Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Friday, reacted over the long-awaited address of the nation by President Muhammadu Buhari, on the raging #EndSARS protest.
The CSOs also charged the youths to remain resolute to change the narrative that has been long desired and expected to happen for a new Nigeria.
The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “The President left a yawning gap, he refused to douse the tension, he failed to address the country when the whole world was calling on him to do so, as such, Gen. Buhari failed to speak and give the International Community and our foreign partners something to react to.
“The international community and the global leaders who have reacted were left with no choice than to react to credible news and real video evidence in circulation in the social media.
“This is a President who had at one point or the other, also, reacted to incidents in foreign nations, from Palestine to Saudi Arabia, and in the Western world, he is absolutely wrong in accusing the international community of making some hasty reactions.
“The measured comments and statements that came from some global leaders and the international community cannot amount to an attack on the Nigerian President, or an erosion of the country’s sovereignty and it is neither a way of instigating the youths.
“The preoccupation of Nigerian youths going forward should be about pushing for Electoral Reforms and calling for the urgent passage and signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill currently before the 9th National Assembly.
“The Youth of Nigeria, can also in a similar fashion like the Brexit agitation in the UK and the formation of the Brexit Party, consider the floating of a political party or aligning with one, that will make End-SARS, End-Police Brutality and Good Governance as its main manifesto ahead of the 2023 General Elections.”
The Founder and President, One Love Foundation, OLF, Chief Patrick Eholor, said, “The President is right not to tell the community that they are hasty in reacting on issues in Nigeria. When a president address his nation He must be prepared to answer questions
“The international community knows the meaning of massacre. The President is afraid of the international Court.
“I don’t think the international community is carrying out a direct attack on the President with their comments nor to instigate young people against the Government.
“This is long overdue. The international community has abandoned us for a long time.”
On what should be the next line of action by EndSARS protesters now and ahead of 2023 general elections, he (Eholor) said, “I think the next line is become a registered their members of any political party of the choice and be part of the stakeholders because we have enough political parties already.
“We need to introduce independent candidates. It shouldn’t be the panacea..I think from now things are going to be a lot better now that the youths are ready to take the bull by the horn politically
The Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, said, “I think the address came too late. But as they say, it is usually better late than never. The president could have spoken much earlier to douse tensions and show real direction of action in response to the demands of the youths.
“However, his speech was absolutely astonishing for saying nothing about young Nigerians that were shot while waving the flag and singing the national anthem, no matter who shot them.
“I cannot understand how the president could be silent over the killing of any Nigerian. How could he be silent over bloodied flags; flags soaked in the blood of the youths? That silence is extremely shocking and could erase whatever else was said. That silence made Nigerians to hear more of what he did not say than what he said.
“The world is a global community. When leaders of any nation don’t listen to their people it will be a sign of complicity for the international community to silence.
“If you are asking if it is okay for any foreign government to subvert the sovereignty of Nigeria, my answer is a definite no.
Although the #EndSARS protest appears largely spontaneous, it is clear that there must be some sort of participatory or collegiate leadership. That to me is the best way to engineer a patriotic consciousness in our youths and build a better and patriotic political system.
“An indicator of this is the adoption of the national flag and anthem as symbols of unity and peaceful organizing. The spirit of patriotism has been severely eroded by the massive corruption, inequality, impunity, and exploitation that have taken root in the country.
“The attack on youths waving the flag and singing the anthem is a strike against patriotism. It shows a preference for docility, abhorrence of innovativeness, and elevation of a blurred vision.
On the next line of action by the EndSARS protest, he (Bassey) said, “Should the youths now be focused on 2023? While active political engagement is essential, I do not believe that partisan political action must necessarily be the outcome of the #EndSARS protest.
“It could, however, end up in that. But the existing system where the aims of elected offices appear to be financial benefits wouldn’t work no matter the philosophical position of the actors.
“I think our youths need to create spaces to deepen conversations on the rot that has taken root in Nigeria — including the fact of massive socio-economic and environmental injustices, considering that our people still depend largely on the environment for sustenance and informal economic activities.
“Nigeria needs a movement against a cannibal political system where elections have become the scenarios for investment with the expectation of inordinate “returns” and total disregard for the suffering people.
“The youths have an opportunity to turn up the volume with regard to demands for a single house as National Assembly and having elected lawmakers serving on a part-time basis and earning the minimum wage. Let the presidency be largely ceremonial and let there be devolution of power to the regions. These will help to sift the chaff from the millet.
“Our youths, by their sacrifice and patience, have clearly shown that the future can be positive. They should not be supported, not criminalized, terrorized, or killed.”
President and Founder Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria, PMNN, Yahaya Ndu, said, “My take is simply that the president appears not to realize the enormity of the grievance of the youth in particular and a broader circle of Nigerians in general.
“From my perception of the whole affair there is general discontent in the polity and it will do our nation a world of good to address things in a fundamental manner so that there may be lasting peace and progress.
“The presidency does not appear to realize that EndSARS is just the beginning of the demands of Nigerian people. I can only hope that the President will see the need to address the issues agitating the nation better. Honestly, his address wasn’t my expectation at all.
“To start with his address did not touch the Lekki totally unprovoked and unwarranted shooting that the whole world is condemning in anger.. what does that say to any unbiased observer?.
“Secondly it is clear that the nation is in danger of descent to chaos and the address did not appear to address this most disturbing development.
“The whole world is now a global village..Our nation led by the same president is involved in trying to bring peace to troubled nations of Africa, he must realize that other nations too must get involved in trying to bring peace to Nigeria.
“Where I come from it is said that the wisdom that only one person has is not wisdom at all. I don’t think that the international community is trying to instigate the youth to do anything in any way.
“Why do we like to live in denial of truth? Why are we not ashamed that despite the enormous resources that we are endowed with that Nigeria is today the poverty capital of the world? “Is it the international community that instigated that?
“Insecurity is widespread all-over Nigeria today, is it the international community that instigated that? Unemployment is more than 49 per cent is that the work of the international community?
“Trillions of naira was said to have been spent as a palliative for coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria yet I have never met anyone who has met or knows anyone who benefited from the said palliatives, was that instigated by the international community? There is a saying that a bad workman always quarrels with his tools.
“A New Nigeria: After six years of blaming the opposition. The new fashion is to blame the international community. .Haba! Is this how we hope to progress and develop as a nation?
“Why is Boko Haram still killing us…is that the instigation of the international community? Was it the international community that instigated the SARS to brutalizing Nigerians?
“About three weeks ago when I traveled from Enugu to Abuja by road, we had to cross over fifty roadblocks and money was being collected by the security personnel who mounted the roadblocks..was that instigated by the international community? For A New Nigeria: In one of the works of William Shakespeare. Julius Caesar, there is an apt saying, “The fault dear Brutus is not in our Stars, but in ourselves!
“What I think and which is what I am working on right now is how to create a mass participatory system of governance where Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora will as equal stakeholders brainstorm continually and contribute towards fashioning out best policies for moving the nation forward in all ramifications.
“Many people have to my mind ignorantly and most unscientifically suggested that the main problem is that the youths are not involved in politics..some of those erroneously saying this has been at the highest strata of governance in Nigeria in the past.
“I do not share this point of view. If you look critically, you will see that first of all 90% of all those who lead Nigeria to Independence including Tafawa Balewa, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoly, etc were youths when they were in power.
“Secondly 99 per cent of those young military officers who organised the first coup that put Nigeria back a thousand years were all youth. General Yakubu Gowon was less than 40 when he became head of state. Odumegwu Ojukwu was less than 40 when he led Biafra.
“Even today if you check the ages of all the Governors, Senators, Members of the Federal House of Representatives and state Assemblies all-over Nigeria, all the Ministers, and Commissioners and directors, etc. You will discover that at least 75 per cent of them are youth.
“So the problem is not that youth are not involved in politics. Politics is studied in the world today in all universities that I am aware of like science and not as art even though there may be some elements of arts involved.
“The problem in our polity is that it is not mass participatory and to that extent is not really democratic in reality. For a new Nigeria: My plan is to provide a democratic platform which will unleash the creative potentials of Nigerians and set the nation on the path of sustainable peace, justice, and development so we can take our place in the comity of nations as the undisputed leader of Africa and the black race.”
Director of Programmes, CAPPA Philip Jakpor, said, “Very disappointing. No mention or show of empathy for innocent youths mowed down only because they were singing and waiving the Nigerian flag. The speech is a betrayal of the Nigerian people.
“The speech was supposed to address the genuine grievances and issues raised by the #EndSARS protesters, including the premeditated murders in Lekki. The president is supposed to inspire hope and calm frayed nerves.
“Unfortunately he missed the point. He was talking away from issues and dwelling on irrelevancies.”
On the next line of action of the protesters, he said, “I think it’s the other way round. It is the government that has been slow to address the genuine issues raised by the protesters. It’s been nearly two weeks since the protests started and the world has been practically begging our president to intervene.
“His words yesterday reinforce the views of the average Nigerian that the government is unfeeling, uncaring, and distant from the people. The international community only responded appropriately to the cries of Nigerians that they should call our government to order. They are perfectly in order.
“This would be a misreading of the intent of the international community. Basically what they are saying is allow peaceful protests because it is part of democracy.
“In, fact Freedom of Expression is guaranteed under Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. That is exactly what the #ENDSARS protesters and all of us are doing and that’s what the international community is urging the Nigerian government not to stifle. The deployment of the military under any guise is unacceptable and anti-democratic.
“The violence in some parts of the country is not ascribable to the #EndSARS protesters. But that in itself shows the mass discontent in the land. The government should address the cause of the discontent which we all know: Inequalities, unemployment, thieving in government which they no longer hide, and of course the police brutality that the protests brought to light.
Speaking on why youths are to engage themselves with sensitisation activities on how to be strongly united and join forces ahead of 2023 general elections to actualise their dream of a new order in the politics and economy he (Jakpor) said, “Yes this would be the sensible path to take. Ultimately, the pendulum will swing in that direction.
“One thing is however clear: They have through the coordinated leaderless protests sent a strong message to the present political elite: 2023 elections will be different from previous elections.
Whether the youth should take the bold step to register a political party ahead of 2023 he said, “Beyond forming a youth political party the average youth out there, even in the existing parties have awoken to a new consciousness.
“The revolution in thinking will sweep across all spheres including the current parties. Suddenly, the appetite of fielding anyone belonging to the old brigade does not appear to appeal anymore. That is the beginning.
“The awareness and sensitization on a generational shift in leadership will only continue to gather steam. The youths have seen that change is possible even if it requires a whole lot of work and patience.”