Your reading of the #EndSARS protest is wrong and your announcement of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit at this time of righteous anger comes across as a failure of thought and perception.
Almost every Nigerian know, how untrained and unethical the Police are. Bribery “obtaining” has become an established norm. What is at issue with Millennials is the profiling of the right to expression. The right to dress as deemed fit or individual appearance is derived from freedom of expression, guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The right to wear dreadlocks, tattoos, sagged pants, statement jewelry and much more is a guaranteed constitutional right.
That young men and women are profiled, searched and their belongings confiscated (stolen really) from them is a violation of their fundamental right to expression. Unwarranted search and seizures is a violation of the right of citizens to be secured in their bodies. Such violations constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
How did we get to the point where a young man cannot carry a laptop in his backpack? How did we become a nation where four young men cannot be in a car without being harassed, arrested, tortured or even get killed? These are the modus operandi of your officers. It is so uniform and coded that we, the public believe it is the police operating manual. Is every millennials of the male gender a Yahoo boy? If he is a yahoo boy, is brutality the answer?
Sir, in the age of social media, information travels at the speed of light. Your response was delayed. When it came, it was unimaginative, aggravating and a lesson in failure of optics and perception.
You seem unappreciative of the power of the mobile phone. The mobile phone has democratized information. Your military style, order barking ways of yore, is obsolete. It does not work for law enforcement in a democracy.
The youths see, hear and read about other countries. Today is not yesterday and the future will be different. You are attempting to re-create yesterday and that is the process leading to extinction.
Sir, forget SWAT. It is not going to work. The Police needs reformation. It is an old, decrepit, degenerate and decadent organization. Nigeria need to save the police from itself, to serve us better. That is not your job. You can’t give what you don’t have. Reforming the police is President Buhari’s job. Your job is to manage the current crisis.
Here are what you need to do immediately instead of grandstanding and “forming”.
- Apologize and take responsibility. A genuine apology is the best way you can move forward now. You cannot delay this any further, nothing will change the narrative.
In your apology, take responsibility. Stop trying to cover up your failures, it will only worsen the situation. After issuing a public apology, call youth leaders and promise to change police conduct and do something genuine internally.
- Be proactive and transparent – You know the police is bad. Acknowledge the overreach that has cost lives, loss of property and anguish.
- Always be in the know. Get ahead of the story sooner rather than later by having a professional PR team.
- Be humane and understanding. Nigerian are tired of lies like “disbanded”, “committee of enquiry”. These are very Nigerian way of buying time which is annoying. Instead of these activities without results, admit you will work to make things better. Show the policies you will put in place to effect change.
- Always prepare for social media storm. Create a savvy social media team to monitor storms, so you can move to douse it with reasoned response.
* Bamidele Ademola-Olateju writes from Lagos