#ENDSARS, Imo and novel youth protests

By Malachy Uzendu

For 12 days, Nigeria acquired global notoriety, with the explosive but peaceful protests by young Nigerians, asking for reforms. What had started as #ENDSARS, has gradually gathered momentum to the extent that several issues have been opened up for discourse by the agitators.

Inspite of initial high-handedness by security agencies who had deployed brute force, to halt the youths, once described by President Muhamadu Buhari as ‘lazy Nigerian youths’, they have refused to budge. Instead of cowed by the initial killing of the #ENDSARS agitators, the youth got more emboldened, refusing to blink an eye-lid; they remained recalcitrant, and in fact, increased their charter of demand from seven to over twenty.

And they were not intimidated any bit that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratia or the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s marching orders to them to halt the protests. Not even the sponsorship of miscreants by anonymous state actors, to disrupt the peaceful protest broke down their determination.

On the contrary, the Nigerian youth have demonstrated reasonable resilience. They proved they are organized; they proved they can quickly mobilise; they proved they have a common cause against the every-year-young gerontocrats who have refused to exit from the corridors of power, even though they ascended public space several decades before the mothers of these protesting youths got married; even though gerontocracy, in all honesty, have not added real value to the Nigerian nation, aside constituting themselves as parasites feeding fat on public till. Some of these derisively said they will die in government!

In comparison to advanced countries, our grand-pa leaders still reason like Methuselah; they see the world from the prism of yester-years; they are left behind by technology. They seize every plum public office, entrenching century-old ideas. They only draw comparison with globally advanced countries when pain it will bring pain on the populace; if it is to bring joy, they don’t care any hoot. They have monetized the polity, entrenched gangsterism and electoral fraud, breeding youths who only adopt the Robin Hood approach. They ensure the noxious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) do thir bidding, wasting innocent youthful lives unabashedly.

The protests have proved that SARS is but a microcosm of the entire rot. After all, who created SARS and their monstrous methods? Of course our leaders from federal to the local government; the unscrupulous but so-called business mogul. These put a system that transformed security road blocks to commercial enterprises and shooting range.

Our gerontocratic leaders feed fat from suppressing the youth; they see the youth only from negative prisms. But, they have met more than they bargained. They never imagined the youth could exhibit this inelastic endurance and organizational ability. These grannies have since penultimate week remained petrified that the Nigerian youth could chose to sleep on the streets, taking mosquito bites, all forms of insect attacks, enduring the harsh weather come rain, come sunshine, not minding the consequences. They defiance is unrelenting suggesting that if those holding them on the ground refuse to let go, everybody will remain on a sedentary position.

Same level of discontent is also brewing in Imo State. Public reactions on the signing into law of the Imo State Administration of Criminal Bill No 2 of 2020 (ISACJL, 2020) by Gov. Hope Uzodimma, is another issue to watch. The law empowers the governor to arrest and detain any resident of the state for as long as he wishes. Imolites are unhappy with the law insisting it is despotic in every of its ramifications. But the governor has accused the opposition of sponsoring public opinion against the law.

A former Commissioner for Information and Professor of Law, Nnamdi Obiaraeri, had while delivering a lecture in Owerri during the state’s Legal Year’s assizes, cited Section 484 and 485 of the ISACJL as draconian, vesting too much powers on the governor.

“Section 484 of the ISACJL, 2020 provides that where any person is ordered to be detained during the governor’s pleasure, he shall notwithstanding anything in the ISACJL, 2020 or contained in any other written law liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the governor may direct and whilst so detained shall be in proper custody.

“Section 485(1) of ISACJL, 2020 enacts that a person detained during the governor’s pleasure may at any time be discharged by the governor on license which said license may be in such form and in such conditions as the governor may direct under section 485(2).

“Finally, in section 485(3) of the ISACJL, 2020, a license may at any time be revoked or varied by the governor and where license has been revoked, the person to whom the person the license relates shall proceed to such place as the governor may direct and if he fails to do so, may be arrested without warrant and taken to such place.”

On their part, a human rights group, Save Imo, according to its founder, Nze Ebubeagu Ekenulo, threatened to sue the governor, the Imo State House of Assembly and relevant stakeholders made the law, if the governor fails to withdraw his assent and approach the State Assembly for repeal.

Although the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media, Emeka Ahaneku, promised that the House might review the law, Gov. Uzodimma’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Ogwuike Nwachukwu blamed the opposition of “making their usual mountain out of a molehill, apparently trying to smear the integrity of the governor, because for them, Uzodimma removed their mouth from their mother’s breast”.

He had said: “Is Uzodimma a member of the state Assembly? Is that Bill an Executive Bill or Private Bill? If it was a Private Bill, was the governor part of the proposers or originators of the Bill? Was Uzodimma’s opinion sought before the Bill was proposed in the first place? Did Uzodimma partake or participate in the debate leading to the passage of the Bill by the House before the governor eventually assented to it? Does it mean that the House can send to the governor for assent, a Bill they never collectively cross checked? Does it mean that proposers of any Bill did not make effort to see the final draft of any Bill they proposed before it was finally taken to the governor for assent?”

But, the member representing Oguta State Constituency and the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Frank Ugboma, said the outcome was not what he presented ab-initio, adding that “some sections in the recently gazetted ACJL came to me with rude shock. No one has been able to explain to the members of the 9th House how and at what stage the said Section 484 was inserted into the Bill. It smacks of an evil manipulation to throw Imo people into the dungeon”.

In another breath, the continued tagging of Gov. Uzodinma as “Supreme Court/Abuja Governor” and issues raised on accountability in the state are equally serious matters that should be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Several people have claimed that local government funds are unaccounted, while internally-generated revenue remains a major issue. They insist that Key Performance Indicices (KPI) on IGR do not add up, and called for a probe of the figures published by the state’s revenue board. Several people do not believe that the state’s IGR could sharply contract from N1.2 billion to N600 million monthly. Explanations by the Commissioner of Information, Hon. Declan Emelumba, that the government’s critics are misinformed are yet to sink, an indication that Imo is likely to witness its own peculiar protests after #ENDSARS if not properly handled.

It is up to the nation’s political leadership to read the barometers correctly and stop deluding themselves that the angry youth would continue to cow-tow to intimidation and miss-governance. The world is a global village; all eyes are now on Nigeria and events in the coming days will determine the state of our political direction. We must drop the toga of suppression and wear the garb of justice, equity and good conscience. Only these can save Nigeria from pending implosion.

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