In the days following the #EndSARS massacre in Lagos, President Muhammadu Buhari stepped up to the mic to assuage, scold and threaten those who flooded the streets in cities and towns across Nigeria and the diaspora in protest. FOURTH REPUBLIC 19 conducts a post-mortem on not-so-presidential minutes in recorded Nigerian history.
“Fellow Nigerians, it has become necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the Security Chiefs…”
Thus began a hollow, dispassionate, 12-minute speech by Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, on 22 October 2020—48 hours after the “alleged” state-sanctioned murders of #EndSARS protestors at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. Whilst Buhari’s opening sentence may suggest that his uncouth delay was a result of a rendezvous with “many concerned Nigerians” and “Security Chiefs,” it may also be as a result of time wasted filming and editing the pre-recorded address
In any case, to those responsible for this ear and eye-sore, please indulge these suggestions for your future “Wale Adenuga productions.” Firstly, avoid the constant zooming in and zooming out. The unprovoked jolts remind us that we are indeed victims of the fiasco that is this presidency. May I also suggest that you incorporate more personality next time. Consider, for instance, an address from his bedroom, looking comfortable rather than constipated in his overpriced pyjamas. Better still an address from his luxurious toilet while he sits, emptying his bowel. This might enable the 0% of patriotic Nigerians yet to lose faith in this government’s competence to stay awake. Although, Buhari’s reaction to being told that a trust fund is to be set up for victims of the brutality and corruption of the state’s most reviled police unit (Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a.k.a SARS)—his sinister “tee-hee-hee”—most likely ensured that.
We all recognised that laughter. It reminded some of us of our parents—when they delay imposing physical abuse, and threaten us instead with their words and menacing body language. Throughout the #EndSARS protests, our leaders (despite our continuous counsel that they are employees) have continued to appeal to us by claiming parentage. Therefore, it is not farfetched to suggest that in humouring violence, our unpatriotic president, the ‘father’ of our great nation Nigeria was threatening his children with an iron fist. As the iron fist of government continues “patting our backs”, we the people have come together to take stock of its blatant disregard for human life.
Following the state-wide curfews in certain parts of the country, some of us have been homebound, scrolling through eternal feeds of bad news and alerts of “FAKE NEWS” that the Nigerian police unfailingly send us. We have all happened on the tweets of President Buhari, the current representative of the powers-that-be, the puppet controlled by fairly skilled ventriloquists—the rotating cast of pigs led by a single boar, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They have come together, again, to address the newest threat to their domination: those patriotic Nigerians, who, having grown tired of parricide and starvation, are organising to make the pigsty dysfunctional for further gluttony.
“…I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)…”
The use of state-sponsored mafias during protests and public revolt is not unique. In many parts of the world—almost exclusively controlled or influenced by non-democratic authorities—these instruments of the government are used to carry out illegal actions in their favour. They instil fear in the public through violence and control the narrative by hijacking movements all while allowing the government plausible deniability
In the case of the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, mafia groups have been paid or promised as little as N500 to ambush peaceful protesters. These attacks have resulted in many deaths. The fatal stabbing in Abuja of Anthony Onome is a case in point. Armed with machetes and metal poles, these groups have been caught on video escaping in state-owned vehicles. However, they have been conveniently labelled by government as “protesters” to justify the use of deadly force by police on peaceful demonstrators.
Recruitment to these mafia groups is guaranteed in a country with a young, disenchanted population, where more than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, and where miseducation, lack of employment and lack of trust in the government and justice system are the order of the day. N50,000 is all it takes to buy the loyalty and absolute obedience of 100 men.
“…On Monday 12th October, I acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force of some members of SARS…”
Shortly before the Nigerian President’s state of the nation address, the BBC released a short clip of an interview with Rotimi Amaechi, the Federal Minister for Transportation about the nationwide #EndSARS protests. During this interview, Amaechi suggested that Nigerians had exaggerated their experiences with SARS officials. At that moment, I became overcome by anger and pain. I think I must have sent out a tweet about publicly flogging Amaechi if we ever crossed paths.
Although his interview gave a fair glimpse into the federal government’s stance on the #EndSARS protests, I was still eager for the President’s address. I hoped he would acknowledge the shooting and killing of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate by the military and apologise for it. I hoped he would apologise for ghosting the country for what was and still is a defining moment in our history. I wanted the President to be an honest human being, to empathize with the frustrations of the average Nigerian about the current state of the country, to be as broken as we are, if not for the gruesome stories of police brutality, at least for the violence of the military on 20 October. You can imagine the shock as Buhari addressed Nigerians across the world describing the maiming, raping, robbing and killing of his citizens so nonchalantly, seemingly deaf to their obvious plight. Clearly, e get coconut head, e no dey hear word.
“…The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law…”
It is already outrageous that Buhari claims his government has any respect for the Nigerian constitution. When talking about respecting “the rights of other citizens and the necessity to operate within the law” during mass protests, there is no fine line between protecting the right to political dissent and retaining state control. No state has perfectly mastered this yet. However, the Nigerian law on the freedom of expression (including the right to protest) and its caveats are ambiguous to start with. This ambiguity gives the government the power to repress dissent. Indeed, this is not the first time peaceful protesters have been murdered. And until now, many of these killings were overlooked and underreported.
Agreed, the caveat for the right to protest is necessary. However, the ability to balance the harms and benefits of dissenting speech rests on Nigerian courts being independent and empowered to interpret the constitution. Buhari’s sudden reliance on the constitution is an insult to our collective intelligence. Where is the independent judiciary? Where is the separate executive or legislative branch? Where is our free press? Does the rule of law even exist? The President appears to revive a constitution for the purpose of justifying state-sanctioned murder. Enlisting the army to shoot at peaceful protesters is nowhere near proportional, or necessary, especially when you consider that this same President is rehabilitating former Boko Haram terrorists.
Whether Buhari knows it or not, Nigeria is a member state of the UN and according to our constitution we have the right to protest—in theory, on paper, under international law. Yet, this is not so in practice and has not been so since Nigeria’s origin. Thus, Buhari’s reference to the constitution is only fanning the flames of our fury.
“…As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth. On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive police reforms.
The lies embedded here cannot go unchallenged. We asked that “SARS” be disbanded, and government interpreted that as “replaced”. It proceeded to give the same group of people, with the same powers and the same sinister reputation, a new and even more sinister name: Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (a.k.a SWAT). Then, it doubled down on the silencing of victims, naming them enemies of the state, carrying out attacks on their homes and communities. It attacked people armed with nothing but hope. It spat on these so-called accepted demands, and played the fool, as our noisy cries fell on deaf ears.
These lies are especially infuriating as they try to airbrush the well-documented crimes against Nigerians as fabrications of undemocratic citizens. The government’s blatant disregard for proposed actions that deter the repetition of such events adds insult to injury. The most disgraceful of these lies being the renaming of SARS to SWAT. That was the first jab at our collective intelligence; the clown’s first joke, soon to be followed by an even more cruel one that signalled our fate at the hands of these puppeteers, these moneyed men who have Nigeria in a chokehold and will bend it to their will. These jokes do not make themselves. They are well thought out plans to make this country uninhabitable for most of us and enable the puppeteers’ ambitions to live large. These are the writers of our destiny and as long as they have the power to pull their strings and shift this county in whatever direction benefits their pockets, the jokes will not stop being told. Yet, no one is laughing.
“… the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests. The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a peace-maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport, and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors. All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary.”
If Nigerian politicians were doctors, they would kill you at your first appointment with a misdiagnosis. Thus, it is unsurprising that the President cannot see vandalism and the destruction of properties as symptoms of the virus he hosts and spreads. When citizens are neglected by corrupt, brutal and inept leaders, they are unlikely to see them as legitimate sources of authority and will express their frustrations. Nigeria has failed its citizens. It kills us and does not let us be grieved. And God forbid the dead are poor. In Nigeria, they were never living. If certain bodies do not count as living beings, they are readily disposable; negligently left to die with no recourse or justice.
Buhari and the character Claudius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet have a lot in common. The most striking similarity is their use of language to produce and enforce a dystopian reality. In real time, we witnessed how history was reframed, twisted and reversed. To think that millions of Nigerians across 36 states flooded the streets in protest for two weeks just for the SARS unit to be scrapped is to be intellectually dishonest. The #EndSARS movement goes beyond SARS, or police brutality at large. It is a direct response to decades of bad governance and dysfunction. Yet, in his address, President Buhari chose his language carefully to invoke a wilful ignorance of the plight of the people he swore an oath to. But we, the children of Aba women, Egba market women, Ogoni 9 and Nana Asma’u know that we can bend language. Language is our protest, the lashing tongue of our resistance and our vision for liberation for all people. This language exposes the selfish patriots of Aso rock, the Senate and House of Assembly. They are patriots to the money in the country, not the people of the country. But we matter. Our dreams, bodies and futures are not disposable. We are worthy of protection and do not deserve to suffer.
Buhari says “acts of sexual violence have been reported”. What does this really mean when the status quo provides inadequate support for victims of sexual violence, but furniture allowances for senators? If you are a woman, if you are queer, if you are poor, your body is constructed as deserving of violence. These bodies recognise that there is medicine in the streets, at toll gates, shops and palliatives storage sites. They will look for their medicine. They will be called criminals, hoodlums, thugs, noisemakers and disruptors. Media publications that reveal the doctor’s misdiagnosis will be sanctioned. The hosts of the virus will amplify a social media bill that the people do not accept. This time the people will use their language, for they are alive to see their truth and have an archive that never sleeps.
Audre Lorde said, “your silence will not protect you”, and this is true for us. Although we have not always been silent, but silenced, we have a greater sense that not speaking up will cost us more. We exist in corridors of precarity already and as the oppressive political elite walk past us, we look them right in the eyes. We can see all the lies now and we question their authority. We question the audacity of Aso Rock, the Senate and House of Representatives to disrespect our wishes. You serve our country. Suffering and bad governance must die by fire, by force.
“…Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country…”
We are all familiar with the common refrain: “don’t not let the violence distract from the point of the protest”. It is all too common in the incredibly volatile recent political landscape we find ourselves in. The contradictions wrought on our societies by decades of capitalism have become too unjust to ignore. As tensions boil over, people are filling the streets. These people, motivated by the need to voice their frustration and anger with the incompetence of their government and its failure to deliver on the basic promise of its function, lash out on property. The authorities (and their reactionary supporters), in turn, equate the damage of this property to the magnitude of violence by the state on its people. And they point to its existence as a distraction from the actual protest. A way to derail the conversation. But there is no such derailment going on.
One of the principal conceits of capitalism is the equivocation of human life and private property. It manifests in laws, jurisdiction and executive action. But it is a delusion: inanimate objects cannot feel pain or suffer harm. Not the same way a person who is without a home or without a job can feel pain or harm. It is ludicrous to suggest that damage to a streetlight or store window exists on the same level of moral bankruptcy as the intentional denial by the state of food, water, safety and housing to its population. This only exists to focus the narrative on the method of protest, and not the matter of the protest itself.
As long as unjust socioeconomic conditions are maintained by the capitalist status quo, the world we live in will remain violent. Any conversation about violent protests that does not reckon with the violent nature of life under capitalism is reactionary. It is only interested in preserving the status quo with controlled opposition. Those in power do not want to have a real conversation about the grievances of the people. They want them to stay quiet, and out of sight. They want a monopoly on violence, and we cannot allow them to have it.
Months of diplomacy and advocacy saw little to no results, but two days of direct action yielded national coverage and a (muted, but still significant) response from the government. Buhari and his cohort have lost control of the narrative and try as they may, they cannot recover it.
“…The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens, is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour…”
Social media is one of the most powerful tools for demanding a better reality, so we see this statement exactly for what it is. By calling attention to social media as a harm and danger, this administration is calling for our disarmament in a modern-day struggle for change. As a generation of global citizens, we know the severity of this remark and stand against it. Despite our lacklustre education system, we know our universal rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and our rights to receive and impart information through media.
We call out the paternalism inherent in this statement. It suggests that Nigerians have no agency and can be carried away by any wind that blows. This points to the larger issue of infantilization by our political leaders that we constantly resist. As the youth of Nigeria, we know who we are and what we are capable of; we are voters as well as active participants in our democracy. Those in government positions are there to serve, not to patronise. We know what we deserve as hard-working citizens of a country where we are forced to do for ourselves what our leaders have been elected to do.
What kind of democratic process is being upheld when leaders are trying to pass a social media bill that gags citizens and encroaches on their freedom of speech? A bill that proposes allowing law enforcement to shut down the internet. Isn’t that behaviour demonstrated in the most authoritarian countries? The bill does not meet international human rights standards of free speech and it suggests a three-year jail sentence for making statements that “diminish public confidence”. This is tyrant speech for “no form of criticism is acceptable”. Error 404– democratic process not found.
…On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the well-being and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nigerian leaders are like parents who steal food from their children and serve it to themselves on a silver platter. Buhari’s administration has failed to provide even the barest of minimums that Nigerians need to survive; an administration that boldly claims to help us even “with the steadily dwindling revenues”—revenues that we contribute to with our labour. In his speech the President laments the added responsibilities and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given his track record as an absentee leader, the closed borders of western countries certainly caused a great inconvenience for him. After all, how can he govern Nigerians from the comfort of its unofficial capital, London?
Nigeria has not always been a country that suffocates its citizens. There must have been a time after independence where there was an atmosphere of promise and a sense of pride in the future. Now that future is dead and its corpse has been abused, stolen and hidden in the dark.
“…Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) to provide opportunities for the youths, and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is: paying 3-months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small- and medium- enterprises b. paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission c. giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans d. guaranteeing market for the products of traders.…These are in addition to many other initiatives such as: a. Farmermoni, b. Tradermoni, c. Marketmoni, d. N-Power, e. N-Tech and f. N-Agro…”
This laundry list might have carried some weight if the administration, or even President Buhari himself, had an undisputable track record of actions proving this concern. Instead, any Nigerian could argue the opposite because the government has failed to fulfil even its basic obligations. Regardless, Buhari went on to boldly declare that no other government has taken a “methodological and serious approach to poverty alleviation”, when neither his international efforts (commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, for example) or domestic efforts have yielded substantial results. To demonstrate this, we need only point to the fact that Nigeria is home to the largest number of people worldwide living in abject poverty—a title taken from India, a country with a population more than six times Nigeria’s, in 2018, during Buhari’s first tenure. The President cited a N75 billion NYIF, MSME Survival Fund and a list of other initiatives (Farmermoni, Tradermoni, N-Power etc.), all that have raised more concerns than answers.
First, who are the beneficiaries of these initiatives? Even after researching the schemes and finding a not-so-catchy Tradermoni jingle and images of smiling traders wearing shirts stating “tradermoni beneficiary”, I remain unconvinced about their effectiveness in truly lifting people out of poverty. They are simply providing a temporary boost to keep business going—in keeping with government’s approach to addressing long-term problems with short-term fixes.
Second, if youth empowerment is truly President Buhari’s concern, then he should make a commitment to enhance facilities that not only “N-power”, but also equip and develop youth potential through improving the education system, the skilling of teachers, and developing libraries, online resources and curriculum. Along with Tradermoni and Marketmoni, why not include other initiatives with longer lasting implications: free-educationmoni, free-healthcaremoni, electricitymoni, goodroadmoni.
So respectfully Mr. President, you have got it wrong. Nigerians are not implying that this government is oblivious to the pain and plight of its citizens. They are saying expressly that it is aware of them, yet its deeds and words have been insufficient in easing and ultimately eradicating them. To you and aspiring Nigerian politicians, the time of doing the bare minimum and expecting Nigerians to be grateful is coming to an end. Nigerians will no longer praise a frog for squatting; and the now awokencoconut head generation will not stop asking for more. Do better. Thanks, Management.
“…No Nigerian government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done…”
For a speech directed at millions of heartbroken and traumatised Nigerians, some of whom watched first-hand their peers and loved ones killed by military forces during a peaceful protest at Lekki Toll Gate, this is quite frankly a slap in the face. It makes an absolute mockery of the practice of democracy. A government that cares more about its image than the substance it provides to its citizenry is like a nurse trying to cover up a deep and infected wound with a band aid. The infection will spread in no time and it will eventually bleed to the surface. The protests and outcries of the exhausted and frustrated Nigerians represent the blood that has come to the surface of this band aid of pretence.
“…With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force [NPF]. The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards. In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers…”
The tactic of using police welfare as a means of blunting the revolutionary demands of an oppressed people is much used by governments. It implies that it is because of the inadequate welfare and low salaries that police in Nigeria commit acts of murderous violence. We only need to look to other countries, such as the United States, where police officers are well paid and police violence is endemic, to see through this erroneous suggestion.
We must never forget that the excessive militarization of Nigeria goes hand-in-hand with the government’s economic violence and flagrant banditry. If Buhari is truly committed to “lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty”, why does he continue to spend a large portion of the country’s budget on debt servicing, shifting the tax burden onto poor and working-class Nigerians, while failing to adequately finance or support education, housing or healthcare. We cannot hope to defeat this crisis without a thorough understanding of the inequalities that propel it. For police violence to be rendered non-existent, we need to radically transform our world and build a just and equitable society, not spend $6 billion a year on the police and military.
Let me at this point reaffirm the Federal Government’s commitment to preserving the unity of this country
When Buhari said this, what he really meant was…
The unity of Nigeria is more important than all its citizens. In fact, it does not matter if most Nigerians die or are suffering as long as we preserve the precious unity. Do you not remember that Nigeria was handed over to us by a British Colonial Administration concerned with little else than how much wealth and resources they could extract for the British Empire? Do you not remember that I personally fought a war to secure this unity? This unity must be protected at all costs.
To be clear, Nigeria’s unity was not threatened during the Fulani herdsmen killings that ravaged North Central Nigeria a few years ago. Our unity was not threatened when the Central Bank confirmed that my disastrous economic policies rendered Nigeria the ‘poverty capital of the world’. Our unity was not in danger when it became clear that the nation was in crisis because so called law enforcement officers could pillage, rob, rape, maim and kill innocent citizens with impunity. But peaceful protesters making their voices heard through constitutionally legitimate means? They clearly want to take over the government and break up Nigeria. Their calls for greater accountability are nothing but a smokescreen to conceal their true and nefarious agenda. I even heard one of them call me A BAD BOY! What nonsense!
So in the interest of our precious national unity, I will summon my powers as an ex-military general (since the present democratic constitution has not accorded me these powers) and summarily prohibit these protests. Long live this dysfunctional and toxic Nigeria. To hell with accountability.
“…We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement…”
Good governance? What good governance does he speak of? The governance that fleeces Nigeria of its wealth? Where members of the senate earn over N7 million for furniture allowance and over N1 million for newspaper and hardship allowance (just in case you overlooked their “suffering”). The second noble virtue our dear President is so bold to claim is a democratic process. It is always refreshing to hear that from a former dictator. Moreover, who has he been engaging with to support this democratic process? He is a President who for two days was silent after his people were massacred live on Instagram; a president infamous for never being in the country.
“…We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens, are protected…”
A laughable suggestion and a hollow promise, befitting a hollow government that seeks to exploit its people and satiate its greed by plundering the resources of the country. Nigeria is known for the constant abuse of its citizens, through acts that have continuously been perpetuated by the greed of its leaders. From the severe embezzlement of public funds that could have housed, clothed or fed the poor, to the shooting of peaceful protesters. Our leaders know that if they give in to our demands for the ending of SARS and police reform, they will be forced to answer many allegations of corruption and abuse of power. They are afraid of losing their power and they are willing to do anything to keep it. They are determined to manipulate history in their favour. We are a country in which the majority of citizens provide their own electricity and their own sources of water; a country where the starving masses are forgotten by the federal government only to be remembered when elections draw near.
“…But remember that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence.”
It is not just insulting but also dangerous to imply that protesters are committing acts of violence against citizens “going about their daily businesses.” The #EndSARS movement was created not just to highlight a wicked and corrupt police unit, but also to expose and lament the many injustices Nigerians face every day. What is violent about peaceful protest? The true violence comes from hoarding COVID-19 palliatives intended for citizens and leaving them to expire in warehouses. It comes from a system created to support the rich and corrupt and spit in the faces of the people it fails every day. Buhari knows nothing about protecting citizen’s rights. This is the same man who disparaged his wife at an international conference by saying she was only good for domestic work and sex. We would be remiss to have high expectations for such a character.
In the circumstances, I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful…”
I assume Buhari is addressing the youth here, as they form the majority of the protesters. The building blocks for youth empowerment are a solid education and decent standard of living, neither of which are accessible to the average Nigerian. How can you confidently speak about “well-thought-out initiatives” for youth empowerment when a bag of rice costs more than the minimum monthly wage. What are the people eating?
A government official boasted on Twitter about an initiative meant to give monthly pay-outs of a few thousand naira to young entrepreneurs. A recipient of the grant quoted the tweet and mentioned that it had been almost a year since he and many others received a payment. Other initiatives appear to have no clear strategy or execution plan. The status quo is a budget in the billions, followed by the announcement of the opening of an application process, and finally a photoshoot with government officials, “recipients” resplendent with goodie bags. The story ends there. Effectively investing in the youth and doing so in good faith appears too much to ask of our government officials.
“…and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy…”
This feels like a scene from a Nollywood movie where a child is being beaten by their guardian but said guardian exclaims that the child is trying to kill them because they raise their hands to block the punches. This is Nigeria: we are expected to take the punches, and when we try to defend ourselves, we are said to be out for revenge. The government wants Nigerian democracy to remain “nascent”, to be forever an accident-prone, overgrown baby that cannot wipe its own ass. Agbaya!
“…For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law-and-order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated. I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding…”
What offends Buhari the most is the unity and organization of many young Nigerians. This was already evident in the 1980s when he seized power through a violent coup d’état. His “war on ill-discipline” was brutal. Unlike most populists of the day who tend to over-promise and under-perform, Buhari is no liar when it comes to the threats he makes. From the onset, his divisive and ethno-religious threats have been actualized all over the country, executed by poor, uneducated masses exploited by their ethnic/religious ties to him.
Buhari will not tolerate the “disrespect” and dissent rising in the hearts and minds of Nigerians today. Like many men in the military, he seeks to rule by fear, brutality and violence. He has shown his hand, and again citizens of this great country are left to do the difficult work without the help of their leaders.
“…And I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law-abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect. Let me pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty…”
How do we “go about our normal businesses” when simply expressing our desire to live and thrive is considered a crime by the state? By not acknowledging the lives lost at the Lekki Tollgate but paying tribute to members of the NPF and instructing “security agencies to protect lives and properties of law-abiding citizens”, Buhari made it clear that he was in concert with the massacre of 20 October. Essentially, the lives of protesters who raised the Nigerian flag and sang the national anthem in true patriotic form were not protected by security agencies because they were disobeying not the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but Buhari’s law—founded on the abuse of fundamental human rights.
Nowhere in the world is it in the line of duty for officers to fire live ammunition at civilians. Despite the multiple videos and live streams documenting this tragedy, the Nigerian government and army initially denied the Lekki Massacre occurred and went as far as stating the army was never present at the scene. Several videos and eyewitness accounts confirm that members of the military and police were indeed complicit—removing bodies of their victims, murdered in cold blood, off the streets. Further, there have been reports and videos of extrajudicial killings and home invasions by armed forces in places such as Oyigbo, in Rivers State, as a result of the protests and its aftermath.
“…I also thank youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands…”
The President should be embarrassed. Young people and youth leaders who took to the streets or social media around the country and internationally are not requesting gratitude for their patriotism and leadership in this painful time. We are seeking action and direction, a timely and sustainable response to our demands. We see past this pseudoapology and notice that the President is making it clear that he is excluding certain youth leaders who are critical of him and his politics.
We witnessed the government’s selective endorsement of certain methods of expressing anger and the blatant disregard of others. Recently, the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker directed the house to observe a moment of silence for “patriotic Nigerians who lost their lives and not for miscreants killed by the police.” The way representatives stood up and observed this moment of silence was equal parts jarring and predictable. We have seen and heard every possible iteration of injustice and disregard for human life in this country. We are done asking nicely and we will now be taking the rights that are due to us as humans and as Nigerian citizens. We are claiming our freedom by any means necessary.
Let us now unpack what exactly “the law” is, and why the citizens of Nigeria have to very often “take it into our hands.” It is under the operation of this “law” that SARS has been empowered to molest, abuse and detain innocent Nigerian youth for years. It is under the confines of this “law” that this very same SARS has been disbanded several times with no noticeable change in the incessant killings and police brutality in the country. It is under this “law” that Nigerians live in fear of their lives. It is under the watch of this “law” that fire was opened on innocent protesters. Taking the law into our hands is not a first response to a slight misdemeanour from a few bad apples in government. It is a last resort.
The hands of the masses have been forced by the power plays and incompetence of overpaid politicians, who have had their own hands on our necks for decades. We will no longer be party to the cult of personality that surrounds disgraceful, sweet-mouthed government officials who lie to and steal from us. We will no longer be apathetic in the face of such an unstable, aggravating political structure. We hold ourselves and the leaders we choose to a far higher standard of morality, empathy, tact and service. The veil has been lifted and we are watching you, Mr President (and co.). You answer to us. We do not answer to you.
“…I would like to thank those Governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint. Thank you all… This Government respects and will continue to respect all democratic rights and civil liberties of the people, but it will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of our nation. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
To close his 12-minute monologue, Buhari called on God to bless the Republic because God is an indispensable citizen, a poisonous panacea for the various existential problems of living in Nigeria. Here, religion is politicized, and politics is religionised. Entwined with indigenous culture, religion has penetrated deeply into national policies and religious leaders are often complicit and malleable in the arms of politics. Thus, we must demand a Nigeria that is good without God. This is one of the propelling forces of #EndSars. The impulse to automatically adopt an ardent belief in and constant appeals for God’s judgment and vengeance is understandable but harmful. It belies the prevalent state of impunity. This may shock some of you, but Amadioha will not strike President Buhari’s children as punishment for his wilful incompetence, neither will thunder. Hoping that God showers plagues on your state governor for stealing COVID-19 palliatives cannot be the restorative justice plan for Nigeria. As Nigerian citizens, we must accept that no faith will save us. And no Devil is responsible for Nigeria’s social ills.