Amidst the renewed clamour of police brutality and the imperative of reforms , popular singer Azeez Fashola ( Naira Marley), announced a civil protest for Tuesday via his Twitter handle . On Monday evening , Minister of Sports and Youth Development , Sunday Dare , replied and appealed to him to shelve the rally because , according to him , the grievances against SARS are being addressed at “the highest level of government .
” In lieu of the march , the Police Force PRO, DCP Frank Mba , snagged an Instagram Live Chat with Naira Marley on the issue.
Aside from Naira Marley, other newsmakers have voiced their misgivings against social oppression in the country .
Whether it is singer Ayodeji Balogun (Wizkid ) telling off the President , Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd . ) , when he wished his US counterpart , Donald Trump , quick recovery from COVID – 19 or Pastor Enoch Adeboye calling for Nigeria ’ s restructuring , these well -known people are speaking to the chaos that befuddles the country.
That a high – level aide like Garba Shehu , responded to Adeboye with a “ warning ” is proof they are feeling the heat of the pressure from all sides .
Also , for the Force PRO to defuse Naira Marley’ s planned rally with a hastily – arranged social media dialogue suggests they are not entirely impervious to the ongoing agitation.
Now, I must admit that I find it interesting how these government officials responded to Naira Markey. In 2017 , another popular artiste , Innocent Idibia (2 Baba ) , announced a mass protest against Nigeria’ s perennial issues of poverty and insecurity .
He had to cancel the demonstration after the police reportedly warned the organisers about the fallout . Just last month, the media reported that some officials of the Department of State Services had questioned another set of popular artists , Don Jazzy and Tiwa Savage , over their so – called political utterances against the regime of Buhari .
If high – ranking public officials decided to approach Naira Marley with moral suasion rather than the usual threats and intimidation , they probably understand that the average Nigerian youth sees him as a representation of a truth that cannot be easily broken with their usual tactics of force and violence .
But what could that thing be?
Like him or hate him , Naira Marley has a huge following among young Nigerians.
For a younger generation that sees the chances their parents missed when they held up their self – righteous noses at Fela ’ s antics in the ‘ 70s and the ‘ 80s , Naira Marley seems like an opportunity to participate in what passes for a revolutionary culture in their own time and also a chance to irritate their parents.
In searching for a contemporary ideology that packs the punch of anti – authority and delinquency , Nigeria ’ s Generation Z found Naira Marley.
His issues with the police resonated with them enough to make him an icon of the extent to which anti – social behaviour could be dramatised .
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He might not have the rhyme and reason of Fela , but even that lack itself is an important part of what makes his music popular .
When you are a citizen of a country whose best years are always seen through the rearview mirror, and you also belong to a generation whose vision of an ideal Nigeria is only seen through the wistful longings that light up your parents’ eyes as they talk of the good old days , aesthetically vacuous art becomes appealing because it captures the sense of loss and longings around you .
Perhaps , the tendency of the Marlians towards nihilism contributed to how government officials approached Naira Marley with more deference than they offered his colleagues . Maybe, it occurred to them that if Naira Marley were to be allowed to lead public protests and his followers join him , what could result might overwhelm the police .
The kind of bad press they would even receive both locally and internationally if they turn teargas and guns on Marlians , a generation with their fingers fast on social media buttons, could sink their regime faster than it did to the apartheid government in South Africa .
So they chose to be conciliatory .
The Force PRO patiently explained on Instagram Live why they could not just scrap SARS.
This unit combats criminal gangs , and needs to be retained so society does not dissolve due to violence.
By the end of their conversation , Naira Marley was already talking about police reforms .
While the police choosing to engage in dialogue is a useful development , we should also come to terms with the fact that an organisation like the police is unreformable . It is not an aberration that in societies where police brutality is pervasive , it is also more than likely that they have histories of exploitative systems of colonialism and slavery .
Whichever of the lot their history might have been , their police system was likely put together to protect the powerful from the rage of the disempowered.
Similarly , Nigeria ’ s modern policing system was founded on the colonial ideology that sought to protect the white colonisers-and their rich and elite – from the black natives who mostly happened to be the poor masses .
The founding ideology of the police has always been the maintenance of social divides .
Even though they have professionalised as law enforcers , their mindset of enforcing an exploitative system of extraction , taxation , and forced labour through violence still holds.
Yes , the police arrest alleged criminals and even see to it that they are put away , but that is incidental to their actual calling.
Their real job is to protect the powerful from the effects of dispossessing the masses just like colonisers did . Agents of the colonial government used some moderately- educated natives to enforce “ law and order ” in the colonies the same way modern- day colonisers, our rapacious leaders that is, are insulating themselves from public rage.
They take poorly -educated Nigerians , dehumanise them with poverty , place deadly weapons in their hands , and ask them to police the streets .
Who does not know that the real crime that happens in Nigeria takes place among those in power?
Yet , all the people who should be in jail for robbing Nigerians of both their wealth and their dignity have police escorts ! Nigeria is an open crime scene where the big – time criminals are fully armed with armed police officers.
Their job is not to prevent crime , it is to regulate who can commit it .
When they say they are maintaining law and order , they do not mean getting the general society to adhere to laid down rules.
They quell dissent so that powerful people can sleep at night .
Meanwhile , on this # End SARS campaign , have we not been here many times?
Just two years ago, did VP Yemi Osinbajo , then as acting President , not order then IGP , Ibrahim Idris, to immediately overhaul SARS, probe allegations of rights abuse against them , and set up a unit that is “intelligence – driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping , and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences , and nothing more ?”
The fact that we are still “ending SARS” should teach us the limits of what is possible under current circumstances . # EndSARS is fast becoming an annual fest for politicians like careerist Osinbajo to demonstrate how much they are in touch with Nigerian youths
There is no ending SARS, and no prospect of reform with the present police setup.
What they need is a complete overhaul and, in their place , should be founded an organisation that both understands the meaning of “ justice ” and also takes democratic rights seriously.
A police system that can arrest an atheist , Mubarak Bala , on the say – so of a random Muslim lawyer is a police system enforcing laws it does not understand .
It does not even consider itself accountable to the populace.
I have no criticism for Naira Marley and his choice to accept to go into dialogue in place of protest , but by the time he told his followers to accept reforms , he had been thoroughly pacified with police soft power.
His faith in the police is endearing, but there will be no such reforms .
Yes , there will be announcements of this and that change , such as the one IGP Muhammed Adamu has spelled out, but that is about it . Once the storm subsides , those SARS men will resume business as usual .
We will soon be back with the # EndSARS hashtag .
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