By Babs Omotowa
On the 1st of October, we had celebrated our 60th Independence anniversary as a nation with pomp but we had no inclination of what the country was to experience within the month.
October has seen some of the best and the worst of Nigerians.
Some of our best included the peaceful protest by youth to complain about the excesses of a police unit (SARS). They organized themselves through social media, raised money, entertained and fed themselves and even cleaned streets after their protests. They rallied Nigerians in diaspora (and foreigners) to support their cause and solidarity rallies were held in foreign countries, all enabled by their effective use of social media.
Our best was seen in the government when they met with protesters, listened to their demand and immediately began to implement those demand including disbanding SARS and with States setting up panels of inquiry. It was probably the fastest positive response on record by any government in Nigeria to an agitation by Nigerians.
We saw some of our best after the Lekki incident, when military officers, rightly reading the enraged mood in the country, engaged citizens in their neighborhood, to appeal for calm and assuring of their intent to only keep the peace. We also saw some communities and youths rise up to defend their heritage (e.g palace) and police stations against attacks by hoodlums and criminals.
However the month also saw some of our worst including the armed attack on the defenceless peaceful protesters at Lekki that led to injuries and deaths. Also is the attack in Abuja by armed gangs in supposedly counter protests.
Our worst was also seen in the killing, lynching and burning of several policemen and soldiers in many cities. We also have seen the sad raping of girls, freeing of criminals from prisons and inter-tribal skirmishes in several part of the country.
We have also seen our worst in the burning of buildings, buses, cars as well as the looting of banks, malls, supermarkets, shops and private residences including a palace. Covid palliative warehouses and grain silos have become of a particular interest as a looting orgy spread across cities as they learn from each other from social media. A question is what next will they go after?.
Nigerians (home and abroad) have been divided throughout the month in their assessment of the situation, in three broad ideological categories;
(1) Supporters of protest going beyond EndSARS to include systemic issues and with the extremist of the group egging even for regime change.
(2) Supporters of the protest limited to EndSARS only and nothing more.
(3) Those suing for engagement and peace to avoid Nigeria sliding into anarchy (Syria, Libya).
Whilst the ideological grandstanding continues among the elite, the downtrodden have seized the moment to move en-mass, overwhelming security forces, who have in most cases just stepped aside for looters to have a free reign and in some cases even participated in the looting.
The country will not be the same after this period and we will benefit from a deep engagement and review of how we will move forward as a nation and solve some of our most basic fundamental issues (poverty, unemployment, health, education, etc).
October is the autumn month where in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the clock is set back by 1-hr to rebalance hours of darkness and light. Nigeria has seen significant light and darkness during the month.
It has been said several times in the past that whenever Nigeria gets itself close to a cliff edge, the country has a way to pull itself back. Hopefully the last remaining days of the month will gradually start to bring calm across the country, so Nigeria can start to heal and rebuild.
We pray for strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow!.