establishment.
This protest bids us a preview into the vocalization of new issues, philosophies, and cravings that continue to have a profound impact on our country. It takes a lot of courage like we have seen to really bring the SARS issues to the fore. There is also a need for the protesters to agree to engage with the very same institutions that they seek to reform.
And now more than ever, young Nigerians must engage actively and seek greater social control by participating actively in politics. You can’t change everything through protests alone or by merely fighting the existing reality. 2023 presents an ample opportunity for youths to participate actively and get elected so that they can provide innovations and solutions that would help salvage this country. We must come up with a model that makes the status quo obsolete.

James, a Journalist and Development Communications Specialist writes from Kaduna

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