Yes, President Muhammadu Buhari has been a bad boy. So bad that he has failed in the effective handling of the #EndSARS movement. Now, nobody knows what the future portends. Permit me to walk you through how Buhari mismanaged the current movement against police harassment and brutality.
Silence they say is golden, but that saying hardly works for President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigerian leaders are used to the myriad of challenges bedevilling the Nigerian state. Once one of them escalates, they either ignore and cover their ears like they are not aware of the events until the thick smoke blows over. This is why Buhari is always 'shocked' over occurrences in Nigeria, as described in the regular press releases by the Presidency. Even when he reacts, he constitutes an administrative panel that also submits a report to him about their findings, and then the issue dies a natural death. It only lives on in the scarred hearts of the victims.
When the issue of police brutality started gathering momentum with recent cases of harassment, brutality, murder and other human rights abuses recorded in the Southern part of Nigeria; Buhari maintained his usual deafening silence. He was late to the party, and the gate ended up being closed against him. The angered youths lamented on social media, but they couldn't be heard. Buhari is on social media, but at the same time, he is also absent. Those who operate his accounts or probably brief him about goings-on also looked the other way. They felt the conversation was going to die a natural death like other biting trends in the country. The youths attempted to hit the streets but needed a leader. The controversial rapper, Naira Marley who is tagged the 'king of the streets' initially made himself available, but late backed down. The brewing struggle was bigger than him but he never knew. Music artistes like Runtown promised never to back down in the call for a peaceful protest in Lagos. Tiwa Savage and Falz came to support him and the seed of struggle and resistance was sown in the hearts of Nigerian youths. From there, the wave of protests started gathering momentum amid Buhari's continued silence until it became widespread. If Buhari had timely offered soothing words as the father of the nation to appease the enraged youths, things might be different today.
Secondly, the government took another misstep when it introduced the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, SWAT. All efforts to polish the new unit as a replacement for the defunct rogue unit, SARS. The government failed to gauge the opinions of the people and feel their pulse before introducing SWAT. There is a general believe that SARS will never be ended. They will only be re-branded while 'business' will continue in a matter of weeks as it happened to F-SARS. The fears of the people were confirmed when SWAT was launched barely three days after the dissolution of SARS. Recall that when the protests continued after the disbandment of SARS, the popular question on the lips of people was that; "why are they still protesting?"
There was a momentary division among the protesters. Buhari's man, Adamu expertly handed them a good reason, and their drives were reinvigorated. Even the Nigeria Governors' Forum admitted the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu made a costly error. The IGP is an appointee of Buhari, and he has remained in office since the gaffe.
Furthermore, when the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, journeyed to the Aso Rock Villa to meet with Buhari since his state is the epicentre of the protests, a mild drama occurred. While enumerating the demands of the protesters before the president, he giggled at the point where Sanwo-Olu mentioned the financial compensation of the victims/families of victims of police brutality. That laughter is synonymous to what the Yorubas regard as 'Erin Ika' (wicked laugh). It was more of mockery. That singular act easily gave away the position of Buhari on the issue. Eagle-eyed social media users spotted it, and it went viral. The protesters felt insulted, and more people were inspired to join the protest and increase the pressure on the government.
As the protesters gained an upper-hand with international attention attracted, there were rumours that the Buhari administration was prepared to deploy soldiers to end the protests forcefully. This rumour further angered the youths. Their worst fear was confirmed recently when the Nigerian Army announced it was going to begin a nationwide military exercise tagged 'Operation Crocodile Smile'. This time around, it seeks to strangely focus on 'cyberwarfare' It is designed to “identify, track and counter negative propaganda in the social media and across the cyberspace”.
You don't need to be a genius to realize that the EndSARS protesters, who have used the social media space, specifically Twitter, as their engine room, are the prime targets. Is the government trying to quell a protest on human right abuses with another round of human right abuses?
The protests have continued to escalate with people expanding the demands of the EndSARS team. Buhari cannot satisfy the demands because the issues are deep-rooted, age-long and intertwined. Nigeria also lacks the financial resources to follow them through. It will also be difficult to use the 'DSS tactic' in crippling the wave of protests because the groups are fragmented without a definite face. They don't have a leader! It is also highly organic. The major drive of the people isn't about selfish interests; it is about the true quest for a positive change.
They are asking too many questions which Buhari has no single answer to. A stitch in time could have saved nine.
If the protests get out of hand, it will be on record that it happened during the Buhari administration. History will be unfair to him. Please, permit me to use the popular hashtag #BuhariHasBeenABadBoy as I end this article.
Written by Osayimwen Osahon George
Email: [email protected]