The very heart of any democratic nation is the ability of her people to freely express their views either digitally or on the streets. As the world advances, there has been a rapid growth of protests. Social psychologists say there are usually four factors that lead to protest: grievances, efficacy, identity and emotions. In Nigeria, all factors are in play. Elected governments in the world usually result to repression; some in subtle ways, others lethal. The leaderless #Endswat and #EndPoliceBrutality protest in Nigeria has gone over a week now, cutting across virtually all states of Nigeria. The protesters have uniformly demanded five points from the Nigerian government to meet: 1. Immediate release of arrested protesters 2. Justice for deceased victims of police brutality and compensation for their families. 3. Setting up an Independent body to investigate and prosecute police misconduct 4. Psychological evaluation and restraining of disbanded SARS officials 5. Increase police salary. While some states have swung into action to meet some demands, other states have taken sluggish steps.
Government’s of the world employ several tactics to suppress protests in their country; some deploy water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, etc. While others result to violence such as shooting. Over the last 12 days, the Nigerian government has employed both the lethal and subtle approach against the protesters. Over 10 lives have been lost in 12 days.
It is pitiable that the justice system has frequently failed to provide accountability for the illegal acts of the police and their sponsors. This level of impunity is the very reason Nigerians are out on the street expressing their displeasure.
In the last few days, we’ve seen hoodlums hijack one of the most largely peaceful protest ever recorded in Nigeria. Guns, machetes, knives, sticks have been used to brutalise protesters across the country. They deploy this camouflage technique to discredit the legitimate demands and lawful protest of Nigerian citizens across the county. One of the most ridiculous hijack happened in Benin, Edo state on the 19th of October, where prisoners in large numbers were freed by hoodlums parading as protesters. Many Nigerians were startled as to the possibility of unarmed men releasing prisoners from a maximum prison in the state.
Because of this deliberate and politically sponsored Hijack, Lagos State and Edo State have declared a state of emergency curfew, thereby halting physical protest. “If freedom of expression is the grievance system of democracies, the right to protest and peaceful assembly is democracy’s megaphone.” Nigerians are being silenced by “A bad boy”.
However, history has taught us that “active suppression is often a signal that the movement has become a threat to vested interests or prevailing values.” and by just feeling the pulse of Nigerian citizens, there’s no backing out, till their demands are met and the welfare and security of the people as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) are enforced.