For nearly 12 days, concerned young Nigerians took to the streets, blocking major roads across cities to peacefully protest against police brutality.
They marched in tens of thousands chanting “EndSars” against police brutality and violence.
One of the popular chants used during the protests was “Soro soke,” which means “speak up” in the country’s Yoruba language.
After about two weeks of protest, the convergence was reportedly hijacked and many lives were lost in a bid to restore sanity and order.
Taking a cursory look at the socio-economic impact of the aftermath of the protest, top Lagos pastor, Femi Faseru of the Kingsway International Christian Centre, KICC, presented a well-detailed lesson that Nigerian youths and leaders should learn from the protest and its aftermath.
He spoke to City People Publisher on an Instagram Live Chat and carefully analysed 25 lessons that should be learned from the protests. Read and enjoy
What do you make of what has happened in Nigeria in the last two to three weeks?
It adds different colorations to it as I’d explained. I think the color that could explain it the most is black. And I’ll be honest with you, before this incident, I have never thought much of black. I thought black was just something that was all about sorrow, I thought black was just something about mourning, sadness, but black seems to be much more than sorrow, sadness, and mourning, even though in the last three weeks we’ve had to go through a season of sorrow, sadness and mourning for the sake of the people who died, for the sake of the things we saw on the streets of our nation. The brutality as expressed by those who have been suffering in silence, who didn’t speak up about what SARS had been doing to them.
But beyond that, I also part of the trait of black, which is strength. I never knew, but black also depicts strength. I saw in the group of people for once in our nation for at least three decades, we saw a group of people who showed strength in coming out and asking for what they believe is their right. I’m talking about the youth. That’s part of what we have seen. In the last three weeks in this country. We have also seen for once the government also saying, oh’, we have heard you, and we are going to do something about this and we are going to start now.
All of these wrapped up in one, in the last three weeks, have had different kinds of colorations to it, so you couldn’t say. But I think it’s a good step forward irrespective of the lives that were lost for the sake of our nation.
Do you think the protest has a good standing to have been brought forward, as it has been?
Do you also think the government reaction was appropriate?
Number 1, the protest teaches us that as long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality exist in our nation, none of us can truly have rest. Nelson Mandela has said this about South Africa, and I think this is bringing it home. This is true for Nigeria. So I will say as long as on our streets we have poverty as we have it; injustice as we have it, and gross inequality among the citizens of this country, such a protest could be justified, even though should have come with a better strategy, better purpose, and clarity. And for the government, yes they responded in a way that they have never responded in this country for decades, yet I think the government could have done far better than what they have done.
So what are the lessons, you think we should learn from the whole experience?
As I said, we should expect more protests on our streets if we continue to have poverty, injustice, and inequality. Number two, we should understand that a promise is a debt. Every four years, a political party and its candidates and aspirants will begin to hold political rallies all over the country, making promises. More than half of these promises were not kept, and the citizens have to live by it. This protest has come to show us that when you make a promise as a political candidate, when you make a promise, as someone who wants to occupy a seat in government, then you got to realize that your promise is a debt that must be kept. Because there could be some people that could show up around the corner in front of your office, in front of your house, demanding for the promise that your made
Number 3, promises, not only are they debt, it teaches us that promises are to be kept. There is certain debt that you owe and you intend not to keep, but these youths have come and said these are our rights; you have to keep it. So even when the government did say, we have received your 5 for 5 demand, and we are going to do something about it, these guys say No, we want to see it done. Enough of promises, we want action. So, I think this is a lesson for us to learn about the promises we make, even as people in authority or those who truly desire to occupy government positions.
Number 4, promises are to be kept, even when it is hard. One of the things this particular government is known for, from day one, is talking to us about how Nigeria is broke, how things are tough, and all of that but you made promises. You made promises that you’re going to make good roads, good infrastructure. You make promises that you are going to give a good education. You made a promise on medical facilities. You made promises on jobs for the youths. You made promises that you will give an appointment to the youths. Even when it is hard, a promise is a debt that must be kept. Now we know there could be a generation who would not sit around to just have excuses. So our government will have to understand how to perform. Even in a tough time, because there would be people, who would not want to take a no for an answer.
And come to think about it, if you couldn’t get the job done, then why don’t you just leave, if its too hard for you to keep your promises, why don’t you give someone else the opportunity to try and see if they can keep the promise?
You can make a promise, and you get there and you are not able to fulfil the promises and you sit there; that is judging the people inappropriately.
Number 5, protests that we have seen, in my own judgment is an effective way to remind our politicians that the promises they made, just in case they have forgotten them. So they is a place for protest in a democracy. Just in case they forgot that they, made those promises.
So these guys have come on the streets, and they have said, you have promised to protect us as citizens, you have promised to dispense justice when injustice is meted against us; none of these things have we seen. This protest has come and all of a sudden, the response of the government was as if the government forgot all along that they even made those promises, because as soon as these protesters got on the streets, the government says, ‘hei, we’ll do the ones we can do now.’
That tells me it’s not as if they couldn’t have done it, they must have forgotten that they made those promises.
Number 6, we have also learned that prosperity is not the right of a few. Prosperity is the right of all.
Zig Ziglar had said prosperity is basically the same all over the world. Everyone wants the same thing. They want to be happy, they want to be healthy and to be at least, reasonably prosperous, and to be secured. So these youths have come out today that the issue of security is not going to be for a few in this country. Even though we don’t have government appointment, even though we are just young kids in the country, we don’t have the influence, we don’t have the affluence, we should still be secured on the roads of Nigeria. We should still be happy. We should still have an entitlement to good health. People want to drive the cars that they can afford and won’t be scared about somebody pulling them over and taking their phones, and leading them to some cash points to withdraw their money from them. They are saying they have a right to live, and not be killed by the people who are protecting the rich. That they should also protect them as well. And for us to suddenly have that awareness, and everyone believes that prosperity is the right of all; this is a huge achievement. This is what we have been saying as pastors. Some of us have been tagged as prosperity preachers. And what’s our offense? Our offense is the fact that we are saying to everybody both rich and poor, that God did not make anyone poor. That everyone has the right to prosper. Noe the youths have helped us to echo that message that we have been preaching on the pulpit for decades.
Number 7, this protest has taught us particularly when we look at it particularly from the crisis perspective that poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. Aristotle the Greek philosopher had said this, only if we had paid attention. Keeping huge group of citizens of a nation poor, no matter how much we resist it, if we don’t fix it as quickly as possible, we may be inviting what we did not envisage, what we did not call for. Who would have thought, two months ago, as we are coming out of the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, that our youth will ground the economy of the nation, who would have thought that our youths will decide that enough is enough, that they will stay on the streets for as long as it takes them for things to change in their country? So this tells us that the government needs to do something quickly about the poverty situation in the country.
Number 8, Dr West Stamford, the president emeritus of compassion international said that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, the opposite of poverty is enough. The youths have come out, they were not asking to be given a position in the government. They have come out, they were not asking that the government should give them contracts, they were not asking that the government should give them welfare funds, those are not what they were asking for. They were asking for something that was just going to be enough for them. Education that would be enough for them, health facility that will just be enough for them, knowing fully well that our education system is nothing to write home about. They are saying that in the budget, just apportion enough for a standard education system, apportion enough for medical facilities. They were just asking for enough. So if the government has been thinking about having to make every citizen wealthy, maybe that is the reason for the retardation of the government, then this protest should have helped the government to see that what the youths are asking for is not riches, just enough!.. so the protest for not a cry for wealth, it was a cry for enough. And everybody should have an entitlement to enough in their own country.
Number 9, this protest teaches us that people do not appreciate a prosperous economy, which leaves them poorer by the day. Big lesson. Bringing on taxes and levies, even though you feel you can justify it, removing oil subsidy without putting a system in place that is going to help an average citizen to be able to absorb the shock, is one of the things that drove the country to what we have experienced in the last 3 weeks. This should teach us that governance is not about the economy, it is about the wellbeing of the citizen, having a robustly healthy economy that does not translate to a good quality of living for a citizen. It’s a waste of time and resources of the nation. So this should be able to help the government to sit down and consider places like the United Kingdom, countries like the US, who have put in place a welfare system, and has given priority to over and above their economy because they understand that it is only when there is peace in the land that the economy can be buoyant. They understand that when the police are paid well, that is when they will be able to secure their streets without compromise.
They understand that when those who are employed are being able to put food on their tables, that is only when they will be able to reduce crime in the state. There is a reason for the welfare fund in these countries. Why can’t we emulate that? Why can’t we choose the path that is going to give the poor enough to survive without having to get into crimes?
Number 10, progress for a nation is non-negotiable if the nation is going to have peace.
That’s one of the things this protest has shown us. There had being generations that didn’t see any progress in our nation but kept quiet. The generation who could use the bad roads as they are kept quiet. The generation who could just use whatever it is that the health facilities could give and are ready to go and bury their dead who shouldn’t have died, but here is now a generation, who says hang on a minute, the progress of this nation is non-negotiable. They are demanding that the Nigeria of 2020 should not be better than the Nigeria of 2025. They are asking for a better country. A country that improves by the day. I think that is progressive. I think that should be the dividend of democracy. I think that should justify the money that is being budgeted and being spent on a yearly basis. When you spend trillions of naira in a year. There should be things that should be seen, particularly in the major sectors of the economy of the country.
If you sent billions on education, it should be seen, if you spent billions on infrastructure, it should be seen. If you spent money on Police, it should be seen in the way that facilities have been given to the police. Progress cannot be measured in rhetoric, progress cannot be measured in promises. It should be measured by the things we see. In our actions. So, even when the government promises them what you have asked for, these guys want progress to be seen. I believe that’s one of the reasons they did not leave the streets. They said they wanted to see. We wanted to begin to see progress in our country.
Number eleven, progress can only be possible, if we are committed to change. The protesters were saying, if you really mean what you are saying to us, we want to see the change now, and we want to see real change.
It was infuriating for them when the government say they’re going to end SARS and the next minute they came up with SWAT. They are saying, this is not real change. This is not a change that you are committed to. Because how can you quickly come up with a reformed unit, just like that? For how long have you been thinking about SWAT? What are the things that SWAT is supposed to do? How much deliberations did you have before it was initiated? Who did you consult? All of these happened in a little short time. And the guys could see through the whole thing and say this doesn’t look like a committed change.
So I believe that this protest should make us as a people and as a government to know that they need to only make promises of change that they can be committed to.
Number 12, this protest also teaches us that protest has its good place in a democracy.
If a 12-day protest gave us five for five, we can then say lack of protest, is as responsible for the backwardness of Nigeria as poor governance. I’m talking about our silence. I’m talking about being given poor governance and yet, we will say nothing. And these things are not rocket science for crying out loud.
All the different things that they are doing at the government secretariat, for example, can all be put on the website, so if I want to apply for something in my secretariat for example, and you want to help me, particularly in a nation where there is austerity measure, subsidy being removed, then limit my cost of transportation. So I don’t have to born fuel or pay a lot of money in going to my secretariat.
And sometimes, somebody may be going to the secretariat for six months, wasting money. Put these things on the internet. That’s what America has done. That is what the United Kingdom has done, that is what nations of the world have done. Such that we will not have any reasons to begin to go into government offices. I believe that this protest will make our government wake up.
Number 13, this protest calls out poor governance. It calls out poor governance. So if things have been happening to the people by the security agencies. Security agencies that have commanders, that have brigade commanders, that have national commanders and these had been happening. How come they weren’t dealt with until a group of protesters showed up, and then the government says we will deal with it now. That’s poor governance.
The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. Albert Einstein said that. Maybe the fact that we keep on accepting the governance that we have, that is the reason why we are where we are.
I was having chat with someone yesterday who called my attention to the fact that after we’ve gone to the polling booth to vote, how many of us are holding accountable those that we have voted into government? The person especially said there was this patch on the road to his house that was always causing hold up, and he went to find out who the house of assembly representative is, found the number of the fellow, and called the fellow on many occasions before he made a commitment to ensure that the patch on the road will be fixed. And eventually, it was fixed. And that politician has been on that seat for six years. That’s was going to be the first call that he will get from someone from his constituency about delivering his responsibility to his constituency, which basically means that after we’ve gone to the polling booth to vote, we just look on. We see things that are not working. We see things that shouldn’t be the way they are and we just overlook and have little talks amongst ourselves without calling these people to action.
This protest basically could have been avoided, possibly if the individuals have been placing demands on the instituted authority to say, we need this to be done, and that to be done. So we need to participate in democracy to allow democracy to work. We shouldn’t leave it to them alone. They are responsible to us. I remember in Lagos State back then, governor Fashola published all the phone numbers of all the people that he was working with, in his cabinet, and anybody could have access to them even if his own number was published. Think the government should do that. Everyone should have the telephone numbers of those who are serving them, so that if there are things that are out of place, their attention can be called to it so that it won’t be out of proportion, like what we had in the last three weeks.
Number 14, protest is a way the citizen can participate in democracy, despite what we have seen in the last few weeks, I think we shouldn’t be made to think that protest in a democracy is wrong. No, it is not wrong. It is the right of the citizen to protest peacefully.
Another thing that I think they should have demanded before the protest is police security for their protest. They went out on the street to protest without police security.
If you are having a protest in the street of London, there will be police there, guarding them, and those hoodlums who came to make a good thing very bad will have been avoided.
Number 15, a protest will put lives at risk. It will put lives in danger. For this new generation, these youths who came out, and called our own generation a failure, just because they did not know what we did, they did not know about the days that we also protested as students and Armoured tanks were positioned against us and teargas and all manners of stuff were used against us. And even some people died. Little did they know that one of the reasons why our generation had to moderate our contest against poor governance has to do with the fact that when it comes to protest, at that point, you are putting your life in danger. Are you ready for that? Is it part of the equation? So this should teach particularly our youth that protest in just not one of the things you do like a computer game. The protest could put a life in danger.
Number 16, the prolonged protest will drive the economy down. The same thing that you are fighting for could be the same thing that your protest is working against. A prolonged protest will incapacitate the government, it will incapacitate businesses, and as a result, it will increase the pain and poverty in the space. Particularly like the one we had recently. The protest was going on in almost every part of the country. A lot of wisdom should have been put in place, so there was a need for wisdom.
And this generation amid the protest claims they don’t need any advice from the older generation. All they claimed they needed was an endorsement. It is important that they seek wisdom if they will ever embark on another peaceful protest. Staging protest for a couple of days, going back to business, giving the government opportunity to do whatever they said they will do, and then if they need to come out again, these are ways that it could have been done and there would be a better result, possibly without losing any life during the protest.
Prolong protests will bring chaos to a country. Because the protest was prolonged. Other people that had other agenda had enough time to plan and execute their evil agenda, all within the protest because, by the time the protest was on, the focus of the government and all other security agencies is now on the protest.
Number 18, the protest reveals that we have not changed much from where we were some 35 years ago, even though we have changed from the military regime to democracy, we should have stayed on the path of dialogue, rather than choosing force and violence. Under the military regime, it was force and violence. Why not chose the path of dialogue? You continue to dialogue until it works. The choice of violence sets us back. Its ets our democracy and nation back. We had buses burnt, a lot of citizens are in long quere because we burnt them down. We were askig for something and burnt what we had down.
If we haven’t learnt or change much, between now and 35 years ago, let make sure that we imporive in the next 30 years.
Number 19, the protesters acted through but did not think through. Our politician think through, but they don’t act. The protesters just put on their social media armour and mobilized themselves; endsars, let’s go to toll gate and all. There was no planning, there was no thinking through. “let’s just get there and we will think of the next step.” No leader, no agenda. They just went to act, but there were no thought process. Our politicians, before campaigning, they will think, they will have strategy sessions. They will write their manifestos. Once they get into power, they don’t act. So we have seen that a failing government who thinks but do not act is not any better than a group of proteters, who with all he sad occurrences did not think.
November 20, I do believe that as a nation, we are better off with that protest than we were, when we just accepted injustice. I’m sure that the harassments of the SARS will have reduced on our streets because some people protested.
We have noticed now that there is an attempt to give justice to those who suffered I justice through the brutality of the SARS unit. So, the protest has put us in a better place.
November 21, as a people, we should learn. That we can’t choose to keep quiet if we want good governance. A lot of people don’t even have access to their own councillors. A lot of people don’t even know their local government chairman. A lot of people don’t have access to the house of assembly representative, not to talk about the house of reps, not to talk about the senator.
If they are going to serve the people, their numbers should be in the public space. They should just be in the Abuja. They should take the need of their people from their constituency to Abuja.
Number 22, the protest teaches us that we all have a patriotic duty to protect our country even against its government. This is what I saw those guys fought for. I never heard about anybody fighting for themselves. They were fighting for the country. Even though it wasn’t the best of strategies, you could see their intentions, when they said they didn’t have any leader, because they didn’t want anybody to be compromised. Because this is not a struggle about individual. It’s about the nation. Its’ about what they wanted to see in the land. That’s a big lesson. I never thought that could be possible in Nigeria in my lifetime, to be honest with you. Because I have always felt that Nigerians are always self-centred. And some people could justify that. Because you are the one that gives power in your own house through your generating set. You are the one who would dig your own borehole and give water into your own property. You are the one who will put security at your gate.
November 23, There are some basic things that the government is supposed to do. So, as a result, our generation did not feel like we owe the country anything, because we do everything for ourselves. So, to a degree, we have a set of people that are selfish and self-centred. We don’t see the spirit of patriotism in Nigerians. But here we have this generation who suddenly have a passion for the country and not just what they can have. They are asking for justice for their neighbours, not for themselves, and I think that ought to be encouraged.
Number 24, the protest teaches us that we have to make sure that protest did not degenerate into violence. If for what happened the government of Lagos State will say that they will need as much as a trillion naira, to rebuild the things that were destroyed, then I want to feel that if in future, we spend fifty million to make sure that we secure protest, and make sure that it doesn’t degenerate, I think it’s going to be worth the while. Like I’d mentioned earlier on, let there be a process for protest, and the process is there, let us respect it.
Once there is an application that a group wants to go on protest, let the police be assigned to secure them so that we don’t get to where we are.
Number 25, the greatest lesson that we have to take away from here; if we promise to serve the people, why don’t we just do what we promised, so that we can save the life of a child. Why don’t we keep our word, keep our promises? 2023 is round the corner. Why don’t we make promises that we will be committed to keeping, rather than just going there to just stay in an office? I so much desire that those offices be made unattractive that it is only those who believe in serving that will aspire to go there.
These are the 25 things that I wanted to share. Thank you for reading.