By Sunmola Olowookere
October 20, 2020 will always be a day to remember in the annals of Nigeria history. It was a day in which the fury of the “Soro soke” generation was unleashed and nearly consumed the already volatile polity.
“Soro soke” was part of the slogans coined by the then EndSARS protesters to demand for myriads of conditions from the government.
The protest started simply enough. At first, it was a demonstration, then a protest. Later, it became an uproar which brought unrest along with it.
For a while, the rumbling voice of the youths had been gathering momentum. It was the voice of demand for recognition, one that no longer accepts being trampled upon and ignored.
They began with the intention to EndSARS, a Special Anti Robbery Squad. This group of professionals were believed to be terrorising youths. Of a truth, tales about their over exuberance abounds over the media. Hence the Nigerian youth demanded that it must be scrapped.
However, it snowballed into a bigger movement when the government was still complacent with the belief that nothing would come out of the demonstration. It became an allcomers affair. The masses joined in and the protest that began peacefully became bloody as it was hijacked.
Under 24 hours, din of the budding revolution could be heard from the rooftops. From state to state, it spread like wild fire destroying nearly everything in its wake.
Yoruba adage loosely translated says, when we cry, we also see.The people were blinded by rage. Rage brought by perceived lack of concern by the government about the welfare of the people.
It is true that fake information had played a partial role in it. The EndSARS protest which began peacefully enough with the youths taking to the streets to demand an end to police brutality, bad governance among others was one which no Nigerian will forget in a hurry.
The citizens were excited. The masses now had a voice loud enough to shake government out of its complacency. Steadily and with a planned coordination that surprised all, the youths took the streets in peaceful protests. The movement gained momentum as the protest became replicated in all states. Alas, things went horribly wrong on Tuesday, 20th of October, 2020 as some group of soldiers besieged the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos where the youths had converged to protest and according to reports opened fire on the unarmed youths while they held the Nigerian flag and sang the National Anthem. Nigerians wept bitterly for the fallen heros.
It was a highly tensed week for Nigeria and its environs. Till now, the feeling of tension although lessened has not abated. Also there have been conflicting reports about the incident; such as the numbers of casualty, what really transpired and who issued the order to kill the youths.
In most states of the federation, the protesters raged and defied the curfew imposed by the state governors. Hoodlums took advantage of the breakdown of law and order to loot, unleash mayhem on defenseless members of the public and kill.
In all, the events showed an angry people that had lost touch with all reality, they were bent on ending it all. In a fearsome rage, hoodlums in different states attacked government edifices, burnt government buses and looted government offices.
They broke out prison inmates in about three facilities. With glee, they pounced on government warehouses and discovered part of the palliatives that the federal government had passed to states to be given out to the masses. They stole, so excited of it and trampled on the rest. They made videos of their plundering and posted it on the social media. Through this, many got into trouble as they were arrested and made to undergo criminal trials.
Some of these rampaging youths desecrated royal properties and took away the monarch’s staff of authority. Even private business bore the brunt of the onslaught as the hoodlums and some citizens that could not care less whose ox is gored broke into people’s shop and looted the goods therein.
The development took on a political dimensions as some unscrupulous politicians took advantage of the violence to burn party Secretariats and campaign offices. Hoodlums blocked major roads, adjoining routes and almost all nooks and crannies of the neighbourhood in most towns in Ondo State. They made motorists to go through hell. There were queues all over Akure metropolis. Most people abandoned their vehicles and trekked. Primary school kids that had never trekked before walked long distances. The hatred was palpable as hoodlums battered motorists.
They shouted at them and made those that honked their cars to wait endlessly. Rickety cars were favoured while good cars were blocked. It was an operation of the downtrodden against the well off. The hatred was palpable and frightening. To them it appeared as a small victory.
However, we must all realize that the “small victory” will have repercussions and the results largely will be to our detriments. Hoodlums have tasted dominance and the feelings could be heady. Some hardened prisoners that were not rehabilitated in the least bit were let loosed and allowed to walk freely.
One year on, Nigerians must ask themselves these questions; have we been able to drive home our demands? Are we seeing desired changes in all or any of the identified areas? Has the exercise been effective? Or was it all noise with little or no impact or results? What is the outcome of the several EndSARS judicial panels set up across the state? Were their recommendations received well by the authorities that set them up?
While we fight corruption among public office holders, we must also endeavour that in our little capacities, we are accountable and transparent. The change we desire lies in all of us. From individuals conducts to families, groups, let us endeavour to start the change we desire. It is needless to start mentioning various ways in which the average Nigerian circumvent right procedures in order to create short cuts and easy deals. The list is endless.
From the debacle, valuable lessons have been learnt by all parties. The first is that although the Nigerian government have decided that it would not look kindly on protests again, it was shaken out of its complacency that the masses have no cohesive voice. The wave that swept through the nation on October 20, 2020 has shone that cohesion is possible. It has brought it home forcibly to our leaders that Nigerians are woken up and would demand accountability where it is needed. It might not be business as usual.
Another lesson is that Nigerians must eschew violence. The price to be paid is high. If as youth, we destroy the fabric of the structure that we want to inherit, then we will have to build from the scratch when we eventually get what we want.
The violence we are enjoying now will turn out to haunt us if it is allowed to fester. Rage and hatred are dangerous emotions that will not allow us to make the right decisions when we need to. Let us fight our course cohesively. Say no to destroying any property. Say no to consuming hatred. Block all loopholes through which unscrupulous politicians might want to operate.
Let us give room to dialogue. Not all wars were won on the battlefield, some were won in conference rooms.