The Nigerian Front, a conglomeration of activists, unionists, grassroots’ canvassers, professionals and former students’ leaders, has observed with keen attention the events leading to the #EndSars protests and its consequences. The Movement wishes to commend Nigerians, particularly the youth, for seizing the initiative to demand an end to the brutality of the Nigerian Police, security agencies and their arbitrary profiling and repression of the youth, the poor and the harrowing poverty in Nigeria while political leaders and the corrupt elites live in unimaginable opulence.
Ordinarily, these basic demands for fundamental human rights and life as human beings ought to be taken for granted as they are already enshrined and guaranteed by Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 as amended. Even the existence of Chapter II of the Constitution on the Directive Principle of State Policy, the Nigerian State, being one founded on injustice and disregard for its people, has ignored this imperfect Constitution at its own peril. It is therefore not a surprise that the youth have risen up, demanding an end to bad governance which has been the hallmark of the All Progressive Congress and the People Democratic Party since 1999. These parties have continued without shame the policy of the military of pauperisation of the peoples of Nigeria. The blames for these protests therefore lie at their doorsteps. The reactionary view that hoodlums hijacked the protests is putrid because the hoodlums were created, enabled and deployed by the Nigerian State all over the country. The failure of the President, General Muhamadu Buhari, to respond on time, also shows the connivance of the State in enabling the destruction and disruption caused by its agents.
We note with dismay the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters by the Nigerian police and military and the attack on the peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gates while they were singing the Nigerian Anthem and flying flags of Nigeria, our own dear motherland. The acts of the Military officers and policemen are treasonable, being one aimed at undermining the Constitution and they must be punished for this. The response by the President in his broadcast of 22nd October 2020 is also not enough. It is based on the foregoing, after thorough mind rubbing, that we resolve as follows:
We affirm that Nigerians have a right to demand an end to police brutality and all extrajudicial killings by government agents and militias. Indeed, Nigerians have a right to protest and demand respect for their fundamental rights and demand better governance.
We condemn the killing of innocent Nigerians by the security forces and call on the President of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Gen. Muhammed Buhari to take personal responsibility for the extra-judicial murder of unarmed citizens. We are alarmed that in his address to the nation on 22nd October 2020, the President callously made no mention or reference to the murder of innocent Nigerians by the police and military.
We call on the Nigerian people not to abandon their protests or the demands which necessitated such protests, but to proceed peacefully without relenting and to jealously guard its open ranks from infiltration by agents of state and political operatives who seek to muddle the issues and exploit the energy and reawakening of the Nigerian youth; and from opportunists, and celebrities who pretend to sudden emergency leadership of the cause of the Nigerian youth but who in reality are agents of the state.
We counsel that the Nigerian youth shut out any religious and ethnic influence that may be peddled in the direction of these popular uprisings and be wary of any external cultural or political exertion. Our demands are just and we can achieve them without belated help from otherwise docile or complicit entities who now pretend to be champions and endorsers of the cause when they have had the opportunity all through the years to speak up against the injustices that now spur us.
We condemn arson and looting of private and public property in any form. It is a misdirection of the purpose of this popular uprising as these public property belong to the Nigerian people, and considerable resources will be invested in rebuilding them, further to the detriment of the masses. Private and public property must be protected so that innocent Nigerians do not suffer undeserved losses needlessly. The Federal Government therefore must compensate to the fullest all those who have lost property and life.
We note that if the government at all levels had lived up to their responsibilities and upheld the letters of the law, the conditions that gave rise to the current situation would have been avoided. We therefore ask the Nigerian government to accept full responsibility for abdicating its duties and creating the conditions for the protests, and take immediate steps to meet the just demands of the Nigerian people in the most transparent manner possible.
We call on the Inspector General of Police to resign his office immediately for his failure to protect citizens, for presiding over the brutality and shameful disregard of the rights of Nigerians by the Nigerian Police which gave rise to the protests, and especially for his complicity in the murder of innocent unarmed Nigerians.
We call for a full sanction of the military commanders who led soldiers to shoot unarmed citizens at the Lagos Lekki toll gate on the 20th of October 2020 as well as other parts of the country. Also, we demand an end to the indiscriminate use of the military in civil matters and discontinuation of all forms of brutality against peaceful protesters.
We reiterate that at a minimum, and in addition to the original demands which gave rise to the protests, every member of the police, army or other security agencies who played any part in the attacks or killings of unarmed citizens of this country be dismissed from service and face criminal prosecution.
We call on leadership across various strata of society to immediately commence a sustained program of political, social and economic investment in the Nigerian youth to brighten their future and that of the country and to pull back our society from the brink of destruction.
We lend our voices to the call of organisations like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and all teachers’/educational unions for all tiers of government in Nigeria to urgently increase funding towards qualitative, affordable, productive and contemporary education. It is only a society that educates its youth that can blame them if they fail to be responsible. It is also better to create citizens who are better citizens, easier led and difficult to oppress for the sustenance of our democracy.
We endorse open discussions on the political, social and economic structure and future of Nigeria in an atmosphere devoid of ethno-religious bias. This is the best moment to renegotiate the basis of our union, create a just society, restructure the country and create a society that will drain the swamp of all injustices that would lead to protests of this nature. We also need to note that failure to learn the correct lessons in these protests and take decisive actions can only imperil us all.
We enjoin Nigerian youth to identify and align with or evolve their own radical political platform to chart a fresh course for the future of Nigeria as we are convinced that the predominant political parties currently in Nigeria do not have the interest of the masses at heart. We say to the Nigerian Youth: “YOU CAN, AND YOU MUST!”.
We must not forget the events of 20th October 2020 and the significance it holds for the struggles of the Nigerian youth, and to do all we can as Nigerians to remember those youths whose blood were shed as martyrs of the new Nigerian struggle.
We also demand accountability for the corpses of the youths that were killed during these protests all over Nigeria and adequate compensations for their families. We also call for an independent investigation into the events of 20th October 2020 and the days before and after.
We encourage the Nigerian youth to build on the gains of the past two weeks, and the lessons learned therefrom, to forge ahead with a new culture of holding government and leadership accountable in all spheres of life, be it political, educational, economic, or spiritual.
To all our elected officials from Councillors, Local Government Chairmen, House of Assembly Members, House of Representatives’ members, Senators, Governors,all political appointees to the President, you cannot continue to draw huge salaries and emoluments, without relieving the conditions of the masses and being alienated from our people. If you continue to do this, a worse scourge like Boko Haram, would be in the nation since the youth movement would go underground and consume you. Act now to save the country and voluntarily relinquish these insane and outrageous incomes.
Democracy is the only panacea to these societal contradictions and we urge all adventurists in the military to note that if they do anything to truncate this hard fought democracy, the resistance would be hard and they would have no nation to rule.
To all Nigerians, let us organise ourselves and make the All Progressive Congress and People Democratic Party irrelevant and pay in 2023 for the pain they have inflicted on Nigerians!
To all popular movements, radical societies, labour unions, professional bodies, religious groups, students’ unions and grassroot organisations, this uprising is a commentary on our failures in performing our roles as vanguards of the people. Most of these organisations have been sucked in by the dominant political parties hence the distrust by the masses that we would be bought. We need to rebuild trust in us so that we, who have put in decades of lifetime and garnered experience in building mass platforms, shall have a new Nigeria that would not be anarchic.
Finally, to the youth, we once again say well done. You have been heard and loudly too. Please build alliances, continue to dare to struggle and affiliate with popular and genuine bodies to build a new Nigeria. Nigeria shall survive this too!
23rd October 2020
UGOCHUKWU EBU OLANIRAN OBELE