BY Umar Ardo, Ph.D
Let me start, on behalf of myself, my family and political associates and supporters, by joining millions of the good citizens of this great country to commend our great youth for taking the initiative of organizing mass peaceful protests against police brutality and other ills of government on our citizens.
I am particularly well impressed with the ability of our youth to leverage on the advantages of technology and globalization to make the protests not only go viral globally but also generally very sophisticated.
The sophistry in organizing peaceful protests is no doubt an unmistakable sign of a new dawn in the progress of democracy in Nigeria. ThIs explains why Nigerian citizens readily lent their support to and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our great Nigerian youths.
Also, to the credit of the federal government, security forces were not initially unleashed on the peacefully protesting youths. In truth, the government at the beginning took a conciliatory stance and had demonstrated its readiness to make concessions. I want to commend the stance of the government in its initial response to these national protests. I earnestly urge the government to continue on this line and withdraw all forces later deployed.
While we all regret the unfortunate incident at Lekki, we must however be gladden by the show of solidarity to the protesting youths displayed by our gallant troops. All citizens of good standing should feel encouraged by this.
It is however both unfortunate and regrettable that such well organised peaceful protests which most Nigerians associated with have been allowed to fester, degenerate, deteriorate and even spiral out of hand into almost a state of anarchy. All of a sudden, the peaceful non-violent protests have turned violent with terrible news reports and video clips of rioting, breaking prison and releasing criminals, fighting, killings, stampede, arson, looting, destruction, etc. across the length and breadth of this country. This is unacceptable.
While we stand for and submit to peaceful protest as basic element of liberal democracy, we must also object and condemn all acts of lawlessness, violence, arson, looting and destruction. I therefore call on all our youth to uphold, entrench and engender peace and orderliness in all their actions.
On its part, Government must also discharge its fundamental duty of protecting and securing lives and property of Nigerians.
To this end, I strongly recommend to President Mohammed Buhari to as a matter of urgency immediately summon meetings of constitutionally established consultative bodies of National Council of State, National Defence Council, National Security Council, etc. for consultations. He should then address the nation and establish a wide and all encompassing by-partisan national committee of academics, youths representatives, business community, civil society, the labour, credible politicians of key political parties, etc. to deliberate and proffer concrete and durable solutions to government on the contentious issues in the country raised by our youths.
The committee is to be given 3 months to submit its report. The committee should serve as an institutional network and channel of communication for engagement, consultations and dialogue among the apparatuses and leaderships of all the key strata of the Nigerian society including eminent Nigerians, stakeholders, civil society organizations, intelligencia, opposition organs, community, traditional and religious leaders, etc.
It is my sincere belief that if government can act decisively on this, we shall be able to succeed as a nation in resolving this our current situation. Let President Mohammadu Buhari see this protest phase as a window of opportunity to act in stabilizing our great country. I appeal to the president not to fail to seize this opportunity. In the meantime, let the protests halt and let government act now. An informed engagement at this point, I am confident, will preserve, save and secure our country, our democracy and our future.