Rivers State Governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike increased his complexity by his deft decision (some call it U-turn) to respond promptly and directly to the EndSARS protesting young men and women spotting different brands of denim trousers and linen tops in the hot sunny afternoon and trekking through major streets of Port Harcourt.
Governor Wike’s Information and Communications commissioner, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, a professional journalist who is also the Rivers State chairman of Nigeria institute of Public Relations, had in a statement, warned against any protests since SARS had already been scrapped by the Inspector-General of Police; and there was legally, no longer any justification for any protest against a nonexistent entity.
But the issue of SARS men overstepping their bounds is gargantuan, and in need of the type of action that creeps out when legalese no longer serves any therapeutic value. At such moment, questions become incomprehensible.
This underscores why the governor who has been the foremost critic of the activities of SARS even when the rest of us feigned ignorance of their behaviour suddenly became the target of caustic commentaries.
Yet, amid the antagonistic sentiments, the governor walked out of Government House, stepped into the van, cleared his throat and spoke frankly, turning anger in the sun into a frenzy for popular action against injustice and lack of transparency. That was the message about the nomination of the President’s Special Assistant on Social Media, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner in the Independent National Editorial Commission.
The hullabaloo over that unconscionable nomination could continue at the National Assembly as the Senate will take a stand to either confirm or reject her nomination. A staff of President Muhammadu Buhari who does not hide the depth of her loyalty to his policies and partisan interests, Ms Onochie can win any contest for a seat in the cabal of the Buharists and the alarm sounded by Gov. Wike at the EndSARS protest has already found expected response as over 70 civil society organizations and individuals have condemned the action of the Presidency.
Nigerians are very patient people and ironically, patient people often get less than equitable return for their loyalty and patience. Consequently, what should be treated as anomalies grow to become part of our heritage. It took Nigerians from all sections, sex, tribe, occupation etc. great energy to endure the harassment, and extrajudicial murder of their loved ones and several years of mental torture from the conduct of the SARS men to demand an end to the perfidy and to be doubly sure that their shenanigans will truly end beyond mere pronouncements and platitudes.
What is playing out now as expressed by the anger and nationwide protests, is huge. It is the kind of revolutionary change that manifest in due time. Nigerians are cultivating and living the democratic spirit which seeks to interrogate bad decisions and false policies that do not enhance personal liberty, national growth and human civilization.
The right to differ and the freedom to speak even against projects, policies and programmes that do not promote the common good is a natural right which a modern democratic government cannot abridge. Those who do not understand are still living in the yester years. They need a nudge.
Years of unbroken democratic governance in Nigeria requires that the ethereal values of accountability and good governance should influence the attitude of the citizenry and the government as well. For when these values snap, the result is usually a fast decline and slide into the unfathomable, but very potent force that anyone can hardly control.
The EndSARS protests featured popular celebrities, idols and models of youths many energetic men daring their traducers, women clutching babies and others who are eager to express their displeasure at the state of affairs in their country and their frustration in finding safety and decent means of livelihood. Gov’s Wike’s approach might have saved the situation in our dear Rivers state where politics is introduced at every turn.
Today SARS has been brought to an end. But we do not know what nagging issue could overshoot the threshold of angst in the minds of Nigerians. If we underrate this protest, we would be taking very wrong steps and hasten our journey to the Arab Spring.
About ten years ago, a series of spontaneous protests against anti-democratic forces and regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries led to revolts in North Africa and the Middle East, and enforced far-reaching demands that provoked urgent reforms in the Arab world. Nigerians have shown that they are after all humans who also have the capacity to congregate and to hold on for long in defiance against their oppressors.