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A MESS OF A MASS PROTEST: NONE WON, WE ALL LOST! (1)

Let no one exult in the arguments that the recent #endSARS mass protests in Nigeria were a long-awaited Nemesis for a corrupt and insensitive governance system, which they indeed represent, and that those in power deserved the discomfiture caused them by the rare upheaval. The question we must ask ourselves is: to what extent was the purpose of the protest achieved, if at all? As for those in authority, beyond the outpouring of condemnations by local and foreign commentators which are yet to abate even as I write this, in what ways did the killings and monumental destructions amount to their personal losses?

There are different perspectives to the recent incident. Mine, especially after seeing and weighing the colossal losses, is that the downside overshadows whatever gains anyone may attribute to the protests. Following the soldiers’ misadventure of that fateful Tuesday at Lekki tollgate, the spontaneous mob reactions across the state made law enforcement officers to vacate the streets altogether, leaving hoodlums to a free reign of lootings and arson which stretched for days. All you saw on social media are nothing compared to the ruins that are visible on the ground.  Wherever you turn, in several localities on the Mainland and the Island, the devastation that stares you in the face are heart breaking. Why were there not enough voices of reason to have prevented these needless wastes?  I didn’t see winners. Only losers.

The worst losers are the private business owners whose shops and businesses were lotted and vandalised irrecoverably. As Yorubas would put it, Eni to kan lo mo.  (He who feels it knows it). We can sit in the comfort of our homes or offices and pontificate about who was right or wrong in a protest that went awry, but the matter is beyond grammar for the 68 year old man who invested his entire 25 years of slavish work in the colds of Europe in a Lagos-based car mart that was completely burnt down; same for the proprietor of that top-notch  fabrics shop in Surulere, famous for its rich clientele, who had to be restrained and sedated as she agonised over the complete loss of an entire stock of exclusive textiles worth millions of dollars. Other victims of circumstance are owners of various shops in malls, with wares ranging from electronic gadgets, laptops, communication accessories and clothing had their businesses looted. I can only imagine the pains of those affected.

Also on the losing ends are Mr Babajide  Sanwo-Olu, his government and the good people of Lagos State. With hindsight, the governor must be rueing the drafting of the military to the scene of flag carrying protesters without exhausting all other options.   Apart from government properties completely destroyed which would require time and hundreds of Millions to replace, the headache of the Governor and his team must be on how to restore the confidence of the business community, with special consideration for the myriad of small businesses which are the driving spirit in a state that is widely acknowledged as Africa’s 5th largest economy.  With so many rogues on the loose everywhere, how do you attract investment in the midst of wailings of victims whose only sins are that they believed enough in the State to invest their hard-earned funds?

The weeklong curfew that was imposed on the state as an aftermath of the riots, could not have come at a worst time, considering that the state just came out of a staggered opening of markets and business activities from a total shutdown that stretched for many months. The gridlocks on the roads occasioned by the partial closure of Third Mainland bridge remain in place. Add this to the flustered faces of commuters now seen stranded at bus stops due to the shortage of mass transit buses, not few will be raining curses on the miscreants who robbed them of the use of hundreds of BRT buses in one night of senseless arson.

From peaceful protest to bloody dispersal, reports in the media since #BlackTuesday are nothing but a big loss to the Federal government, a blight on it’s integrity.  The APC as the dominant ruling party and its national leaders lost a following that may well embarrass them at the next elections except serious actions are taken before then to address people’s widespread discontent.  Ati si aso lóju egun. The masquerade is unmasked. The protests, at a level never experienced in recent memory, were a damning proof of people’s anger against a government they once loved. Riding on the wave of cult-like acceptance when he got the pan-Nigerian mandate in 2015, this recent incident has robbed Muhammadu Buhari  of a chunk of his popularity. Someone said you never know that a goat could bite until you pushed it to a wall.  Corruption and absence of security are at the root of the protests. Incidentally, these are precisely the problems the old administration was accused of.

The Nigerian Security system lost. The Military , in spite of its  “bold face’ – to borrow a local parlance for bravado, must be embarrassed by a global spotlight on it  for the wrong reasons, at a time their spirited battle against Boko Haram remains inconclusive, given the fact that the dreaded outfit  still constitute a nuisance with periodic strikes in the heart of the North.

The whole demonstration put a lie to the well-worn mantra: Police is your friend.  Questions will continue to be asked why  SARS got so notoriously anti-people that the topmost echelon of the force had no restraints on that department?

The traditional Institution lost big.  The desecration of Oba Akiolu’s palace is such a shame it may take a while for the implications to fully set in for the Yorubas who treasure their culture. How did the revered king got so disconnected from his subjects and immediate constituents to warrant the kind of disloyalty that was evident in the palace coup that gave him away without a whimper!?

Finally, yes the youths got the attention of those in power. But I think they lost an historical opportunity. Their strategy of having no leaders may have worked well at the take off, but the moment government’s readiness for dialogue was secured, there should have been a reciprocal gesture.  Perhaps they could have succeeded in achieving more concessions from government,  without bloodshed.

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