People & Money

It Is Not Finished, #EndSARS Coalition Seeks to Sustain Momentum, Targets Broader Political Change

Atedo Peterside, Chairman, ANAP Foundation said that Black Tuesday is positive for political reforms in Nigeria because it has awakened the youth to become “politically active”. It is hoped that the #EndSARS movement will not allow a massacre to go to waste.

The deployment of soldiers to shut down the #EndSARS Lekki base, the organisational and spiritual home of the embryonic protest movement, in the evening of Tuesday 20th October, 2020 and President Mohammadu Buhari’s speech two days later that more or less threatened further attacks on protesters have not only effectively put an end to the #EndSARS protests. It has raised the specter that not only has all possibility of police reforms being lost but that the dream of the massive #EndSARS movement being an effective platform for decisive youth participation in politics has died.

The coalition of youth groups behind the #EndSARS protests has however released a statement spelling out its plans to negotiate with the government and monitor promised police reforms as well as sustain the momentum ignited by the protests to in the medium and long term implement strategies for  “Education, Voter Registration, Political Consciousness and Representation for Young People in government.”

The coalition made known in the statement released on Saturday, 24 October 2020 that it is putting a “timeline together to track actions taken to meet our demands. This way, we know what has been done, what is being done, and what can be ticked off our list. This way, we know if and when the government defaults, and we can decide if a return to the streets is necessary”.

Structure

While the coalition recognized in the statement that the “leaderless nature of this protest but consistent oneness in demands have been part of our unique strengths”, it also announced a plan to let a leadership emerge “from celebrities to activists, legal minds to strategists, journalists to entrepreneurs” who have been behind with the protest movement.

Also Read: #ENDSARS: It’s a Different Generation, And a Different Time!

The coalition shared lists of nominees for leadership positions with Nigerians, making it possible to vote online for people to serve at the national and at state levels. According to the statement, “the nominees will meet with different protest leaders/blocs across the country/states, and consolidate on a vehicle for continuous demands. They will also track actions of the Government, represent our demands and provide feedback to us regularly”.

It also put forward names of well-known Nigerians such as Ibukun Awosika, Sam Adeyemi, Atedo Peterside, Ndidi Nwunelli, Alero Otobo Ayida and others “with experience in leadership and diplomacy, to assist in advisory and other support” capacities. This would address the criticism during the protests that the youth groups adopted a go-it-alone strategy, disparaging the experience and potential contribution of older Nigerians to achieving their goals.

It is not clear how many of the nominees put forward by the coalition after it “consulted far and wide” will end up forming its national and state committees as well as the advisory board.

Can the #EndSARS Coalition Build on the #EndSARS momentum?

It is instructive that the announcement that the #EndSARS coalition is evolving a leadership structure has gone almost unreported in the media and has not attracted any attention on social media.

Rather, a lot of Nigerians have continued to attack one of the prominent leaders of the movement, DJ Switch for, in their view, spreading fake news about people losing their lives as a result of the military attack on Lekki on Tuesday 20th October.

Curiously, a lot of Nigerians on social media, by no means the majority,  have been more outraged by exaggeration of the number of people that died from the military attack on Lekki than by the fact that the military was sent to squash peaceful protests and President’s Buhari’s refusal to acknowledge the attack or refute the claims of loss of lives.

From the point of view of strategy, the #EndSARS movement should have suspended the protests earlier, not because the Federal Government’s promises to meet its demand was credible, but to preserve its cachet. With the government crushing the movement within four hours on Tuesday night, the end of the protests has demonstrated government power and ultimately, the weakness of the movement.

The government is even now likely not to show any commitment to police reforms after being able to crush the #EndSARS movement rather easily. It would calculate that the movement’s leverage has disappeared after it dispersed the protests forcefully.

Also Read: #EndSARS Protests Could Hurt Nigeria’s Oil Output, Demand Recovery – S&P Global Platts

But momentum should not be confused with potential. The #EndSARS protests’ momentum has crested and crashed but it leaves so much behind that the movement and its leadership could build on. The following stand out amongst the #EndSARS movement’s “assets”:

  • Taste of Power: The movement has discovered what could be achieved if the youth could mobilise and organize.  Despite the setback of Black Tuesday, they certainly will not give up organising.
  • Credibility: The leadership built a reputation for accountability during and after the protests, declaring how much has been raised and what has been spent. It announced that it spent N60,403,235 out of the money raised, detailing plans to use the N87,452,553 left. This credibility can only be enhanced with the robust leadership structure, backstopped by an advisory board comprising credible Nigerians.
  • Fundraising Potential: The movement will use its experience raising funds and the credibility for managing the funds in an accountable manner to raise more funds easily, especially if it could develop effective programmes to monitor and report police extortion and brutality and democracy promoting initiatives such as voter registration campaigns.
  • Brand Appeal: The #EndSARS protests for millions of people rekindled hope in Nigeria while it lasted. It proved that Nigerians could organize to solve their own problems, hold the government accountable and potentially take charge of their destinies and transform the country. This hope is going to be reawakened if only because Nigerians are almost completely bereft of platforms to influence the country’s incompetent and venal politics.
  • Technology: The #EndSARS movement adroitly employed technology in organising. It is expected to use technology in reaching and communicating with the millions of Nigerians it must be hoping to engage in political action in the run up to the 2023 elections and also sign them on as members, supporters or donors to larger platforms it may evolve.

Certainly, as the #EndSARS coalition group declared at the end of its statement, it is not finished. The legacy of the #EndSARS movement represents a huge potential for political change in Nigeria through driving and directing the political engagement of the youth.

The popular political columnist and publisher of The Cable, a digital newspapers, argues that “In 2023, the #EndSARS momentum can become a movement that will help uproot both APC and PDP from power and birth a new political culture where government officials will begin to pay less attention to the perks of office and more to their responsibilities to Nigerians” just as the 2012 OccupyNigeria movement had provided the impetus and foundation for voting out the PDP in 2015.

Similarly, Atedo Peterside, Chairman, ANAP Foundation said on Arise Television that Black Tuesday is positive for political reforms in Nigeria because it has awakened the youth to become “politically active”.

He added that the best time to build or move a nation forward is when the youths who are in the majority have been “awakened”, advising the youths to start getting their voters card and position themselves as a group that determines the country’s economic policy direction and political leadership.

All this remains only a potential even if a big one that is relatively easy to achieve. The #EndSARS movement continues to insist that a massacre took place in Lekki on Tuesday, 20 October, 2020. It is hoped that the movement will not allow a massacre to go to waste.

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