Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Segun Awosanya’s dance of the fowl

Mr. Awosanya began a good thing. He has his place in history. He cannot afford to muddy it up now.

• October 21, 2020
Segun Awosanya
Segun Awosanya (Credit: Facebook)

The organisational dexterity of Nigerians sustaining the #EndSARS campaign into its third week is a feat many could not imagine was possible of Nigeria’s oft derided youth population. 

From rallying funds to providing ambulance services at protest venues to cleaning-up after themselves as they marched, to staying tenaciously focused on the message and shooting down distraction from interests aimed at embedding sub-flags under the #EndSARS banner, insisting on maintaining the protests as a decentralised, leaderless people-led movement, while staying defiant in the face of state-sanctioned violence… it is without doubt a new era is upon Nigeria. 

By maintaining the movement under a leaderless structure, the “Indomie Generation” got their fathers in a conundrum. They appear to have studied Nigeria’s agitation history and learnt what booby traps and minefield to avoid. 

While without ‘leadership’ the protesters have been able to force concessions from their government — no matter how superficial — and extracted rare mea culpa from no less a person than Vice President Yemi Osinbajo –no matter how insincere the tone of it.

The protesting youth have rejected repeated calls to put a face to their protests. They will not name leaders. At least not yet. Their adamant refusal agitates vested interests who have resorted to discrediting the movement.

Of the many who have attempted discrediting #EndSARS one is least surprised at Mr. Segun ‘Sega’ Awosanya’s tenacity. Tweet thread after thread; press release after press release, he has sought to depict the protesters as rioters, hoodlums and touts, even when protests have been largely peaceful and the attacks recorded have been at the instance of state and state hired thugs.

Mr. Awosanya, who needs no introduction, has been synonymous with #EndSARS. He’d achieved quite a feat cementing himself into the nation’s consciousness as the saviour and go-to man whenever anyone was harassed, picked up or extorted by SARS. And, to be honest, he was effective at getting people out of the SARS net. 

But, that, for me, was the problem. The solution that SARS anomaly needed was not some Messiah somewhere armed with enough influence to get people out when they get into trouble.

The solution needed was a total delete of the crime syndicate which had gone rogue and turned its state-issued guns against the people they were paid to protect.

The calls to #EndSARS rose to a deafening crescendo in 2017 when attacks became the more brazen. Anger was rife on the streets. Nigerians wanted the misconduct brought to an end, once for all.

They intended for their rage to become a catalyst for beginning genuine discussions about fixing the policing architecture of Nigeria. 

But, the establishment knew the game well. They requested talks with “leaders” of the #EndSARS movement. The position devolved upon Mr. Awosanya. He was the movement. He was the voice. His place was earned at the table.

No sooner had he taken his seat at the table than he transmogrified from an advocate of EndSARS into a voice for #ReformSARS and #ReformPolice. In that capacity, he became placater-in-chief and assuager of the people’s anger against police brutality.

Perchance, the good man convinced himself that the police could be cajoled into introspection to fix itself from within. Or, maybe he thought the people’s patience was infinitely elastic and wouldn’t snap at some point, with the people making their demands for themselves, without anyone representing them at any table. He was mistaken on both. 

The police found an ally in his role as mediator after their every misconduct. They must have preyed on his nature and found in Mr. Awosanjo is someone on whose shoulder the people could be distracted to go whine and lament whenever SARS (and to a large extent, police) operatives recalcitrantly profiled Nigerians, bullied and intimidated them without cause, extorted and robbed them of their money, arrested them without reasonable suspicion of having committed any crime and, in extreme cases, extra-judicially murdering them.

Mr. Awosanya put himself between a rock and a hard place. He became friends with those he was to hold to account. He clouded his objectivity.

When the new wave of #EndSARS agitations began, it was clear that this was unlike anything before it. The people had had enough. They were prepared to pursue this to a logical end by themselves, without anyone speaking for them. But the establishment could not smell the coffee.

They were buoyed by confidence they could leverage existing relationships with friends in the “#EndSARS movement” to bring the agitations under control in no time. Again, they were wrong. The people were determined to not again be led on #EndSARS. They were going to get the job done themselves.

I have immense respect for Mr. Awosanya and admire what he’s achieved for himself and what assistance he has rendered to thousand others with his EndSARS advocacy.

His anger and frustration at others reaping where he’s toiled and sowed may also be valid. He must however look at the larger goal and commit to standing with the people at this time. 

Discrediting the protesters by calling them rioters is a disservice to truth and betrays everything he’s put himself out as fighting for. Also, his allusions to subversion is typical fifth columnist behaviour, reminiscent of the fowl in my village whose mantra is “what I cannot eat, I must scatter so no one else can eat it.”

Nigeria is a democracy, one in which the people have a right by virtue of Section 14 (2) (a-c) of the 1999 Constitution to hold their government to account, as the Sovereign and Superior powers of the Republic. The people holding their government to account or making demands of their government is not subversion!

Nigerians are at cusp of birthing a new Nigeria, one in which the people realise their place and power as sovereign. Mr. Awosanya began a good thing. He has his place in history. He cannot afford to muddy it up now. Sometimes, just being the architect who drew up the plan is enough!

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