#EndSARS, #EndPoliceBrutality Protest, Sundry Issues


As the campaign to #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality rages on, I have read and heard mostly the older folks (and a few young ones too) present arguments and counterarguments on two pressing issues about the protest. The first is about the justification for the continued protest despite ‘assurances’ from the President and the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The second is about the ‘excessive’ focus on the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and its poster boy for all things wrong – the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), rather than on other burning national issues. I think we owe them an explanation to enable them ‘get it’ using simple and sound logic. I will try to ventilate without blowing a fuse.

While this wave of protest was triggered by the highhandedness and unconscionable cruelty of men of the now ‘dissolved’ infamous unit, the issues sit a lot deeper. The gory tales of the vileness of SARS (you can add Federal to capture the spread of their notoriety across the country) men against the very citizens they are constitutionally responsible for protecting is in the public domain and is probably worth revisiting another time.

It has been years, or more appropriately, decades of the people being pushed to the wall and something had to give. Notably, concerned Nigerians from all walks of life and strata of the society, home and abroad continue to voice their support to end police brutality. Some of our brothers in the diaspora have been relentless in this struggle because they were not immune to the vices of SARS. In the past, scores had been intimidated and extorted with impunity on previous visits to their fatherland. The Cyberspace is unsurprisingly supersaturated with a litany of witty and carefully crafted hashtags as members of the international community keenly watch events unfold. Most importantly, and to be fair to both the President and the IGP, they have also affirmed the legitimacy of the agitation, citing the protesters’ grievances as well-founded. This put paid to the attempts by hordes of sycophants waiting to discredit the genuine concerns of protesters at the risk of exacerbating it.

Permit my little digression. Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the late legal luminary and unrepentant advocate of the fundamental human rights was said to have been mystified by the attitude of Nigerians when pushed to the wall. Rather than stand their ground and fight back, he said they would break the wall and run away. That level of docility undoubtedly left a bad taste in his mouth.  It is interesting to see this narrative change right before our eyes – a paradigm shift of some sort. He would have been overwhelmed with joy to witness the organic and spontaneous event that has rocked the nation since the last week or so. I must say these are interesting days in a country he genuinely loved and believed could become better with more people-oriented leadership.

On the justification for the continued protest, as I see it. It boils down to a huge and palpable TRUST DEFICIT between the governed and the government (past and present) on one hand, and the police on the other. This dearth of trust is an egregious aberration in a democratic setting. Before you adduce political leanings to my opinion, I aver without fear of contradiction that I care less about the past or present ‘Pandemics’ – yes, I am referring to that ‘P’ in the acronym of your beloved and favorite political party. Combined, in a little more than two decades, they have both done us more harm than good and collectively failed to steer the nation to the path of greatness. This is a story for another day!

Most of today’s protesters have seen successive governments renege on promises it had made and agreements it had signed with several groups. Examples abound!! What is responsible for the embarrassing ‘yo-yoing’ between ASUU and the FG over time? Agreements reached in 2009 or so, with a further 2013 MoU and 2019 MoA have still not been respected or fully implemented. The story is not different for associations in the health and other sectors. Furthermore, in several other instances where panels were constituted to investigate genuine concerns of the people, the recommendations were either implemented half-hardheartedly or reports dumped to gather dust.

It is still very fresh in everyone’s mind how the IGP ran out of active verbs, having ‘disbanded’, ‘reformed’, and ‘dissolved’ SARs in the recent past. At the end of the day, his orders fizzled out as quickly as they were made. Directives that should otherwise carry severe consequences for erring officers have become as feckless as the ‘p’ in the pronunciation of psychology. We also cannot be amnesiac and forget how like the biblical Prophet Jonah who voyaged to Tarshish contrary to instruction for Nineveh, a former IGP flouted a presidential directive without any officially known consequence. When you juxtapose these sad occurrences with the new directives, no matter how genuine the pronouncements of both the President and the IGP are on this count, the pervading air of suspicion becomes tenable. Some have referred to these promises and declarations by their rightful name, AUDIO. They have elected not to budge and like the biblical Thomas, they have demanded material evidence of the promises of these recent pronouncements!

Can we honestly berate them for believing that another hasty ‘dissolution’ of this ignominious unit of the NPF will not see these officers return to treat Nigerians with more viciousness as in previous instances? Understandably so, the hasty constitution of the new SWAT team to avoid a vacuum in tackling of vicious crime has also not been received positively. It is considered ill-timed and at best fuels the already raging inferno. The point is that when you show and sow duplicity over time, do not act surprised when you REAP MISTRUST from the people. After all, the Newtonian law that actions and reactions are opposite and equal still holds.

As it stands, until the government makes a quick deposit of trust by urgently addressing the low hanging fruits from concerns of these protests, things will only get more convoluted in the coming days. There is no contention that some of these demands and the promised reforms require time to consummate. However, the government MUST SHOW beyond rhetoric, intent to resolve issues within its immediate reach. It is equally important to communicate the medium to long-term goals with elements of measurable progress and realistic milestones. Having been fooled too many times in the recent past, you don’t need special gifts to conclude that the people do not believe these new promises UNTIL they see a semblance of result that matches the new declarations. Anything else may not be taken seriously.

TRUST cannot be demanded, railroaded, or imposed on the people venting their frustrations about how badly things have gone over the years. Rather, IT MUST BE EARNED by swift actions that match the rhetoric. This will go a long way in assuaging the already flared tempers and hopefully, attenuate the wave of protests in the coming days.

On the second issue of excessive focus on police malfeasance, I think dismantling or better still, obliterating the murderous unit was not only exigent but also strategic. By the time the NPF is fully reformed following the massive pressure from the ongoing moves, these same protesters will without the fear of police intimidation and brutality, confidently demand reforms in education, health, judiciary, social justice, the security of lives and property across the length and breadth of Nigeria, among many more legitimate concerns.


While remaining determined that mutual trust between the people and government remains the optimal way out of the ongoing impasse, I will not remiss my duty for a call for self-reflection among Nigerians. The rottenness and failings of Institutions are sometimes a clear reflection of society. Therefore, we ought to remind ourselves that some of the viciousness and excesses of the now ‘extinguished’ SARS unit were either commissioned, induced, enabled, or sponsored by NIGERIANS with influence. Sadly, some of these people may be shamelessly in the vanguard of this protest. Some might even have the temerity to be the most vociferous, clamoring so loudly that you’d never have imagined them being a part of the problem. We have all heard of landlord v tenant, boyfriend v girlfriend, husband v wife, employee v employer, and several other trivial civil issues with no criminal leanings ending up in SARS offices.

The consequence has been consistently grave for those on the short end of the stick. People have been detained in SARS holding facilities on trumped-up charges and ‘taught lessons’ for preposterous reasons because the reporting party wields some sort of power and influence. Shouldn’t the self-acclaimed powerful people share in the culpability of these SARS men when all is said and done? Aren’t they complicit in these shenanigans? Is it too much to begin the naming and shaming of those who aid and abet the dehumanization, and in many cases, termination of lives of Nigerians using law enforcement officers just because they consider themselves ‘powerful’, ‘influential’, and ‘untouchable’?

Finally, all well-meaning Nigerians irrespective of their tribal, religious, or political proclivity must lend their voices in advocating for the end of vice and lack of accountability that pervade our public space. The future of Nigeria can only be securely guaranteed when we all, in good conscience stand on the side of justice for all Nigerians irrespective of their dispositions.

In all of this, I elect to #sorosoke without ambiguity or equivocation.

-JO Adeniyi


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