“We must not take the positive energy away from the ENDSARS movement, it was the most significant and life-defining experience of this generation of youths. Rights are rights because they are fought for; there is no ruling class, no state that willingly cede the space for the people. Young people have to organise and seize the space to hold the state accountable.
“The intergenerational exchange must start now, people must understand and learn from their past in order to be able to reorganise. We can only move forward when what happened is compared to similar movements in the past so as to forge a sustainable strategy”.
These were some of the positions advanced at SING Nigeria’s maiden ENDSARS series, to reflect on the aftermath of a movement that took the country by storm in October, 2020.
At the virtual session moderated by Femi D. Amele, a broadcast journalist, panelists took turn to dissect issues and proffer sustainable strategies to youth organising in a shrinking civic space.
Jaye Gaskia, a human right activist while speaking on sustainable strategies for youth organising, noted that protest is a critical element of a democratic society, and has remained an integral part of the system, and serves as an important tool for deepening democratic ideals and structures. He explained that there is the need to understand the overlapping generation in the struggle for reforms in the Nigeria society, and identified “process, structure (organisation), mobilisation, leadership, politics of alliance, boldness and definite purpose” as essential components that must be properly factored for future organising.
While corroborating the thoughts advanced by Jaye, Antonia Ally of the HOW Foundation noted that leadership is a key element for organising which helps to give direction and focus. She noted that the absence of clear leadership structure largely affected the outcome of the ENDSARS protest, which resulted in its hijack by the so-called hoodlums.
“It is not saying that a protest needs a leader, but a movement needs leadership for the purpose of coordination and organisation”, it was noted.
Obianuju Iloanya and Edward Zabee, social activists, while regretting that not much has been achieved in reforming the Nigerian police and other institutions since the protest, underscored the role of the social media as a powerful tool for holding government accountable and building an inclusive democracy.
“The police are still prone to highhandedness, violation/abuse of human rights, regardless of the protest and mediation that has happened; there is little change in the tactics they employ and how they treat people, there is a problem of leadership, and officers are not being held accountable for crimes and injustices they perpetrate against the people”, Obianuju said.
Also, Leo Dasilva, a social influencer noted that social media has been revolutionary in pushing realtime conversation and mobilising youths. He said that both citizens and those in authority are culpable on the issue of fake news especially during the last protest, and advocate for responsible use of the platform, while also not trampling on citizen’s freedom.
Mojeed Alabi, a journalist with Premium Times, who provided the media perspective to the conversation noted that the role of the media to national development, and indeed media’s role during the last protest meant that it should be taken more seriously, and handled by professionals to curb proliferation of fake news, escalation of tension and hijack as seen during the protest.
Participants were unanimous in their position that citizens have the right to protest, and Doyin Aguoru, while advocating a commonality of approach and direction, added that government must live up to its expectation and responsibility of protecting lives and properties of all citizens during such civic engagement.
For a sustainable and inclusive approach to organising for civil and political mobilisation, Seyitan Atigarin, a reporter with Arise TV said that, there must be a conscious effort at bridging the social divide: “we should be interested in how the educated minority, exposed and privileged can help mobilise the so-called illiterates, deprived and unexposed but sharp-witted group of youth who are in the majority so as to change the narrative”, she explained.
While stressing the need for intergenerational exchange for future organising, Prof. Omotoye Olorede said that the ENDSARS protest was not only about the youths or just about police brutality, but that Nigerians saw the platform as an opportunity to call their leaders out and hold them accountable for mismanaging the nation’s sovereign wealth.
Welcoming participants to the virtual session, the Director of Programmes, SING Nigeria, Mr. Arome Agenyi said that the event is essentially organised to facilitate learning exchange, explore and develop new strategies for youth organising in a shrinking civic space; and build the capacity of youth led organisations and movements for better coordination towards the promotion of democratic accountability and inclusivity.
The next webinar is scheduled to hold on October 1, 2021.