The greatest lesson is that the youths did not allow the State to divide them along ethnic and religious lines.
Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has urged Nigerian youths to be involved in the affairs of the country, in order to curb the excesses of the ruling class.
Falana, who showered encomiums on youths for their #EndSARS protests last October, asked them to upset the plot of the political elite who wants “to turn the 2023 election into a regional affair.”
He added that political office holders should be forced to address the rejection of electronic voting and other avalanches of problems in Nigeria.
Falana revealed this in a Presentation at the University of Lagos Mass Communication Alumni Association (UMCAA) Distinguished Lecture Series delivered yesterday, on September 30, 2021, at the Tayo Aderinokun Lecture Theatre, University of Lagos.
A copy of the paper titled, ‘Communication Strategy: Options for Youth Leadership, Reflections on #EndSARS’ was made available to SaharaReporters.
Speaking on #EndSARS, the legal practitioner said, “It also taught that it is not only the message that is important, the messenger also should be; a person seen as untruthful or unworthy will not be believable even if he is telling the gospel truth.
“But one great truth the ENDSARS youth taught is that a focused, united and determined movement can exert the change they desire in society.
“The greatest lesson is that the youths did not allow the State to divide them along ethnic and religious lines.”
Falana further said, “Therefore, the youths should frustrate the desperate moves by the political class to turn the 2023 election into a regional affair. Politicians should not be allowed to divert the attention of the Nigerian people from the crisis of underdevelopment confronting the nation.
“The politicians must be compelled to address the rejection of electronic voting, insecurity of life and property, poverty and unemployment, lack of access to education, health and other social services, infrastructural decay, control of the national economy by imperialism etc. Every political party should make a commitment to the observance of human rights and the implementation of the fundamental objectives enshrined in Chapter two of the Nigerian Constitution.
“Finally, permit me to call on the youths, workers and other oppressed people to be involved in the affairs of the country. Since a people united can never be defeated, the youths and all patriotic forces should get organised to end police brutality, extrajudicial killing of innocent people by State agents, terrorists and gunmen.”
Noting the efforts made by the government to stop the #EndSARS campaign, he said, “The Federal and many State Governments first approached the ENDSARS challenge by deploying their propaganda machinery, mainly their mass media to counter the movement. They talked mainly about the need for peace and for the youths to stop their protests as so-called hoodlums may or had infiltrated them. But this failed because the media organs of government are discredited and the mass of the citizenry view them with suspicion. So it was a case of a discredited messenger and message.
“Then the Buhari administration thought it could take the wind out of the sail and win public support by announcing the disbandment of SARS and the establishment of a new outfit called the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, SWAT. But for the youths, the demand for the end of SARS had become merely symbolic, more crucially, they wanted a real change in governance. Also, the public was not hoodwinked.
“Then it decided to meet the leaders of the movement to negotiate an end to the protests, but the movement was a deregulated one, and in a large sense, leaderless.
“Then it turned to some Civil Society leaders who the government tried to present to the public as credible negotiators. But this, despite the communiqué of the meeting, failed woefully as the negotiators had no influence whatsoever on the protesting youths.
“Then the government decided to borrow from the communication strategies of the protesting youths by courting and bringing in a music star for negotiations. This was given quite wide media coverage, but all the musician could do, was read the demands of the protesting youths. He could not even make a commitment to campaign for the protests to end.
“Also, with the effective use of ICT, there were solidarity protests in countries such as Switzerland, Egypt, Germany, France, Germany, Belgium and Canada.
“When all the official strategies failed, sponsored armed thugs were unleashed on the protesters especially in Kano, Lagos and Abuja. But this also failed. In desperation, the government sent armed police and soldiers to end the protests by using live ammunition. Scores of protesters were brutally massacred in Lagos, Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt and Ogbomoso.”
Noting how the government denied attacking protesters, he said, “In spite of the denial of killings, it has been revealed by Professor John Obafunwa, Consultant Pathologist to the Lagos State Government that 3 out of the 99 dead bodies dumped in the mortuaries were from Lekki. It was further revealed that 20 bodies marked ‘unknown’ were allegedly brought from Ikoyi Correctional Centre.”
He added that “no inquest was conducted in respect pertaining the circumstances of the killing of the 20 inmates”.