It is unlikely that the generation protesting police brutality today could be aware of the prediction of what they have been carrying out over a week now. But there is, indeed, a very precise prediction of it. It was a National Concord story in which Alhaji Balarabe Musa was saying that the police and land tussles are what will trigger a revolution in Nigeria. He was speaking then in the aftermath of police killing of the Dawodu brothers in Lagos. Precise date of publication is difficult to research and establish immediately but Barrister Timothy Bonnet, the National Concord regional Correspondent who wrote the story or some editors of the newspaper then might know the date of the publication.
It is sad that it has come to happen nearly exactly as the sage said, showing how the Nigerian system can misread or ignore warning signs, including even those issued by leading lights of the power elite such as Balarabe Musa. Now, the system is paying a price for such carelessness. The system is confronting a revolt they cannot even anaylse, much less understand. So far, they are resorting to largely archaic and unhelpful explanatory models in trying to come to grips with what is before them.
Some are looking at it from the perspective of those who are for it and those against it. It is an unhelpful view of the revolt because both supporters and non-supporters can equally come to individual or systemic harm or both from the revolt. Some others are employing legalism of constitutionally elected government and such stuff. They are those who find it difficult to come to grips with what is different from the world they imagine. For them, what is different is a taboo, something to be crushed with use of military force, perhaps. Good luck to such people.
Many are putting a North-South regional card on it, inferring a Southern agenda to get out a government headed by a Northerner. Quite many others are shouting it is one particular politician sponsoring an attempt to bring down the government. Some more are calling it an anarchic outing. And so on and so forth.
The truth is that this is nothing less than a revolution, coming in precisely the way social movement turn in radical politics in the post Cold War comes. It comes with all the pains and pleasures reflecting the diffuse nature of that pattern of radicalism. It is only a matter of entry point that it has been triggered by an #EndSARS take-off point. It could have been an #EndCorruption campaign or any other such issue
No regional or identity framework and certainly no legalism can analyse it. It is always difficult to manage because it is always a reminder to the establishment about the dangers of ignoring 99% of the population. The #EndSARS revolt is nothing less than this no matter how ideologues and partisans of the Buhari regime or regional chauvinists may hate this.
It is the form that revolutions take now – very diffuse campaigners politicise decay by articulating a single issue across many frontiers – youths, women, environmentalists, welfare seekers, campaigners against oppressive militaristic and authoritarian systems, labour rights and all such issues that mindless neoliberalism has provoked.
Because such huge coalitions are so diffuse and do not operate in terms of a vanguard party with a correct ideological line, with hierarchical leadership structures, a lot of things could go wrong with it but they always manage to send a message to the system.
The campaigns almost always end up a template changing intervention, provoking a social stalemate that always require re-arrangement of power somehow. Success in this case is rarely measured in terms of immediate outcomes but more in the template that emerges.
In this case, nobody can say that the #EndSARS revolt has not sent a powerful message to a legacy of selfish and greedy elite; a recklessly ruthless establishment, succession of backward leadership, extreme partisanship over critical issues of fairness, justice and equity and a system that has nothing to its credit in moral authority. From this moment, for example, it would be difficult to see just anybody advancing to be recognised as a presidential aspirant just because he is wearing Babanriga. Even that alone is something.
Calling it an agenda for anarchy can, therefore, be only a mark of sociologically underdeveloped analysis. Of course, it could produce anarchy on a large scale which everyone should work to avoid but it is not in itself an agenda for anarchy. It is not because even if the masterminds set out on that line of action, they are no longer in a position to guarantee that. Even those who started it can no longer determine how it will end and the consequences it will produce, immediately and on the long run.
That leaves the nation with confronting four potentially tragic outcomes in the revolt. The first is the unlikelihood of President Buhari re-inventing himself in the management of the revolt. Ordinarily, this is a golden opportunity for any smart president to seize through a massive, calming rhetorical response and creative populism. Unfortunately, neither President Buhari nor the people around him are equipped in terms of those attributes. The man himself has managed to make no inflammatory statements so far but the statesmanship required for extraordinary moments like this have not come from him and he is sure to lose this moment eventually. In any case, he cannot exonerate himself from provoking this very moment by his attitude and practice of power in the past six or so years. It is not surprising he cannot seize the moment. He is still making promises when a few dramatic actions could have spoken louder. It is possible he has no appreciation of this crisis beyond something contrived to chase him from power. Too bad!
The second tragic outcome is the very regrettable reality that we have all been in this country and were never aware that citizens have been going through systematic horrors in the hands of a certain segment of the national security establishment. All educated people are, therefore, guilty for not knowing this to have been the case because the sign of education is awareness of what is going on around the typical educated person.
It seems all of us have been reading the headlines lightly. When people encounter the DSS and come out saying they were not molested, it was assumed the security establishment had thoroughly undergone a lot of polish. So, once a while headlines of rough encounters with security operatives were mostly read as one aberration or another that the hierarchy would notice and intervene. The testimonies during the course of the #EndSARS protests have shown that police brutality was something beyond that. It is now clear such was going on all the time and in which a great number of Nigerians rather than criminals were victims. How did it escape popular censure in the communiqués and press statements of informed circles until it could trigger a youth revolt and almost exactly what Balarabe Musa predicted decades back?
The third plausible tragedy is that Nigeria does not say sorry to anybody. And so, many Nigerians die heartbroken from mental, physical and other injuries inflicted on them by the nation. Most times, such injuries are not even reported. The victims die quietly. Without pretending expertise in this realm of social life, is it possible to build a happy nation where so many die with so much bitterness which nobody within the system ever cared to listen to, recognise and apologise on behalf of the country?
The fourth tragedy that could come out is this. Nigeria lost the opportunity of a serious reflection on the Civil War and the lessons that could be drawn from that. It is likely to repeat that with the #EndSARS revolt.