Friday Sermon: #EndSARS As a Metaphor

By Babatunde Jose

ENDSARS is what happens when deep-seated injustice and oppression meet single-minded courage and determination. “Open thy mouth (soro soke), judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverb 31:9

All Nigerian youths want beside a holistic reform of the police and end to police brutality verging on inhumanity is the reform of the political structure of the country as this is the root of our underdevelopment. Before this protest could get to any reasonable conclusion, our incompetent leaders moved in to scuttle the process as they have always done: Their trademark of blood, SWAT and tears came into play with the unleashing of the forces of the Army on the defenseless youths at the Lekki Toll Plaza. With that single act of state violence, the authorities showcased their incompetence and inability to handle simple protest: A sad commentary on the political judiciousness of our leadership. Yet, what these youths were demanding is very germane to the future development of this country.

The political structure is what determines whether a nation will swim of sink in the profoundly serious waters of socio-economic advancement. ­­­Each society functions with a set of economic and political rules created and enforced by the state and the citizens collectively. Economic institutions shape economic incentives: the incentives to become educated, to save and invest, to innovate and adopt new technologies, and so on. It is the political process however, that determines what economic institutions people live under, and it is the political institutions that determine how this process works. For example, it is the political institutions of a nation that determine the ability of citizens to control politicians and influence how they behave. This in turn determines whether politicians are agents of the citizens, albeit imperfect, or are able to abuse the power entrusted to them, or that they have usurped, to amass their own fortunes and to pursue their own agendas, ones detrimental to those of the citizens. Political institutions include but are not limited to written constitutions and to whether the society is a democracy. They include the power and capacity of the state to regulate and govern society. It is also necessary to consider more broadly the factors that determine how political power is distributed in society, particularly the ability of different groups to act collectively to pursue their objectives or to stop other people from pursuing theirs.

As institutions influence behavior and incentives in real life, they forge the success or failure of nations. Individual talent matters at every level of society, but even that needs an institutional framework to transform it into a positive force. It is the absence of that institutional framework that has brought us to this sorry situation of chronic underdevelopment and backwardness. It is this lack of institutions that provoke individual and collective development that has killed the hope, vision and aspirations  of our people and sentenced our children to a state of indolence, unemployment, vagrancy and pensioned their parents into hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Bill Gates, like other legendary figures in the information technology industry (such as Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Jeff Bezos), had immense talent and ambition. But he ultimately responded to incentives. The schooling system in the United States enabled Gates and others like him to acquire a unique set of skills to complement their talents. Instead of creating a similar conducive school system here, our leaders are content with the current anachronistic and anti-development educational system.

The economic institutions in the United States enabled these men to start companies with ease, without facing insurmountable barriers; not so here where it is incredibly challenging, tough, and exhaustive to set up business.  Those institutions also made the financing of their projects feasible, whereas here the banking system is anti-start-up. The U.S. labor markets enabled them to hire qualified personnel, and the relatively competitive market environment enabled them to expand their companies and market their products. These entrepreneurs were confident from the beginning that their dream projects could be implemented: they trusted the institutions and the rule of law that these generated and they did not worry about the security of their property rights.

Finally, the political institutions ensured stability and continuity. For one thing, they made sure that there was no risk of a dictator taking power and changing the rules of the game, expropriating their wealth, imprisoning them, or threatening their lives and livelihoods. They also made sure that no particular interest in society could warp the government in an economically disastrous direction, because political power was both limited and distributed sufficiently broadly that a set of economic institutions that created the incentives for prosperity could emerge.

It is this climate of opportunity that our youths are fighting for. QED! To this extent therefore, they want Judicial Reform, A People’s Constitution, Electoral Reform, Civil Service Reform, Access to opportunities, End to Quota System, Reduction in the Cost of Governance, Health Sector Reform, Education Sector Reform, End to the State of Origin Requirement, Transparency in Government business, and many more that would guarantee a better life for them and their children. This is what is being fought for in many other climes that we watch on CNN without their being mowed down by armed soldiers, Belarus, Hong Kong, Peru, Chile, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines.

In the words of one of the protestors in Benin, Edo State: He said: “The protest in not just about police brutality anymore. We are saying that Buhari must go, we are tired of him and his anti-people policies.” Very weighty indeed. This is symptomatic of what we have witnessed in the Sudan, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Mali, and other places. In the end it leads to ‘regime change’, which is a collateral consequence of  protest movements.

Let no one be in doubt, shooting down protestors is not the end of the unfolding events. It is not even the beginning of the end, but the end of a beginning. Let the leaders who treat our life challenges with impunity and lackadaisical devil may care attitude know that their time is numbered. They will however never learn nor understand: “So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” (Quran 22:46)

Deaf: They cannot hear guidance, nor comprehend it, nor have an open mind to it.

Dumb: They are unable to utter words that are of benefit to them or to others.

Blind: They are in total darkness and deviation (from the straight path).

The Quran in Sura Baqarah puts it more succinctly: “Deaf, dumb and blind – so they will not return [to the right path]. Or [it is] like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder, and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps in dread of death. . . . . ..” (Quran 2:18-24)

Barka Juma’at and may the spirit of our slain youths live on.

Last line: Otoge! Enough is Enough! Enough of police killings. Enough of innocent lives being taken at their prime. Enough of police brutality. Enough of using weapons meant to protect us to harm us. Enough of oppression, suppression, and possession. Enough of hunger. Enough of anger. Enough of hopes dashed. Enough of pain. Enough of bitterness. Enough of austerity. Enough of bad governance. Enough of suffering. Enough of dreams dashed. Enough of undeserving worthlessness. Enough of voices lost. Enough of everything and anything that stunts our growth as a people. Enough is Enough!

RUTH OSIME – Executive Editor THISDAY Style.


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