As the #EndSARS protests continue in Nigeria and major cities around the world, it is clear that we are in a momentous point in our history. Nigerian youth have finally arisen for justice and we, as parents and leaders, must not fail them. This is indeed a time of reckoning. We are now inescapably confronted with the dark reality we had for far too long conveniently and insensitively deferred to a day with no name.
With the unfolding of horrific stories and experiences of pain and brutality by the police and especially its notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) shared by more and more young Nigerians and their surviving families, it crushes the soul to see just how many youths have been cut off in their prime by those who are supposed to protect them. In the midst of this long-overdue national catharsis, it is even more heartbreaking that some hard-hearted law enforcement officials are still attacking peaceful protesters.
As the youths continue to resist government overtures and threats and maintain their domination of public spaces, it is now clear that our young people are fed up with empty words and failed promises. This time, they will not sell themselves short. They demand action, meaningful action and we cannot fail them!
For one, the Nigerian government must maintain an approach of constructive engagement with the protesting youths, resisting its famed instincts of repression and force. The government must realize that this is not just a moment for the youths, but one for the country. A country built on the bedrock of justice and equity, benefits everyone.
Nigerian youths have long been victims of a failed system; a failed system defined by extrajudicial threats and attacks by law enforcement, insecurity, substandard education, lack of economic and employment opportunities, limited space for political participation, non-inclusion in public policy formulation and implementation, and lack of conducive environment for the free expression of their creative energy and innovation. Nigeria has indeed failed its youth. Nevertheless, the youths of this country have trudged on, defying these great odds to record stunning victories.
From technology and innovation to academics, sports, entertainment and third sector participation, Nigerian youths have long been making a statement of determination and persistence.
This moment affords us a unique opportunity to critically appraise the current Nigeria system while crafting out deliberate strategies that address the inevitable holistic reform of our system. The cardinal points for the growth and sustainability of any nation are hinged on leadership, education, technology and security. As leaders we owe this new generation, the responsibility of taking conscious steps to bridge the identified gaps as we prepare the foundation for the youth to take over from us. We must begin to build systems void of political party sentiments but bound by progressive principles and ideologies. The time has come to validate the belief that the youths are the future of tomorrow with clear actions. If Nigeria is to thrive, it must work for everyone.
It has become imperative to build a merit-based system where every youth in this country can be confident of accessing the best opportunities available purely based on their capabilities.
The greatest satisfaction of the victory comes from battles won without violence. We must give peace a chance while protesting.
History, through the resolve of our youths, has presented us with a golden chance to open a new chapter. We must seize it!
▪︎CHIEF DAN OSI ORBIH IS PDP NATIONAL