The #EndSARS cycle – yes a cycle – seems to be too thick, going on and on with so many factors that may not meet the eye, and one can’t help but ask, is there a future in this war between the Government and her youths? First, the youths were all united against the Government and it was the leaders’ time to fear its coming generation. If not fear, what would lead to all of the denials and the backs and forths the world witnessed – no the Army was not at Lekki Toll Gate, the videos were photoshopped; oh!, they were there but shooting into the air so no one died; actually only certain number of people died – and all the many many stories, what could have led to them?
Then it was the youths against themselves, finding it hard to keep the fight against the Government’s inability to provide a safe space for them but losing focus on feminism, queer community, leadership and trolling. Eventually, there was a fraction in the fight and till today, everything still looks foggy.
In this edition of the Weekly Magazine, KOKO’s Laurence met with social commentator and a youth who partially pulled out after the youths fell apart, Mr Hassan Michael, to dialogue what exactly is the way forward and what the future holds. Hassan could not help but hammer that both the youths and the Government have failed and until both go back to the dialogue table, there will be no future. Sit back and read through the conversation.Can I meet you? I am Hassan Michael, a graduate of Mass Communication and a Social commentator. I currently work with an Aviation firm.
Going straight to the business, do you support what the youths are trying to achieve with the protests?
First of all I’d say we all want a better Nigeria so right from time, I supported the protests. What the youths are asking for is not something out of the world, so I support it because I am a youth myself. We want a better Nigeria, we want a country where we would not be afraid of the security agencies. My only problem it is the turn it took later and the approach that people are having towards it. What are the approaches?
The best approach is dialogue. When there is a conflict, the first thing you do is raise awareness about the issue. After that, the next thing is dialogue. There is no way you can resolve conflict without dialogue. To settle a conflict, both parties have to come to the table, the aggrieved party talks about its grievances. After the government agreed to the 5 for 5 demands, the next thing we should have done was to monitor their process and keep close watch. Before we gained independence for example, our founding fathers – the nationalists – had to do several consultations and conferences, shuttling Lagos, Ibadan and London. I’m sure that each time they go for these conferences, there would be a new constitution, and then after they got these new constitutions, they would discover that there are some things that are not part of the constitution but are supposed to be taken care of or there are some agreements that were reached and are supposed to be put into action. Then they would go back again, this is what happened starting from 1922 up till we got our independence in 1960 – it is continuous dialogue and monitoring. These people promised to do these things, which ones have they done, which ones have they not done? Then we raise awareness. This is why I said we should have taken the option of dialogue after the protest.But there was a Judicial Panel…
The panel that was set up is not for dialogue. Remember that at some point, the government said the youths should provide leaders but we said we didn’t have leaders. The panel is a different ball game from the dialogue that the Government asked for. The panel is to prosecute the allegations against the SARS operatives. The dialogue is supposed to be about not only the #EndSARS alone but taking steps, reaching an agreement on how to first look into the welfare of the Police, ensure the training of the Police and that they do not go out again to harass people. Normally, if you see a Policeman, you are supposed to have a rest of mind that okay, there is a security official here but we all know what happens in this country – we are even more afraid of Police than an armed robber or any other person. The Judicial panel is just one of the things, there are others. For the rest demands, there should be modalities to be reached and agreement on how to achieve them, and they have to set up milestones. On the aspect of training and evaluation of the Police, they should be able to give us timeline if there was a dialogue, say okay within the first 6 months, how many Police officers are going to be trained? In a case like this, we should be able to monitor – okay they said in the space for 6 months, they would train 1,000 Police, did they train up to 1,000, did they train anybody at all?They should be able to raise issues, those are part of the things that should have been discussed at the dialogue but instead, the youths said there was no leader and nobody went for the dialogue. Probably they were afraid that anybody that comes out as the leader of the movement will be victimized. Even to my own understanding, I believe the movement had face – it had faces, it had leadership. As we all know during the #EndSARS protests, some people were in charge of the feeding. All these things did not come up themselves, some people took that initiative to provide these things and to coordinate it. To me, those people are leaders. And then no movement has no leader. Somebody had to come because the government cannot invite all the youths. – that was where the youth got it wrong. Now the Government can easily say we asked these people to bring somebody to dialogue with us and nobody came. The same way some people represented the youths at the Judicial Panel, some people should have been selected or volunteered to go for the dialogue. Given how people complained about the inclusion and non-inclusion of some people when the Government proposed a virtual town hall meeting, which eventually led to the wiping out of the idea, how do you think the Government will listen to the youths or take them serious?
That is why I am saying first of all the #EndSARS protest itself is a kind of a good thing- it brought many people from different vibe together. At the beginning, there was this unity among the youths, not minding where you are from – we had a single purpose which was to #EndSARS. But you’d discover that it started getting to some points and some stages some other interests started coming up and that started leading to little break ups. You can remember the issue of the feminist coven, then the issue of fighting for the LGBT community, that was where they started having problems – when other interests started getting infused with what started the protests in the first place. What we should have done is we should have stayed united and use one voice. Someone did a compilation of the people that should be seen as the leaders and those people to me qualify – Mr Macaroni, Aisha Yesufu and some of the popular people everyone knows generally. But if we are doing people everyone does not know, there would be a problem. If everyone is creating a list in Lagos, in Abuja, of the youths that will represent the youths in Nigeria, we would have different things. So we should have done is to come up with a united front and our in-house consultation for one overall list. Does that now give the Government to right to violate and trample upon the fundamental human rights of the protesters during the #OccupyLekkiTollGate Protest anywhere in the world is a fundamental human right – you have the right to express your grievances. That Saturday, the security agencies should have allowed those people to protest like they planned. But you know that days before then, there was a hashtag of #OccupyLekkiTollGate and there was another hashtag of #DefendLagos – there were two groups of people, some wanted to protest and some were saying that they should not protest because the protest was going to lead to the obstruction of movement like the last one in October when they blocked the Lekki Toll Gate and subjected many people to long hours on the road. Now the security agencies came, they should have allowed the people to protest only prevent them from blocking the road which we all know is the plan of the protest for that Saturday. They should have allowed them exercise their rights. But then there is a way you can protest and air your grievances without causing hardship on other persons – it is not everybody that want protest, it is not everybody that share in the same movement. There are some people that are for and there are people that are against.You can’t say because you fighting for everybody’s rights, you should subject some people to suffering. I gathered that at the last protest because of the blockage of the road, a woman in labour died. What the government should have done was allow them protest at a location and even protect them from hoodlums but stop them from blocking the road. Let’s even ask this question, “What is the significance of Lekki Toll Gate with the #EndSARS protests in the first place? Lekki Toll Gate has nothing to do with #EndSARS in the first place because it is not as if Lekki Toll Gate has been a scene where SARS have been committing their crimes so there was no justification in the first place to use Lekki Toll Gate. If you want to protest and let the Government hear you, the best place to go to is Alausa close to the Governor’s office. Lekki Toll Gate had been blocked before the 20th of October so what significance is it in the first place to go to the Toll Gate? So you are in support of the Government’s Approach
The Government did what it did to prevent what happened on October 20 given the fact that some people who are pushing the #DefendLagos hashtag are ready to defend Lagos with everything. Imagine if on that Saturday there was no security operative and these two people were allowed to go to that toll gate, I’m sure we are going to have casualties. The Government saying they should not protest at this point in time was the right thing. To be sincere, to me, there was no basis for this second protest. What should have been done?
What they should have done is, we still have this 5 for 5 demands, they bet thing is to go to dialogue and how to hold them responsible. What you went to Lekki to protest at the first place was to end SARS. Now SARS is ended, you can’t protest what has been ended. The only thing I was not okay with on Saturday was the Police arresting and harassing some people. I saw some videos where they were looking like they were beaten. Read also: #EndSARS: The Difference Between Us And The Older Generation Is ‘Smart Phones’ – Noble Igwe Isn’t that the same reason the protest began in the first place, and again it happened on Saturday. You are still supporting the Government’s approach? No, don’t misquote me. I said the measure the Government took to prevent the protest was right but the only thing I was not okay with was arresting – I did not say arresting was right. You know on Thursday, the Minister of Information did a press conference, on Friday too, the Police did hers, telling people not to protest given what happened last time, you can see the damage that was done in October so just to prevent violence. I believe everybody should have stayed at home. Don’t forget that on October 20th, there was a curfew and we know what curfew means all over the world. Even on January 6th when what happened at the Capitol happened, there was curfew that was in place for some days and people obeyed. If everyone had obeyed that curfew that night, what happened that night would not have happened. Are you blaming the youths for the Lekki Massacre??
I am not blaming the youths for what happened at Lekki toll gate that night. I don’t know what happened at the Toll Gate. Nobody knows what happened at the toll gate for sure. I am just saying it wouldn’t have happened if they had listened again on Saturday, that there should be no protest for now. In the US if you want to protest, you have to ask for permit and if they say no permit, then there is no protest. That is why I said they should have listened, and I told you that the only thing I was not okay with on Saturday was the Police arresting and harassing people. On that Saturday, the Police could have told them no protest is holding here, you should go. The Police should have been professional enough. What if the Police was attacked like the last time? Let’s be realistic – let me give you a scenario. Say you and someone are fighting, tension is high and then the person slaps you, what would be your reaction? Of course to retaliate. Are you saying the Police attacking the youths is right?
I am not saying it is right but it is wrong for you to attack the security operatives and it is wrong for the security operatives to attack you. Both parties have approached this whole thing in the wrong manner and that is why I said we still have to come back to dialogue.
Do you think dialogue will lead to the direct result that the youths have been requesting for?
Change does not happen overnight, there is a process. This thing we are talking about has been happening for over a decade, so you can’t expect it to change overnight but when there is a dialogue, there is an agreement that is reached and there is a timeline set in place.