It seems the crisis enveloping Nigeria is such that there must be a new and different manifestation every week. This week, it was protest against excesses of a fragment of the police by the name Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS).
Obviously a legacy of the era when armed robbery was a defining dimension of insecurity, the SARS appeared to have redefined whatever task set for them as to begin to take life in alarming numbers.
It is one thing for citizens to encounter a nasty aberration such as uniformed personnel taking life, it is another thing how the nastiness is managed. Things have worked out in such a manner that the government has a crisis of reaction time. For some reasons, the government is permanently caught off guard by even the least complicated manifestation of authoritarian breakdown. A problem that could have been solved with a very sober statement from the seat of power is almost always allowed to degenerate to a crisis level.
By the time any statement comes at all, frustration and anger have accumulated to explosive levels, leaving bitterness in the minds of those who suffered what they should not have suffered in the hands of uniformed men and women recruited and paid to protect them in the first case.
It is either that people who should appreciate the implications of such paradox have no such appreciation or are too busy with other things to do what should be done to calm nerves quickly enough. But that is where the danger lies. It is from little street confrontations such as the street protests of the past few days that could one day develop rapidly into a major breakdown of law and order.
Already, all manner of conspiracy theories are circulating about the conduct of SARS. It is possibly true only a few SARS operatives engage in brutalizing citizens when under arms, but that possibility is not part of the narratives already circulating about hidden agenda and so on. It may never be possible to stop conspiracy theories but it is very cheap and easy to provide convincing clarification and de-escalate mounting tension.