Governance Failure and Youth Protest in Nigeria
The Initiative for Transformative Policy and Inclusive Development (INTRAPID,
Africa) wishes to join other patriotic Nigerians in deprecating police brutality and bad
governance in Nigeria. We align with the rest of the world to condemn the excessive use of force against unarmed peaceful protesters across the country, as well as ongoing acts of carnage, brigandage, and destruction of public and private properties.
We stand in solidarity with the non-violent agitation of young people in Nigeria and
many other parts of the world, demanding evident positive change in how their
fatherland is governed and the accountability of state officials, whether security
agents or political officeholders. For us, this demand is the thrust of the #ENDSARS
campaign triggered by the ferocious and extortive activities of men of the police,
particularly the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—which has become a symbolic
representation of all things undesirable about Nigeria.
Therefore, we condemn in emphatic terms the unwarranted attack on and killings of
peaceful protesters in various locations across the country. We note with disdain, the
charade by political interest, both from some incumbent political office holders and
elements from opposition groups, who have cashed in on the mood of the innocent
young people who are clamouring for a better-governed Nigeria and resorted to the
use of hired thugs and uniformed mercenaries in order to discredit the well-intended
and legitimate agitation of Nigerian youths.
For far too long, and indeed since the country's independence in 1960, Nigerian
citizens have grappled with diverse forms of oppression, repression, and bad
governance. These have been recurrently evident in the brutal and corrupt character
of law enforcement institutions and agents, the poor record of the rule of law, the
decadent state of public infrastructure, medical facilities, educational systems and
facilities, sanitation, electric power supply, potable water, and motor-able roads
We are proud of the thousands of young people who have taken to the street in a
remarkably peaceful and orderly manner in order to alter the longstanding narrative
of Nigerians as irredeemably passive people, supporting bad leadership in a country
where leaders are unquestionable gods. We are thrilled by their acts of courage and
altruism, their passion and patriotism, and their sense of duty as citizens who stood
up to change the narrative of their nation. We at INTRAPID, Africa, strongly believe
that the echoes of our youth's voices have resonated loudly across the globe, and
they shall no longer be treated as "lazy youths" but as soldiers of conscience and
warriors in defence of their country.
We join the families of our brothers and sisters in the struggle who have lost their
lives in mourning the unforgettable fallen heroes. We sympathize with their loved
ones, dependent siblings, parents, and all others grieved relatives in these trying
times of national loss. We are encouraged by faith in God that the good cause for
which they died shall be counted for them in the hereafter. We pray that God grants
those they have left behind the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. They have
fought a good fight, and their names shall be etched in gold in the history of the
Nigerian state as they have stood justifiably.
Over several years, the series of brutal military interregnums has left us with a
society of people with a battered psyche—a society that long maintained a
dysfunctional passivism of its masses as the leadership eats away the people's
goodwill. A picture of Nigerians as a people who have come to accept the state and
leaders as an unquestionable and unaccountable behemoth to whose chains and
oppression they must submit. This attitude of resignation has emboldened
successive batches of political leaders and public administrators to engage in
uninterrupted looting ventures as they could plunder the "national cake" without any
form of social resistance.
As a beast without bridles, this fear of the state was imported into the fourth republic as Nigeria returned to a democratization process in 1999. Organized unions and civil society formation, which generally served as a bastion of hope in ensuring public accountability from leaders, were effectively caged as patrons and cronies were either successively installed, or recalcitrant actors were cowed into submission or conformity by corrupt state and its actors. Thus, this
atmosphere provided ambit for politicians since 1999 to neglect the yearnings of the
masses and focus instead on maximum extraction of personal enrichment from the
The spectre of ethnic, religious, and political violence that has characterized the
Nigerian state since the inception of the fourth republic is an affirmation of a country
that has had its legitimacy in doubt as leadership has successively failed to deliver
on the socio-contractual obligations of the state expected of its emotionally battered
people. As a tool for sustaining this strangulating relationship between leaders and
the led, they have cultivated a disposition of hostility between the state and its
citizens as chains of economically scotching policies are serially imposed on the
masses. At the same time, political office holders profited increasingly from
humongous self-serving statutory allocations and unofficial diversion of the
The effect of the above is mass impoverishment, mass unemployment, poor wages
for the employed, totally collapsed infrastructure, extortive charges for little services
by the few irregularly available services, absent public welfare support systems,
outrageous and multiple public taxations, and frequent imposition of austerity
measures on the masses. All of these are in the midst of flagrant exhibition of
ostentatious living, diversion of public wealth, and widening inequality occasioned by
the bad governance and corruption of the political class. In order to remain secure
while maintaining this age-long economic, social, and political dimensions of injustice
to their advantage, the elite have created a separate world of security for themselves
where the people are left exposed and vulnerable to various security menaces from
kidnappers, herdsmen, armed robbers, bandits, cattle rustlers, ethnic militias and
terrorists, all ravaging different parts of the country in proportions never before seen.
The ongoing nation-wide #ENDSARS protest, championed by the youths, is an
apparent reaction to decades of cumulative agonies and entrenched dysfunctionality
in which the country is entangled. Expressing their civic rights through such protests
is a welcome development capable of deepening democratic culture among young
people. It should also serve as an eye-opener to leaders at different levels of
governance that the elasticity limit of long-suffering Nigerians may have indeed been
stretched thin and that it may no longer be business as usual.
While we firmly believe that some of the demands are long-term based, the
government should, as a matter of urgency, demonstrate a genuine commitment to
those demands that could be immediately attended to as reflected in the scrapping
of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)- the symbol of the struggle. As
recommendations going forward, INTRAPID, Africa advances the following as
immediate, medium, and long term pathways to a better and youth-inclusive Nigerian
As immediate remedies to soothe frayed nerves and towards national healing, we recommend a national inquiry and exhaustive compilation of all people affected by police brutality and by the events of the killings and destructions of livelihoods and properties in the #ENDSARS protest. Adequate compensations should be paid to victims.
n furtherance of the above, we call for the immediate arrest, prosecution, and commensurate sanctions for all those involved in extrajudicial killings either as security agents, as authorizing military officers, or thug mobilizing political actors, as it relates to the ongoing youth campaign for good governance and end to the oppression of Nigerians in their own country.
While the democratic space has been expanded to accommodate more divergent groups/voices in the last two decades, we are of the view that political processes should be reformed to meet the developmental needs of the country against the current culture of predatory leadership.
We believe that the prospects for economic development in the country are primarily dependent on genuine diversification of the resource-base and reduced cost of governance- where administrative wastage and redundancies gulp the bulk of the country's annual budgets. Lip service has long been paid to these thematic areas of public administration. We recommend the immediate ratification of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies (a.k.a Stephen Oransaye report) and the National Assembly should do the needful by legalizing the recommendations.
The entrenched culture of impunity that pervades every stratum of the society should be frontally addressed through the instrumentality of the existing laws. Sacred cow mentality or "bigmanism" in the socio-political space should, therefore, be seen as a deadly menace that deserves emergency declaration.
The gross inefficiency and grand corruption in governance business, which appear to be the baseline for other endemic problems in the country, should be fundamentally addressed through the enforcement of the laws on corruption right from the investigation, prosecution and adjudication. Given this, we recommend capital punishment for established cases of grand corruption in the country in a non-partisan approach.
Lastly, having a democratic mechanism where citizens can elect their representatives in a free, fair and credible electoral process is an essential condition to organized society and good governance. Such a process guarantees the trust of the citizens in elected leaders; engenders effective participation; enhances service delivery and ultimately delivers good governance. As a first step, President Muhammadu Buhari should sign into law the pending electoral reform Bill to be effective from the 2023 general elections.
Dr. Mike Omilusi