By Nnanke Harry Willie
#EndSARS Exposes Nigeria’s Economic Fault Lines
Nobody who has good reasons to live for will be willing to die or kill for no reason, except dehumanized by poverty!
The unraveling of the #EndSARS protests has clearly exposed the need for Nigeria to drastically begin to grow its middle-class population and lift its army of poor out of the trenches. A huge and virile middle-class is usually the bedrock and sign-post of a developed economy as it ultimately impacts positively on employment for the lower class.
The problem with Nigeria is that the population of the middle-class is thread-bare while a huge segment of the population is far too poor and a tiny minority, far too rich. However, the population of Nigeria’s mega-rich has been growing disproportionately in recent years due to high-level corruption and the stealing of our national heritage.
When the #EndSARS protests were originally staged and anchored by youth from Nigeria’s middle to the upper-middle-class population in Lagos and Abuja, it was peaceful, focused and result-driven to end police brutality and impunity in Nigeria.
Despite not having identifiable leaders, their demands were articulated thus:
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families.
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days
- Carrying out psychological evaluation and retaining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can be deployed (this should be verified by an independent body).
- Significant increase in police salaries and they adequate compensation for protecting lives and property of the citizens
- The Immediate release of all arrested protesters
The federal government quickly accepted these demands and announced the scrapping of SARS and other measures that the protesters believed were not far-reaching enough and thus, continued with the protests.
Trouble however started when the tiny rich minority populated by politicians and bureaucrats sought to snatch the initiative from the middle-class as they saw the continued protests as an attempt to change the status quo; with the Northern governors alleging that the protests were a veiled attempt at overthrowing the government of President Buhari.
Naturally, other politicians saw an opportunity to leverage the protest to full advantage and thus began the introduction of all manner of subterfuge, contrived narratives and self-deprecating activities.
Incidents of sponsored thuggery became common in Lagos, Abuja and Edo States as the tenor of the protests changed rapidly from sublime camaraderie to hellish barbarism by the second week of the protests. Looters, cultists and anarchists took over even as 24-hour and extended curfews were ordered in several states.
In Lagos state, the take-off point of the protest was targeted by men believed to be soldiers as they shot blank bullets at sitting protesters who were singing the national anthem injuring many protesters, with unconfirmed claims of deaths.
Strangely, the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Army have denied knowledge of who ordered the shooting. This only leaves the possibility that fifth columnists within the political structure planned and executed the condemnable act in order to escalate the crisis towards a pre-determined goal.
If the ensuing mayhem, killings and arson that ensued was their goal, then they will be congratulating themselves by now even as we still do not know the extent of killings that the disgraceful deployment of the ethnic card may result into. Some analysts believe, however, that the goal may have been something more sinister but the President’s speech on October 22, 2020, may have ended the hopes of achieving such a goal.
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s unemployment rate has tripled in the last 5 years. Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1% indicating that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed.
Our unemployment and underemployment rate (at 28.6%) is a combined 55.7% and things are getting worse as the COVID-19 economic meltdown and tokenistic economic programmes of the Buhari administration combine to make the economic outlook bleak and frightening.
While the youth and middle class are asked to continually make sacrifices, the political and bureaucratic elite carry on as if these are boom times as their squandering of Nigeria’s resources continues without let.
What the political elite, however, fail to realize is that if they continue to be insensitive to the needs and welfare of the poor and put far-reaching programmes in place with revolutionary social re-engineering programmes, the same youth and poor people they have used, for years to cause mayhem, rig elections and entrench themselves in power, will sooner rather than later have them for supper.