How Can You Ask ‘SARS’ to End SARS? The Nigerian Political Leaders as SARS

Eyoh Etim

The long-awaited reawakening among the Nigerian youth is exactly what we are witnessing today. It is glorious to witness a moment like this in the history of our country. It is a sign that change is about to happen. When the consciousness level of a people is raised, then change cannot be far away. Nigeria is in dire need of change – not the kind of change touted by political jobbers who themselves have refused to change. By change, I mean a form of renaissance – epochal and generationally transforming.

What I have observed with this particular protest is that it is different from the others before it. This protest has a life of its own. It has its own energy; it cannot be created and cannot be destroyed. It has its own spark and fire, and the fire is self-sustaining.

Another thing that I have observed with this protest is that it automatically goes beyond the ‘EndSars’ slogan. If the protest were about SARS per se, the youth would have been pacified at the announcement that the dreaded police unit had been disbanded. It appears to me that the Nigerian youth are actually protesting against a metaphoric, symbolic and figurative SARS. They may not realise it yet. But the fact that the protest has continued with renewed vigour each new day is an indication that its object and objective transcend the literal SARS.

What I find ironic, and even paradoxical, about the youth protest is how the protesters are appealing to their political leaders to end SARS. What the youth ought to know is that the SARS phenomenon is synecdochic. By that I mean that it is just an aspect or part of the whole problem. There is a system that makes the existence of SARS possible. This system is oiled by injustice and induced inequalities. This system was put in place, run and sustained by the political leaders of this country. They are the ones who do not care about the plight of the youth. They are the ones who destroyed the health and the education system. They are the ones who crippled the economy with corruption, looting and mismanagement of resources. They are the ones who crush dissident voices and water only the voices that sing their praises in zombie-like tunes. They are the ones whose greed denied millions of youths the opportunity to survive psychologically and to compete with their peers in other parts of the world.

The political leaders of this country are the ones to be held responsible for the SARS-ly situation that we have found ourselves in today. They are the real SARS of the SARSLY nation. They pay lip service to youth development, thinking the youth are people to be appeased with peanuts and toys after being used. We live in a society where there is a deliberate attempt by the adults to economically and politically disempower the youth. They do everything to ensure that the youth do not exceed a certain amount of money in their purse. They question and attack youth who live in certain parts of town, who live in certain apartments and drive certain cars. To these diabolic adults, young people do not deserve these things simply because they are young. They did not have those things when they were young. Why should the youth have them? You are too young to work, too young to graduate with a certain degree, too young to write and too young to even be alive!

 These adults with archaic and backward mentality also ensure that certain youths, especially the vibrant ones and the independent thinkers, do not get to occupy certain political positions, neither should they be given certain economic opportunities. The ones they admit must have been cowed and are made to speak for the oppressive system.  This is how the youth have been excluded from stages of power in Nigeria.

Hence, the youth must use the current protest to put themselves back into positions of power, politically and economically. The leaders of the youth protest must strategise and restrategise immediately. They must put their house in order and refocus the protest so that it can deal with the system of youth oppression, and not with denotative SARS protest. They must equally understand the wiles of the average Nigerian politician. The average Nigerian politician is an extremely intelligent being. They are capable of analysing every situation quickly in order to take advantage of it. The youth must also be armed with what I call digital intelligence to prevent a situation where the politicians hijack their protest and turn it into another political campaign or an individual’s political agenda. In other words, the youth must resist any attempt by politicians to appropriate the protest. The reason is that these politicians are the same people who created a system that made the existence of SARS possible. How can they suddenly become the lovers of the youth, to the point of even leading them in protest against SARS? Who then are the real SARS?

It is often said that the youth are gullible and impressionable and hence susceptible to being used. Let this instance be an exception rather than the norm. If the youth manage this protest very well, we might be ushering in a new era in our nation. We might be talking about our own Arab spring, our own naija spring!

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