#EndSARS: A plea to the protesters

#EndSARS: A plea to the protesters

Monday, October 19, 2020 6:01 pm

Protesters cooking on the road in Edo

By Richard Akinnola

I make this plea as someone who has been in the different layers of the struggle for over 30 years, particularly against the military. So, I’m speaking from experience. Banger no be bullet. My position might be unpopular in a time of angst but I’m saying this with great conviction. A popular struggle is not a 100 meter dash; it’s a marathon. You fight, you pause, you engage, and you re-strategise. 

This Endsars struggle has been substantially successful and l give kudos to all those that keyed into it. However, in any struggle of this nature, there is a time of reassessment, against the backdrop of the concessions made by the other side. At this stage, it is time to suspend these protests, lest all the gains made be lost. When it is suspended and say within a short period, if the government doesn’t concretely implement ABCD of the demands, we would be back on the streets. At this stage, the protesters are at an advantage to negotiate but if the government decides to use force to break the protests, all the gains would have been lost and you would be at a disadvantaged position to negotiate. 

I know the hardliners would dismiss this as being cowardly or pacifist, if you have not been involved in a struggle or in incarceration, you won’t appreciate this. In one of Gani Fawehinmi’s long incarceration, an arrangement was made to release him to the late Ooni of Ife. Under normal circumstance, Gani would not accept a traditional ruler to serve as a sort of “surety” for his release but we wanted a Gani alive for the struggle than a dead Gani. Those who asked MKO Abiola not to accept a contrived conditional bail are still with their families, while Abiola’s family and businesses crumbled while he was cajoled not to accept the conditional bail. He would have been out to reassess the situation and how to fight back to reclaim his mandate.

I urge that these protests be suspended. The hardliners against the suspension would not be there when soldiers start shooting. Ask the Shiites people. I was involved in brokering the El Zackzakky bail before he was flown to India before the disagreement in India and the subsequent military action against them which l was trying to prevent. In Ebutte Metta, Lagos today, a police station was attacked and you see policemen running. Somewhere in Ikeja, a policeman was stopped on a bike and he was asked to kneel down and water poured on him. There are going to be reprisals for these actions because we can’t be acting like the SARS people that we fight. Anarchy is setting in. 

Guys, let reason prevail. This is not cowardly but wisdom so that we can hold on to the gains made in this protest. It is easy to stay on the social media and egg people on. I have been in trenches all my years. I have been to police, SSS and DMI detentions. I have faced bullets. So, I’m not a coward but wisdom, with the benefit of hindsight ought to teach one when to advance and when to retreat. 

May God guide us right.

Richard Akinnola, journalist, lawyer and human rights activist, writes from Lagos

@Richard Akinnola

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