For those thinking the recently staged End SARS movement that spread from Nigeria to many other countries of the world is a failure, I’d say no it’s not. Although it didn’t get to achieve its (what I’d call) over-stretched requests, but at the very least it achieved the end of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) (on paper though), and apart from this, and in fact most importantly, the movement also was able to bring out the spirit of social struggle in the youths; I’m talking about the Nigerian youths that are mostly apolitical here, and all of a sudden they are politically aware and they want a change, this is a big deal, believe me. The level of political consciousness we have amongst the youths after the peak of the movement is not the same as before the movement. Now, more youths are aware of their parts in state-crafting, and this is surely going to be a cause of an increase in the level of political participation in the nearest opportunity for such participation. To me, that’s the beginning of any movement that would lead to a social change that would favour the people, and I think the social change authorities like Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin would agree with me on this; there has to be the social consciousness amongst the people for a movement to begin and even get stronger as the wave against it gets stronger. So this recent End SARS movement might not be the best of a movement, but it will be the beginning of a real movement if the things the movement did wrong this time are checked and developed on against the next movement. What are those things? Let me point a few of them out.
The End SARS movement triggered political awareness amongst the youth, but didn’t back it up with serious sensitization, which was needed to get the movement stronger as the people in it got stronger and increasing per day. Not committing to educating the people is why a lot of people who wouldn’t join the protest refused to join it, and the reason why a lot of people who joined it only joined it because it’s a trend; everyone was getting on it and they had to get on it too. A lot of these people just wanted to do their own bit of what everyone was doing, the purpose of doing it was not the major thing but the check that I did what everyone was doing. This is why the movement was easy to mute online and offline; most people who got on it weren’t really committed to the change, they were only trying to be on the bandwagon. The next movement should have a serious education programme before it begins and in fact as it goes on. Now, contrary to what many people think is why a coming together of a change-wanting group would have problem working in Nigeria, the tribal and religious differences aren’t the cause of disagreement in the movement (I’m not denying that these two are two of the major problems dividing Nigeria), the orientation differences is the biggest problem the movement had and should solve if another movement is coming up. Police brutality is recorded more in the South than in the North, so it is okay if we have more Pro-SARS movers in the North and more Anti-SARS movers in the south, so the tribe is not the problem, the problem is the need to help the North that doesn’t have much police brutality experience get the fact that because it’s not affecting them wrongly doesn’t mean, it’s not affecting others wrongly, and if everyone is not okay, no one is actually okay. If the South feels the fire of the police but the North doesn’t, that does not mean the fire is not burning, it is burning, and if it keeps burning, its flames will eventually get to the North too. So all these people with different political orientations have to be sensitized and enlightened that police brutality is not gender selective, religion selective or tribe selective, and even if it is, and the brute is not getting to your group now, it will surely get to you later on. So it is just better you leave your sectional orientation and fight as a group first, and after the win you can go back to fighting the religious war, the party war, the gender war and the tribal war with yourselves again. But first, be together and win a common enemy that’s stronger than any of you apart but weaker than you all together.
Another thing that went wrong with the End SARS movement is the not wanting to have a political front, this is really funny to me, and it would be to the politicians too. This is what they used to easily cripple the movement, I said this emphatically. There has been no successful movement anywhere in the world that doesn’t have a set of people who take the front of the movement (I meant that literally, literarily and figuratively). There has to be the set of people the government want to see as the enemy of the state and looking for means to either initiate them into the government or eliminate them by using the law or by assassination. There has to be the people who are willing to lose everything, these are the people the world will have to listen to and the country will have to listen to too because the world now listens to them. Madam Aisha Yesufu is close to the person, but in the record of Nigeria and political struggle, it has shown that one or just few people aren’t enough to be the frontline of a social movement. Every movement with small number of one or few frontlines ended up not achieving much, ranging from that of the Ogoni Nine to ‘Yele Sowore’s Revolution Now. One person or few people cannot have that frontline that would lead a successful movement against the Nigerian government; we need a group of frontline activists as they had during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. A lot of names were popping up during the protests, but what the people in the movement were doing was just about idolizing these people instead of tasking them to understanding there are public responsibilities ahead of them, and they need to stand up to these responsibilities. The idolized people were covered with hypes and that covered them seriously from seeing the responsibilities coming. Their unpreparedness for when the government would react to the protest is why these idols were shocked, and their shock affected the movement too and broke it down. The coming together of people like Segalink, Aisha Yesufu, Falz, FK, Runtown, Sowore, Ruggedman, Wizkid, DJ Switch and a couple of more influential, aware and legal people could have brought about a heavy movement with a very strong frontline; there is a lot a group of people with legal power, economic power and political experience can do when they lead a movement. But instead of the movement bringing these people together to work, the people were busy making them have to compete on who does what best. There can’t be rivalry within a group that want to fight the Nigerian government, or any government at all, the disagreement in the group is enough of what the government needs to break the movement. There has to be a united front, regardless of whether they are feminists or not, religious or not, North or South.
I kept this for last, because it’s what made me know forehand the movement was born to not achieve much. The movement already had more than enough differences and rivalry within, then we went ahead to make it a generation versus generation thing… no, it shouldn’t be like that! This is a very big mistake. The millennials thinking everything got bad because the previous generations didn’t do something is wrong! Only if the millennials listened to their own stories or read their own books, they would know there is no fight this generation has fought so far that the previous generation didn’t fight and even in better ways and with better strategies. The End SARS movement needed the experiences of the older generation and their connections, but we already made them feel like they are the problems or the cause of the problem, and we are fighting against them too, so they had to just mostly stay aloof and watch us do our thing. This generation is fighting with a government that’s mixing a little bit of dictatorship with democracy, and they think they are the strongest, what do you know about fighting against a government that is out rightly dictatorship and answers to no one, not even to any world power as the government of this generation has America puppeteering it. The government our parents fought against was menacing, genocidal, and absolute, they didn’t win, but they didn’t totally not win too. We were supposed to learn how they achieved the little success they achieved and their experiences and add it to our strategies after advancing the ones that need to be advanced, but instead of learning from them, we added them to the enemies. So they saw us as nuisances instead of activists. The ones amongst the old generation people who joined the movement only joined because they didn’t want to look indifferent, but obviously, they knew what was going to happen to the movement.
I can only hope that whatever the End SARS movement is doing right now, there is a better plan somewhere for a comeback, because if there is none, and the society is back to how it used to be before the End SARS movement, then it would mean the new generation is the failure they thought the older generation is, and most importantly, the people who died during the struggle would have died in vein. So instead of the people trying to act like everything that happened during the protest should be forgotten already, everyone should go back to the boards and strategize and come back with a more united and educated movement and a stronger front line. Then and only then can a movement shake the world and scare the government.
Olusegun Peters is a businessman in tech and in the academics. He is the founder of www.primerinfotech.com and www.pec-ng.com. He is also a poet who has hundreds of poems published, and a couple of media and literature awards to his credit. He is by education a Political Scientist at every degree of academics. He believes in the parts social activeness must take in individual development and state-crafting. He believes social involvement is one of the core factors that can bring about the cut-across development. He is passionate about contributing his knowledge to impacting as many people as possible one person at a time. Read more about Olusegun Peters here