#ENDSARS: A Nation in Communication Crisis without Management
By Eniola Mayowa
The last one and half weeks or so, has been hectic for Lagosians and residents of some other major cities in the country with the insistent protests by the promoters of the #EndSARS campaign who are largely of the youth folks.
What started as an issue of concern on social media eventually snowballed into a major crisis attracting the attention, interest and participation of the chunk of the populace with many leaders across socio-economic and political strata lending their voices in support of the campaign and the issue whose time has come.
Indeed, the crisis which has also attracted the attention of leading figures on the international scene with the western media feasting on the crisis typically to suggest a Nation incapable of managing its affairs may get worsen if government fails to manage the situation and give it the attention it deserves. It is a crisis situation begging for the intervention of the people in authority, particularly Mr. President.
What are the issues? The issues are known to all as the protesters have repeatedly declared their intention and made their demands which grow daily known to the public and the authorities. What is missing? To great extent, the issues are not being addressed with clarity and precision by the sources being expected by the protesters.
There is a huge communication gap in the management of the crisis. And why has the crisis become so intense that many more people have come to identify with the cause with many throwing their weight behind it through funding to ensure the success of the campaign?
The majority of the Nigerian populace are distraught with the economic and socio-political situation in the country. Many are frustrated and are left with hopelessness on what the future holds for them as citizens, however, #ENDSARS represents a trigger for the many issues needing government attention and intervention.
The truth is that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has become a menace and indirect proportion of its roles and responsibilities. The rank and file of the officers have become so lawless as evidence in the many reported cases of extra-judicial killing; harassment and molestation of the youth populace and interference in the civil matters with no crime coloration.
Evidence abounds of the criminal activities of the members of the squad which includes illegal detention of citizens, extortion of money after unjust arrest and modus operandis similar to armed robbery operations. According to several reports and experiences shared by many of the victims, SARS has indeed become the opposite of the intended planned function which cannot be allowed to continue.
Many of the youth populace with resemblance of wealth and affluence have become their object of attack, molestation and harassment with attendant concern for parents, loved ones and the larger society.
While some people may want to argue that SARS, was a creation of the state that equipped the squad weapon of destruction under stringent operatives and poor remuneration; the fact remains that no excuse is good enough to justify their modus operandis with volatile criminal activities and recklessness that became the order of the day.
Now that the chicken has come home to roast and the most affected group, the youth are saying “enough is enough,” the responsibility of office demands that they must be heard with a measure of response to their demands.
The protest, a very strategic one which hitherto would have been seen as “their cause” has forced many to identify with the campaign.
What started as an issue with repeated cries by the affected, has become a major crisis that cannot be ignored. The onus makes it mandatory that the government and the authority concern must respond, take action and do the needful.
Lagos State is the current hotbed of the protest and the state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has taken commendable steps to manage the situation within the limit of his office; the central government must do more to manage the crisis and ensure restoration of the trust and confidence of the populace through engagement and communication.
The Federal government must realise that silence is not golden at this time and irrational decisions will not cut it for the protesters as they appear very clear on their demands. Downplaying the demands of the youth may be more costly, trading blame or accusing others rather than taken responsibility may have a more devastating effect on the fabrics of our society.
With the reality of the fact that a people pushed beyond their limits are fighting back, the government will do well to respond in a manner that shows understanding of the issues with a commitment to resolving without further delay.
A name change as announced by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu is good but definitely not enough and shouldn’t be the first step in resolving the crisis; indeed, it rather hasty to imagine that mere name change will persuade a people who are hurting, angry and frustrated.
It seems to question the sincerity and commitment to reform and end to police brutality as demanded by the ENDSARS campaign promoters.
Let the government engage with the youth championing this campaign and hear them out. What are the demands? Are the demands genuine? There is a need to stabilize the situation and communicate government position in clear terms to gain trust and confidence. Government cannot afford to be mute at this time.
The youth need timely messages that give hope and assurance that their agitation is not in vain. What should be done and work is workable the nature of security apparatus and acceptable standard in a working society.
Beyond directives to the Inspector-General of Police, President Muhammed Buhari should address the nation on this matter at this time. The buck stops at his desk and it is only his office that can give believable assurance at this time. Our president must be visible, shows that he cares and listen. He needs to commit to building trust and confidence in whatever that is promised as efforts in resolving the crisis.
It would be good if the government at this time could disseminate information and messages that show empathy, understanding and commitment to end the brutality that reigns with the rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force without being cosmetic.
The efforts and intention must be seen to be genuine and with sincerity of purpose via planned and result driven communication strategy.