‘No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. ‘Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come’. ‘No army can stop an idea whose time has come’. ‘Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come’. ‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come’.

Some of these paraphrases of a French poet, writer and philosopher, Victor Hugo’s thoughts have a closer match in a passage from Gustave Aimard’s earlier-published novel Les Francs-Tireurs (1861): ‘There is something more powerful than the brute force of bayonets: it is the idea whose time has come and hour struck…’

Now, the arrogant powers in Abuja would have by now felt the power of the young people they once derided as lazy and unthinking. The ones they once claimed are too young to rule are firmly in charge. And they have come up with a powerful idea whose time has really come. And some oracles are already talking about ‘revolt of the youth, at last’. Just as others are talking about ‘#EndSARS, a revolution foretold’.

Now the defiant powers that have specialised in denigrating even suggestions of restructuring in good faith, are now aware that the young ones are ready to say ‘enough is enough’ of their oppression, after all.

Let’s ask these: how many editorials will a country’s newspapers write about the country’s challenges before the authorities would listen? How many protests from political party stalwarts would change the leader of their party and president before he (the president) would implement party manifesto? How many people are supposed to die in regions ruled by insurgents and bandits before the security and defence chiefs would be changed? How many protests will a First Lady stage against the presidency before the president would listen to the voice of reason of his wife? How many articles will (opinion) columnists write about presidential inertia and procrastinations before the president will do things right and do the right thing? How many reports can be submitted to the presidency on police reforms and modern policing before the authorities in a country can realise that it is expedient to prevent brutality in police service? How many reports will a country’s non-governmental organisations write before a leader will realise the danger in borrowing and borrowing for consumption? How many protests by regional leaders will a national leader need to receive before the same leader can respect the federal character provisions in the organic law of the land? How many insults do a country’s university teachers need to absorb before a country’s leader can recognise them as the intellectual power base without which there will be no development? How many articles do the oracles in the media need to write before a country’s leader realises the danger in removing a country’s Chief Justice without complying with constitutional provisions? How many protests do the non-governmental organisations need to stage before a developing country’s leader realises that the legislators are overpaid even in a time of recession? How many acidic messages does a leader need to receive to realise that it is a reproach that no teaching hospital is worth its name in a country of about 200 million people? How many times will NGOs and indeed the media remind a country’s leader in a year about a constitutional provision that, ‘welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’ – before he can act? Who is he that would want to contest an election to be a leader without realising that there is a nexus between quality in education and development? Where is a leader who will not keep sound political and economic advisers among other philosopher-kings in his (presidential) bureaucracy? Where is that leader who will insist on appointing only people he knows into even sensitive positions that require technical
competence when the people he knows are grossly incompetent? Where is that leader even in the developing world who will keep a nominee rejected by the country’s senate in a position for five years without confirmation? It is gratifying to note today that Bob Dylan would not say to all these questions that, their ‘answers are blowing in the wind’, thanks to our not-so-prominent-but significant youth.

And so here is the thing, we have been drawing their attention to the ‘writings on the walls’ they never read. How many writings on the walls would they need to see before they read them for their good? If they had read all the writings on the walls, there would not have been this revolt of the youth. Even on October 1, this year when we celebrated our 60th independence anniversary, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, had looked into the seed of time and spoken to the consequences of ignoring a crack in the walls. The vice president was abused by the ‘artful dodgers’ in the presidential household for speaking some inconvenient truth. All the artful dodging is about the bugbear called, ‘restructuring of the federation’. They pledged the deal to the people in their manifesto when they were desperate to grab power in 2015. They set up the el-Rufai panel on restructuring and they received the report on January 25, 2018 and since then, there has been a blackout on the report. The Jonathan administration’s report on the same subject was part of handover notes the president said he had deposited in the archives. Why has the Buhari administration been afraid of restructuring of the federation that hasn’t been working according to the vision of the founding fathers? Why have they been deceitful about a political project that could be the game changer for the most populous black nation on earth? Who is afraid of a developed Nigeria?
Thank God, it is October 2020: they need to explain to the angry youth who want not only an end to police brutality but also better policing and an end to retardation of their beloved country. Our leaders in Abuja and 36 states of the federation should note that they would fail in their strategy if they don’t remove their fixation on #EndSARS crisis. Our elders and leaders should not treat this present boldness of the #EndSARS campaigners as ranting of the youth. These ones are not editorial writers. They are not legislators who can always impeach their speakers for a mess of porridge prepared in the executive lounge. They are not mere student union leaders who are now in bed with the dealers who call themselves leaders in Abuja. They have been writing on the walls. Their writings have caused some cracks on the wall. The dealers, sorry leaders didn’t notice the writings and the cracks. Don’t get it twisted, the angry young ones are tired of mediocrity we have been talking and writing about? They are just using allegation of police brutality as an entry point. They are complaining about what we in the media have been covering up instead of covering. They are not just complaining about the rot that SARS has become. They are complaining about a systemic failure that has destroyed SARS, which police officer Fulani Kwajafa claimed the Buhari administration set up in 1984. They want the police to be restructured and well-taken care of.
Can we all see the difference between darkness and light? The young Nigerians the president once described as lazy and unproductive have found their grooves and mojo and they are now resourceful enough to tell the president and his men that their tormentors, the police officers too are victims in this broken system. They are saying to our leaders, take care of the police and we will have better policing beyond the meretricious change of name of a unit that retains all former brutality. The leaders of tomorrow, the young ones are saying to our leaders including the governors, ‘Weep not for SARS’, weep for the system that can’t reform the police service, and indeed a security architecture that can serve a Nigeria that can lead the black race. The young Nigerians who are teaching the world some modern art of non-violent resistance are saying to our leaders that they need to look beyond expensive and corruptible strategy to win elections for self-enrichment alone. They are saying to the mass media, develop capacity to cover Nigeria; don’t cover up this corrupt system.

The young torchbearers are saying to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA): where were you when these desperate political leaders in Abuja removed our Chief Justice of the Federation in 2019 without recourse to the constitutional provisions for removing him? The Lord’s young resistant army is saying to our agonising university lecturers, you are intellectuals, you are our teachers, get out of the comfort of the staff clubs and reshape your destiny through modern methods of resistance that can touch the principalities and powers.

We can all see that since 2017 when the then IGP Ibrahim Idris claimed he had reformed SARS structure in the wake of a national outcry over the recording of the wanton killing of a young Nigerian by SARS operatives in December 2017, that nothing concrete has happened. And nothing will happen. This is still not a moment for lamentation. The young ones are tired of unfulfilled promises. In August, 2018, when VP Yemi Osinbajo was acting as President, there was a widespread grouse on the human rights abuses of SARS. The Acting President then actually ordered an overhaul of SARS operations. Nothing changed until January 2019 when the current Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu emerged. It is on record that the new IGP then ordered a comprehensive reform and decentralisation of the dreaded SARS. The enthusiastic Adamu in February 2019 followed up with an order and threat to disband SARS if they continued with their alleged brutality. In October 2020, the nation is still on edge over renewed brutality of the same SARS even when the same IGP Adamu is still in office and Buhari who set it up under Kwajafa is still in power. Where do we go from here? The President should borrow some initiative from the resourceful Governor of Lagos state who bears more brunt as the chief host of the most sophisticated wing of #EndSARS revolt. The Governor has set up a N200 million worth of fund for the families of casualties in the current campaign. The Governor was harassed but he remained calm and joined the campaign. He has since reported details of the demand of the very organised young Salvation Army to the president in Abuja. When will the President speak passionately to his children in Abuja?

Inside Stuff with Martins Oloja published in The Guardian on Sunday, October 18, 2020.

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