Let me first and foremost sympathize with all those who have at one time or another been brutalized, dehumanized, and ill-treated in one way or another by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an arm of the Nigeria Police Force. My condolence to families that lost loved ones. These things ought not to be so. The value of the human lives in Nigeria is at its lowest.
Living in Nigeria has often been equated with living in hell. Even the rich and the mighty are not spared. I listened to Aliko Dangote on television when he said if you do business in Nigeria and still go to hell that amounts to double punishment. Funny as it may sound, that is the reality.
We have always looked forward to youths starting a process that will change the mad house syndrome that our nation has become but like it is said in the Holy book, stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. Nearly every young person has an eye on the stolen water and secret bread.
Why do I tag this protest, war against the leaves? The SARS of FSARS or whatever acronym has no reason to worry, this phase will come to pass. You will get a baptism and a new name and the business goes on, experience has shown that none of these things are sustained or sustainable. Congratulations to SARS, FSARS and SWAT. It is the story of new wine in old wine skin. Cut down SARS, cut down FSARS and you will get a deadlier unit coming out of the root. This is war against the leaves. It is written in the holy book. “For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down that it will sprout again and its shoot will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stumps die in the dry soil. At the scent of water, it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant”.
SARS has been ended, abolished, exterminated, annihilated, abrogated, banned and whatever grammar we want to use to qualify the END of SARS. Is this the first time? The answer is no. WE ARE NOT EVEN WARRING AGAINST THE STEM; OUR WAR IS AGAINST THE LEAVES. Cast all the stones on the leaves, at the next rain, it will spring forth fresh leaves.
I was born in Nigeria and have never lived anywhere else although I make occasional travels to other climes. At age 18 I was a primary school teacher. No pupil wanted to be reported to teacher for disobedience to parents. Teachers were honoured. They had no money. They had no property but they were carried in honour and they walked in dignity just about 40 years ago for merely doing their bit in society.
Parents and communities were so proud of these people that gave themselves to the honest labour of raising the next generation. It was to the extent that if a woman had six children and the first born was John, she was called “Mama John” until the last born becomes a teacher. John will fade away and that woman was from that moment called “mama teacher”. It was the best thing that could happen to a woman.
Mama teacher was never to carry bucket to fetch water, everyone ran to do the bidding on mama teacher. Money voted for schools was applied to build schools and what was voted for hospitals was applied to build hospitals. Nigerian roads were good roads, Lagos to Benin was a guaranteed 3 hours journey and we all knew it. Public Work Department (PWD) workers were proud of their jobs of keeping the society clean. Nobody was really rich, private cars were largely unknown except in a place like Lagos. Contentment and fear of God was in the air.
In the days, people were proud of their works as farmers, cobblers, tailors etc. Morality was the message. Parents will call their children and say remember the son of who you are. In this family, our name is our greatest asset. Nobody is permitted to stain the name. If anyone called you thief, you report to your mother and both families will meet to clear the air and be sure it was a joke.
I entered the University in 1982, I started to encounter Police collecting fifty kobo from every commercial vehicle that passed by their route. It was then said that government was not sending enough money to maintain police stations and that collection was for the running of Police stations. They were very discreet about it. It was not with brazen effrontery as we find today. If a university student was in a commercial bus and the student identified himself, no money was collected from such vehicle, he was allowed to go.
So good was Nigeria, so good was the naira, so good was our green white green until the first day of January 1984. Then entered the reign of idiots and tribesmen. All those who served Nigeria with heart and might were sent to jail. AlhajiLateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ) or Baba Kekere (as he was fondly called because Awo was the only one that could be freely referred to as Baba) of the mass housing and mass education fame was sent to prison, Ambrose Alli, Adekunle Ajasin, Alex Ekwueme were all jailed for coming from the wrong tribe and the wrong religion. Vice President in prison for misrule and the President were at home for ruling well. This was when selfless service was buried. Fela Anikulapo Kuti said vehicle was involved in an accident, conductor was jailed for reckless driving and the driver was asked to return to his family.
LKJ is my hero, making housing available to all. You paid N1, 000.00 to move into a two-bedroom flat and you were obliged to pay N30.00 monthly for fifteen years and the house was yours for 99 years. All the people in tenement building became landlords. That was the second republic corruption that was overthrown. No northern governor was corrupt. No northern governor was jailed. They were good governors that made sure their people were not educated, they were only good enough to ride motor bikes and serves as security men for the educated southerners and hawkers and beggars in the developed streets of southern cities.
After just twenty months of institutionalized corruption, 53 suit cases scandal, the government was overthrown and then entered the government of “settlement”. Anyone and everyone that had a voice had a price. You are settled with money, with position in government or …
These narratives are important so we know what enemy we are up against. Youths watched the development of “new greed politicians”.
A new culture emerged. There is a way that seems right to a man, the end of it is the way of death. Our country took that route and death is staring us in the face. The country died. That way that appeared right, the way of enthroning my tribesman at the expense of merit, the way of trusting only in my religion and my tribe, every other person may die, the way of arming one group against another to possess their land, the way of covering those who murder and kidnap without prosecuting any because those who offended are from the trusted tribe and the trusted religion, yes the way that appeared right to a man, the way of dishonest gains, yes!
The way that covers the truth and exalts lies. The way of allowing those who scored 30% to enter federal colleges and the people that scored 70% are told they failed because they did not come from the correct tribe and the correct religion. Yes! The way that seems right to man; the way of falsehood defeating the truth, the way ends in death and it will drag to death everything on its trail.
It was the way that killed all public institutions, the way that killed our educational system, the health system, the public roads; the way killed our image everywhere in the world, the way that made our green passport a taboo. Oh! I weep for my country as the only country that I can call my own goes down the way of death.
Cry for my beloved country. Who has bewitched us that we can’t see truth and stand up to it? Moral fabric of society has been eaten beyond redemption except God of heaven makes a deliberate intervention.
We now live in a society where people of my background (children of honest farmers) watch children of dishonest politicians and civil servants drive the best of cars, study in USA, UK or Canada after their fathers in politics or civil service have destroyed the public school for us and keeping us in a perpetual state of illiteracy.
Now, to the youths (children of politicians and civil servants), you have studied in the best universities in the world, you have become YouTuber, Digital Marketer, Freelancer, Influencer, Web Designer because for a good number of you, your fathers killed the public schools to send you abroad to actualize dreams. The children of the poor are watching and waiting. The only way to access the good things of life is to be armed legally through SARS.
Some children of the poor struggle through the eye of a needle to access the wreckage that is called public schools; they are raped by lecturers, dehumanized and passed through unprintable experiences to get education. There must be a return to godliness, merit and morality or we will all sink in this boat. Money will fail in the day of trouble.
The children of the money rich and honour deficient politicians and civil servants parade all manner of cars in our face causing the honest hard worker to regret towing the path of truth and righteousness.
We, the children of village farmers have no option but to join police force where you will not join with your foreign education. If you think we are joining to protect your ill-gotten wealth, you deceive yourself. We join to get free arms to wait for you on the road in the name of SARS.
The poor are embittered against the new order of corruption of big men, who steal N84b and faint at questioning. We prosecute and jail the man who stole beans for food and use siren to escort those who stole billions of naira. Our Honourable men are rich in every sense of the word except in honour.
END SARS, 200 times, you are fighting with the leaves, the root is firmly in the ground. It will spring forth until justice returns to society, until morality is restored, until no tribe or religion is obviously disadvantaged, until merit becomes the basis of appointment and promotions.
Until then, SARS lives on.
By LUCKY ONYEMA EGEDE ESQ.