My Take on #EndSARS et al Protest

This special post is to state my take on the #EndSARS protest going on at the moment in my native country, Nigeria.

It’s the right thing to do to keep to our civic duties. Paying taxes, casting votes, keeping to traffic rules, contributing in various ways to make our society a better place to live, and following policies designed to promote the common good, etc. It’s part of our “social contract.” It is also the responsibility of the government to fulfill its part of the contract. That is the only way to guarantee its legitimacy.

Sometimes, maintaining our responsibility as citizens is challenging, especially when there is a conflict between one’s belief and what a particular government stands for. The feeling is worse if there is a perceived or real injustice. The government can sometimes be a pain, especially when you have leaders whose actions and words suggest they care less about the common good but more about themselves and power.

#EndSARS Protests Nigeria

Power Abuse

We give them power. They turn around and make us pay for trusting them with our honored, if not sacred, will to lead. This situation is rampant in many parts of the world. Such is the case in Nigeria, for example, which has led to a series of corrupt governments who feed themselves fat on the agonies of the people’s pains.

The incredibly peaceful protests going across Nigeria is an organically inspired call to action. Millions of people, not one, two, or three but in their tens, have risen to respond with the loudest and strongest voice echoing through the streets with no looting or violence on the part of the protesters. Their protests’ purity is itself, a testimonial, that they are asking for a responsible response. For about two weeks now, they have been matching to restore ethical sanity in the political system. Across the nation, are dances and chants of nonviolent and optimistic youths, calling for the end of the violence and corruption of a special police squad “SARS” whose work is to fight heinous crimes but end up being the most violent themselves. Other police units are working with the protesters, safeguarding the peace, dancing, and chanting along to our beautiful Nigerian music’s tone. 

Distinguishing the Real Problem

Though wounded, Nigerian youths could distinguish who their real problems are and go straight to address the issues. They know it is corruption from the “oga” and “ogas” at the top. They know it is many politicians who are ridiculously corrupt. They know it is a political class who are like the proverbial animal that ate the meat it was appointed to safeguard. A culture of corruption did not start with the current government. Instead, the current government has continued the trend while running a PR persona of virtue signaling. One is not surprised that Nigerians have risen.  

Hardworking Nigerians, a people with a strong will to work and earn their living, have suffered in many untold ways while politicians and their cronies milk them dry. We have been too tolerant of the government’s recklessness and abuse of the social contract. One could argue that Nigerians have become victims of desensitizing social engineering, in which the corrupt has smoothly morphed into reality and become normalized. When “reality is driven out of reality” (Baudrillard, Perfect Crime, p.4), the result is a pseudo-reality; worse—no reality. In this case, for a long time, many did not care or notice. Therefore, they have unwittingly allowed the pseudo to fester. Before they knew it, the reality of their place in the social contract has gone by the wind. Some have also become complacent. This latter has a share, albeit less, in being part of the decay because “evil thrives when good people do nothing.”

EndSARS?

This #EndSARS protest, or rather campaign if not revolution, isn’t just about the SARS problem. End SARS grassroots revolution is an event mobilizing the people’s will to fight for real change. For once, the people’s moral conscience has revolted in their self-discovery that the pseudo-reality is, actually, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It needs purging. Hence, it is much more about addressing, for the first time, with the sheer will to power of the teeming souls of the future of that nation, the reckless corruption in the government. 

We, the people, have allowed these political, moral recklessness to fester and become a culture and a deadly wound to the Nigerian polity. We, the people, also have the responsibility to end it, NOW. 

Stand for Reform

I stand with the campaign as I stand with a much broader call for the government to hold their part of our social contract. In the meantime, since the government could not hold themselves accountable, people call the shots for them. Nature has a way of stirring things up. It would be ludicrous for Nigerian politicians currently in office to assume, “O well, give it time, and Nigerians will go to business as usual.” Assumptions of this kind are short-sighted and ridiculously ignorant of the history of social trends in the profession they claim to be experts.

When a government has violated its part of our social contract, citizens have the right to protest, as it is currently happening in Nigeria. More often, one may not even know the direction the protest could take, which can cost quite a fortune. Power is a precarious thing and needs keen attention. 

Power in a democratic society, such as most governments, lies with the people, not politicians. It is a contract, and we have a civic right to make a bold statement. A time comes when we have got to say, “enough is enough.” It’s NOW. It’s already happening. The Nigerian government has to respond before it is too late. We all grew, knowing this maxim from childhood, “A stitch in time saves nine.” 

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Fr. Maurice Emelu

The Reverend Dr. Maurice Emelu is a media scholar, theologian, author, and a visiting assistant professor of communication at John Carroll University, USA. He is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu in Nigeria and the founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, USA.

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