A little background
In 1929, a Nigerian woman named Nwanyeruwa of Oloko sparked a series of protests aimed at achieving women rights per taxes in Southeastern Nigeria, this was after a tax officer unduly harassed and attacked her in her home. Her move to speak up led to widespread protests by women in the region. During one of the protests, a car driven by one of the colonial colonels drove through the aggregation of women, killing 2 and injuring a handful others. The women, further enraged by this, took their protests to regional government offices and establishments, and ghoul happened. An order was given to the serving colonial police (made up of indigent men too) to shoot at the women.
54 were killed. Fifty-four. I’ll leave the number of the injured to your imagination.
That’s not the most shocking part. The commission of inquiry did not find the colonial police guilty, not one of them was charged or sentenced, but Nwanyeruwa? She was sent to jail for inciting the riot. Yeah, you read right. We shall get back to this.
The irrepressible energy that has been generated from the widespread #EndSARS protest is so satisfying to watch. To see a good percentage of Nigerians revolt against a situation in unison? Tell me what else smells like Hope better than this. Kudos to all of us!
But guys, there’s a problem.
The energy is so right, but the destination/focus is barely midway, and as such suffers the risk of going back to zero point; a point where all of these efforts would be deemed wasted – a problem.
To make our efforts effective, #EndSARS must morph into #JailSARS. This is because the only thing this kind of institutionalized ill reacts to, succumbs to or can’t withstand, is deterrence, not disbandment.
Chill, I’ll explain.
As I mentioned in a previous article, SARS isn’t a squadron per se, rather, it is a disease that plagues the enitre reins of policing in our country. I don’t know when it started, but just like most institutions in the country, SARS is a product of institutionalized rotteness of its mother agency, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
Think about it, when was the last time you approached a police checkpoint with a honest smile in appreciation, adulation or adoration of what they stand for? Do you like them? Trust them? Does our nature as Nigerians agree with them? Don’t worry, I know your answer.
And this is because over the years, the unbelievably inept, lie-some, crude and wretched modus operandi of the NPF as created a growing chiasma of mistrust between them and Nigerians. As a consequence, they have totally lost every iota of esteem, pride and prestige that should come with their responsibility to protect, and now our nature as citizens abhors them with a sense of permanence and immediacy.
Because of their acts, we hate them, and rightly so.
This has been on for years; an abusive relationship.
A supposed head of the house/husband/father (read NPF/SARS) who, by his own irresponsible ways, has lost honour in his home (read citizens), doesn’t naturally command respect anymore, and is now committed to demand for it with blows, violence and fiat.
Why they pick on unsuspecting citizens.
Why they are trigger-happy.
Why they lack intelligence, both emotional and ethical.
Why they shoot you for asking why.
Why they shoot her for saying No to their sexual urge.
Why they commit Benz and Camry profiling.
Why they pilfer from and shoot low-income Drivers and artisans.
Why they shoot, shoot, and shoot.
They are empty, and therefore choose ways to exert faux respect.
To them, it’s a high to fill a blank.
To us, we want to end it. Simple.
But to end this institutionalized ill, deterrence is key, or else, SARS would go, and the NPF will retain its spots and speckle – esteem deficiency emptiness presenting as multi-dimensional ineptitude – and from here, another hydra-headed unit will sprout.
What is fitting
I’ve also said in previous articles that beyond #EndSARS, we should pressure for a purge of the system. I am saying now that even further beyond this, what would serve as befitting solution, reform, and true end to this peculiar mess is quickened punishment, deterrence. The true antidote.
Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020; this I’m sure doesn’t include the undocumented ones that have daily frequency. But, where is the punishment? Where is the widely-publicized punishment of one SARS officer to serve as deterrence?
None. Nada. Zilch.
Our recurring inability to adequately and concretely PUNISH bad behavior has been the reason why we haven’t been able to effectively defeat our baneful monsters till date, despite episodes of protests. Corruption, lawlessness, bad governance, insecurity,…..and END SARS, etc
This is why SARS has been “ended” 5 times in the past decade; just like every other monster extant till date.
As I pointed out above, the disease of ineptitude plaguing policing in Nigeria is a malignant one that disbandment will neither end nor cure. We need to charge, convict, and punish at least the documented cases to achieve deterrence.
Nwanyeruwa of Oloko. Because of misplaced justice and also, the lack of it, her role in history was potentially marred, wrongly written in blood, while the real demons danced.
It took years of true accounts to rightly restate her role. Like it took 12 whooping and emotionally exhausting years to convict just 2 out of the gang of policemen who killed the APO SIX in cold blood, and 15 years down the line, the Police man who ordered the killing is not even flexing, reinstated into the force, promoted twice and was recently paid a backlog of salaries. He ordered the shooting because the lady among the APO SIX refused his romantic overtures.
Without clear, public punishment aimed at deterrence, disbandment would become a farce, and #EndSARS, a waste.