Protests, slogans and reforms

Dayo Sobowale


WE  are in a season of unrests and protests globally and  Nigeria has not been an exception as   had  often been   the case in our   peculiar   history of marked indifference to bad  leadership and docility in the face of rampant and crass injustice  with impunity. Our  youths are on fire over police violence typified by killings of youths by SARS which    has been disbanded  by a responsive government but our youths are still at the barricades.  Like those before them did in those unusual days of Ali Must Go, the protests on Kunle Adepeju’s death and June 12. This  time our youths refuse to be placated by the banning of SARS  but  want police reforms   to     nail  the coffin of police violence and extra judicial   killings once and for all. It   is the call for   police reforms and the continuation of protests after the ban of SARS that  form the kernel  of our discussion and the topic  of the day.

As  I noted before protests abound globally against injustice, police violence, racism generally amongst  the populace against  their rulers and political  leadership  generally. In diplomacy too protests exist amongst  nations and sovereign states  leading to threats of war and retaliations if certain actions are carried  out by friendly nations or hostile one depending on the history and diplomatic relations amongst such  nations.  Although  Nigerian youths are just getting militant against police violence there are parts of the world where  police violence is the vogue rather  than the exception namely the US  and its close  continental cousin , the nations of Latin America  where police throw protesters into rivers , and are notorious for  killing them in scores of deaths.

Today  aside  from Nigeria we look at protests in the US, Latin America , Thailand  as well  as the appeal of the Chinese leader for his troops to prepare for war  if the US  sells war planes to Taiwan which China regards as part of its territory even though Taiwan rejects such  notion  or presumption  in its entirety. With  Nigeria  we  shall look at past  police efforts to improve police public relations and the effect of that leading to the SARS protests . In  the  US we shall examine how police violence has shaped the presidential  campaign and   presidential election slated for November 3. In Thailand  we  look at how protesters  are  fairing in a nation where there  is a law that bans public abuse of the Thai King and monarchy and yet people  are still on the streets  asking for reform  of the Thai  monarchy.  In  Latin America we  examine how drug trafficking and  drug  wars  have evolved a pattern of  police violence and cruelty to the populace  peculiar  to that part of the world.

Let  us go back to our  nation Nigeria. I  remember seeing a poster at a police headquarters  sometime that  says. ‘If  you do not like the police,  hire a thug‘  I  have also  seen  another poster that says – ‘The  Police is your friend‘ I think  the vexed issue of police killings leading to the ban of SARS exists  between these  two contrasting messages and slogans. The police  should be a friend of the Nigerian public but it is not. Inherent in the other defiant message of calling a thug  is police frustration   that  the   public is unappreciative    and ungrateful  of its crucial  role  of policing and the importance of that for public security  and maintenance of law and order in the pursuit of the rule of law in any democracy such as a multiethnic  nation like Nigeria.  Both  the police and the aggrieved Nigerian  youths calling for reforms need  to be shown a few facts that should facilitate a more friendly  relation between the two.

The  first is that the Nigerian  youths  of today have  been empowered by  technology to earn far better than  their  seniors in their youth. It  is not a matter of yahoo yahoo. Nigerian youths in sports, entertainment, music,  drama soccer are earning far  more than any earlier generation and they spend a lot on their hairstyles  which all youths emulate starting with Nwankwo Kanu‘s hairstyle when at Arsenal  and thereafter. Some of them are legitimate and hard working millionaires in  their own right and  by  their  earnings  in  their various  callings. The police  have to be reoriented to live with this fact. Such  youths deserve respect for their earnings and  life style, not suspicion, opprobrium and arrests  for their looks and appearance in  their  own nation  and country. That is the true reform the police needs  to understand  the youths and move the nation forward.

In  the US  the Black Lives Matter Campaign  marred by  violence  by those  who  hijacked it has become an election issue together  with President  Donald  Trump’s  handling of the pandemic. In  my view the American  president  has sided with the police and has abandoned the Black Lives Matter movement and is going to pay a huge price politically because I do not see majority blacks  voting for him. Instead Trump has turned police violence  on  blacks which is institutionalized into a law and order issue with  which he has been wooing American whites by playing on their insecurity in case his opponent Joe Biden wins the November 3 elections. That  is a  calculated  risk Trump has taken with his eyes wide open and he has no one to blame if he loses on account of his unhidden support for police violence on blacks.

With  regard to his attitude on the pandemic which the Democrats find irresponsible and careless I think  he has been proactive in down playing the pandemic  so as not to destroy the American economy whose  growth in his first term of office he regards as his greatest achievement. In doing  this, he almost paid  with his life and his supporters  admire  his bravery and guts in literally  taking on the pandemic almost  fatally  and coming back  from the dead as it were. I am  sure they will troop out en masse  for  him on November 3. Whether  that will be enough to secure  him the  reelection driving his life is another matter entirely.

In  Thailand the protesters  are asking for reforms  guardedly   because  they  love their monarchy. Even  though they  demonstrated on a route the royal entourage  was  plying in the capital they  did  not block the royal  entourage as they promised. Thailand is as such a different democracy and monarchy  that  I  find difficult  to understand but then it will be ethnocentric as  a  Nigerian to  question their way  of life. One man’s food is another man’s  poison.

While ordinary  citizens protest against  police  violence globally,  China  is protesting against what it views as American interference in its internal affairs. Chinese Foreign Office spokesman  has protested against American sanctions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong where there have been endless protests over China’s security postures on the island. In addition US  Secretary of State Pompeo has trumped  up charges that China was  confronting the  US in its military  build  up globally. China on the other  hand  through its   President Xi  Jinping  has asked its troops  to  prepare for war  over  sale  of war planes to  Taiwan   by the US. Whether the  war will  happen before or after the US  election  of  November 3  is a matter of conjecture.  One  cannot however  dismiss this lightly because a war during the US elections will  in my view catch  the US   pants down literally and diplomatically.  That will  certainly  be to China’s advantage especially  during this pandemic that  the American president has notoriously  and   undiplomatically    called  a Chinese virus,   to the vexation of the ambitious Chinese. Once  again – From the fury of this raging pandemic Good Lord Deliver Nigeria.


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