#ENDSARS: NIGERIANS SPEAK
Bekeme Masade-Olowola (Host): Hi guys, this is Bekeme and you are listening to the Good Citizen Radio Show. I was just listening to Chioma’s show and I was like, eh nawa o! I am so glad that my mother was not all of the things that I heard. I think my mum was a gangster. We are definitely nowhere near as bad as some of the things I heard. I mean, she had a very special smack in the middle of your back and you think about the day you are born, even though you were not conscious then. Anyway, I am panting because I have actually visually just raced up the stairs. It is a case of be careful what you wish for.
Again, this is the Good Citizen Radio Show, and the Show is brought to you by CSR-in-Action and funded by ACT Foundation, aka Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation, which is a grant making organisation dealing in the areas of health, environment, education and leadership. And that is why they sponsor the Good Citizen Radio Show because the show talks about Nigeria’s current challenges and that is what we are dealing with today with the #EndSARS that is trending all over the world, not just Nigeria, but all over the world. So that was why I said earlier, be careful what you wish for because, I mean, I have been one of the protesters, I have supported the course, and I am part of a women against SARS group, that is going around literally supporting these young people who are out there because we are Nigerians and we want what is best for Nigeria. We are not looking to cause trouble, we just want to make sure that this time as citizens of our great country that we are exercising our human rights as citizens of this great country and today to have this discussion with me is a woman who has been working very hard behind the scenes. Her name is Yemi Adamolekun, she is the Executive Director of Enough is Enough, she campaigns for better governance in Nigeria and is also a Senior Associate in the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
The organisation coordinates different groups, broadcast radio shows in 25 states and supports local initiatives. For example, working against violence in Katsina, reopening the health centre in Osun state, amongst other things. Now, as we are looking at this, Yemei is mysterious, that is why she does not talk a lot she just actions. Right as we were doing our research on her, we saw that one of the things she said to all Africa recently is part of why Nigeria is on this peaceful is because of the level of poverty. People are fighting over scarce resources, insecurity, distrust, people desperate to survive, etc. During the elections, Enough is Enough began its RSVP campaign encouraging people to register, select, vote and protect it. It also demanded more transparency in the National Assembly and participated in the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, following the Chibok girls kidnapping. Now a couple of things that you just jumped up is the parliamentarian issue. People have left #EndSARS, #EndSWAT and they are thinking that okay, our senators, why do we still have a bicameral you know into the system rather and why are they earning so much more why the earning ten times more than their UK counterparts? These are some of the questions that people are asking, why is Nigeria the way it is? We simply do not have money but we have money to spend on funny things and then this #EndSARS started when a young man was killed by the police force and we have seen more horrifying stories being retold over and over by young men, women, mature men, and mature women all over the country and enough is enough!
Bekeme: Yemi, welcome to the Show.
Yemi: Thanks for having me.
Bekeme: You are welcome. Can you speak up please? Okay, so Yemi, tell me what have you been doing? I know that you have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work, why do I say that? I went for my very first protest during this #EndSARS. Yes, I have done a lot of walks and you know, what we do is drive systemic change but for the first time I actually took time out of work to do this and I remember that I went because my friends Sisi had said ‘You know what? I am speaking to Yemi and I know that they are arranging for security and everything for protesters’. So, I mean, well done. So, tell me what have you been doing behind the scenes?
Yemi: Supporting young people is quite amazing, they have their own voice, they have their own sort of expression and that is the word I am looking for. I guess they are really just amplifying what their demands are, quoted as necessary to help them to frame how that could look, supporting, as you said, protests and making sure that people are protected as best as we can.
Bekeme: So, why do you think this movement has picked up like this? I mean, in the past, this is a very organic yet so powerful movement. I have seen everybody from Nigeria outside of Nigeria, and black Americans supporting us the way we supported the black lives matter. I have seen Taraji P. Hansen, all sorts of people literally waiting on this matter. And unlike Nigerians in the past who would I mean, so oftentimes when these kinds of things happen, people will say, it is not my business, I do not know what they are doing. We have seen people come from different classes of society, literally leave the things that they are doing and come out and then when you go to the ground, you see a lot of like I said, Sisi’s group Women Against SARS, for instance, has raised even so much money for this short time. In giving out food, people are tweeting all sorts Oh, Lekki food is sweeter than Gbagada food and all of that. Why do you think this time people have really come out and in droves and have supported this course?
Yemi: The major thing is that people are just tired. Do not forget that students have not been in school since January or February of this year. Pandemic came, we are in a recession, a lot of people have lost their jobs and this is builds up and it was a tipping point really and the interesting thing is that the young man that sort of triggered this reaction did not die number one, he was not even shot by SARS, Right? But this story came on social media that he was shot by SARS and something just kind of broke like you know what, enough. This is very different from other issues that was talked about like corruption, you mentioned National Assembly’s salaries, even some of the things in the past that people talk and get upset about, but not exactly enough to take action. But on this one, the emotional connection of looking down the barrel of a gun or someone telling you I will kill you and nothing will happen. So, because people across different socio-economic classes experiences police brutality and it was just like, you know, what, enough! And so, even though the sort of umbrellas is End SARS and police brutality, I think it is just much deeper, it is the reaction against the Nigerian state.
People feeling oppressed, people feeling harassed, people feeling pain in an environment in a country that just does not cut you any slack, you provide everything for yourself. It Just feels like you are struggling. Yeah, so, this just represents people being really frustrated.
Bekeme: I agree. I mean, I feel that way. I have never felt that way before. I do not think I have ever had to deal with SARS, but I know that I have not had any good experiences with the police. I was saying something of the sort to someone and he said, well, they are always hailing me when I pass. I say that in itself is a bad experience, like, why are they leaving their jobs and hailing you? Like for what? You know, why are they hailing you for what?
Yemi: Like expecting money or you have been good to them and given them money. Exactly. So, you see respect comes at a cost.
Bekeme: Yes. So, that in itself is a bad experience. I mean, I said to them, think about yourself in another country, how many times do police stop you to hail you? Hail you for what? Like, obviously, there is something expected, like you said, so we have talked about it and different people have said, okay, in different approaches, some people say well, you know what, they have suffered a lot, which they have, and when you look at the police salaries and you think about your own life, you wonder, how did they even survive on this? I mean, you hear that a person who has worked for over 17 years, is still in the 50-60,000 per month range, right? And you wonder how, how are they living their lives? And then people have said, you know, what, cut them some slack is because you do not earn as well and others are saying, okay, let us refurbish the police, like the state barracks where they leave because they do not look good at all. We see pictures on social media, people have come up with all sorts of things. And then they have been all sorts of demands going around, you know, there is the five points #545. I do not know whether you guys are behind that. And then I saw the #7to7. Do you see all of this ending?
Yemi: Interesting. So, teachers are not well paid, doctors are not well paid, they strike a lot yeah, university teachers, secondary school teachers. Nobody goes around trying to kill people.
Bekeme: They are not given guns.
Yemi: It is true. But it is more than not being well paid, let me put it that way. Yeah. The police officers over the years, rumours of them paying up to half a million to join the police force. It is not exactly, the police do not have a central database. The rumours that I have heard of someone being dismissed in Lagos, you pay money, you join the police, they pushed you to Katsina. so, you might not be in uniform as a police officer, but you will have your gun. So, there are a lot of rumours around how the institution itself is just so wrong with the service, but the fact that they do not have a central database is given the fact and that also ties in them not having a central database for people there.
Bekeme: Sorry to cut you short, but then it was heard that anonymous is hacking their database, they have a database really? woo!
Yemi: That is why you will find people go from station to station, looking for their family members, because it is not central that lets you know if you are having your person detained in Shomolu or VI police station, as the institution is a problem, the conditions of service are not very good. But I do not accept that as an excuse for murder for just a way that they deal with citizens. Because it is not the conditions of service per se, but the way they were set up from colonial days, police was set up as a tool of repression. So, they were trained to be aggressive, they were trained to suppress. So, if you remember, just as he said, in other countries when the police pull you over, ideally, I mean, we have seen footage from the US when they go rogue. But they pull you over, say good afternoon, David, are you alright? they talk to you. These ones they shout at us, they shout I am talking to you.
Bekeme: Especially when it is at night.
Yemi: Exactly. Oh, I have a standing rule. If I am driving after 11PM I have told God, if anybody stands in my way, I will run you over. The truth is because of this lack of trust, I do not know if you are a police officer or an armed robber at 11PM, because I just do not know. So, if you run in front of my car at 11, I am sorry. But anyway, so the way they are structured is this is not the outcome that is expected. So, the training and the orientation around how they deal and how they engage is not there. And then the conditions of living is also not ideal. That in parallel to how much money they collect from citizens on the road or SARS for example, and they take you to a police station or an ATM to get money. And by the way, I want to say this as well when people talk about SARS and the north and this whole conversation, the economic conditions of northern Nigeria and southern Nigeria are quite different. If you look at it from an economic construct, very few people can stop in the north and walk up to an ATM to check out 100,000.
Bekeme: Where is the ATM to go to?
Yemi: Even if there is, it cannot be compared to the way there is in say Lagos, Abuja some of the things that we have talked about. So, we need to think about which is why the larger issue of police reform is one of the demands. Yeah, better welfare. I mean, we found in the video talking about the police trust fund. Yeah. 5% of money in our Federation account.
Bekeme: And another 5% from all business revenue.
Yemi: Exactly. What is going on with this money? I look at it within advocacy from within the police. So, for me, those are the monies that we need to track down and those are the monies that need to go into fixing police welfare, including standards of living.
Bekeme: Yemi, on a mind’s eye, what must happen for the protest to stop?
Yemi: Easy, honestly. What I hear young people saying is show us that you are working. Because we did an infographic in the last five years, SARS has been dissolved, disband, reorganised every single year, but the distrust is high. Also remember the Sunday when SARS was dissolved, within an hour after, the police in Abuja were tear gassing, shooting and water bombing protesters.
Bekeme: And we have heard that they have been approaching people’s homes and taking people out of their homes.
Yemi: No, that was a false alarm. It happened but it was the regular police force not SARS. And it was, I think, one incident from what we were able to find out in Shomolu, yes, that they did arrest. But it was a fraction involving known cult members. Okay. But the issue then is just the distrust. So, there is an onus on government to show that we hear and the governor Sanwo-Olu in fairness to him, as I would say has done quite well. He showed up at Lekki Toll Gate, he showed up in Alausa and gave them to President Buhari. Yesterday he set up a panel, today Kaduna has also set up their panel. Now, one of the things, for example, is the panel. What is the terms of reference? We do not know yet? The name for what is the terms of reference. How long are they sitting for one week, two weeks, three weeks? Are we going to see it, like a live stream of a panel that everybody can follow what the process does permit for people to experience?
They just want to see a bit more detail to show good faith on the part of government. It has been over a week now and government has shown a reluctance, as like recalcitrant. Thank you, but the English word that I wanted to use, they are dragging them kicking and screaming, what is obviously the right thing to do. They are just saying stop killing us, show that you understand and show that you are putting things in place that these things are going to stop. Obviously, I mean, the police is a symbol of a larger dysfunctional governance system that we have. But a lot of these reforms are longer term. Yes, for us to show that you understand what we are talking about. You need to show good faith.
Bekeme: Absolutely. Thank you Yemi, we are going to give opportunity for our callers to call in on the show. But thank you so much for your contributions and keep on doing the great work that you are doing. We see you and we appreciate you. Thank you very much.
Yemi: Thanks for having me.
Bekeme: You’re welcome. Bye. Bye.
Okay, so you have been listening to the Good Citizen Radio Show brought to you by CSR-in-Action and funded by ACT Foundation and the number to call is 0700923923923. Again, the number to call is 0700923923923. So, I have been following this a lot. Like I said, it was my very first protest. And I have been very excited. It was very exhilarating. And I actually joined them I was hanging out with everything because you know, I kind of I got it. I do not get to see stars in my everyday life. I go to work, come back. Somehow I do not fit the profile, because apparently most people have dreads or you wear flashy trainers, usually on the street, so, I have a call. Hello. Hello. Hello.
Caller: Hello, good evening.
Bekeme: Good evening. Thank you for calling the Good Citizen Radio Show. What is your name?
Caller: My name is Brian Okpara.
Bekeme: You turn down your radio, please. Hello, Brian, what is your contribution?
Brian: All right. I wanted to say something on what you just said about SARS concentrating on people with headband, tattoos and all that. Now, I will give you a life experience of mine. I was late for work sometimes around three or four months ago in Benin. I am actually a corporate worker so, I see no reason for anybody to double cross me without a reason, no notice for careless driving or no issue.
Bekeme: Were you driving walking?
Brian: Yes, I was driving. I had to stop. Yeah, no matter what, I do not know, whatever you want to call it. And I am in the medical profession. After asking what the problem was, they kept on asking uncomfortable and unreasonable questions, I demand an explanation to this, to God who made me, I was beaten up that day,
Bekeme: Ehn, because you dared to ask a question, because you knew your right.
Brian: Yeah. The truth about it is you know SARS thing is a complete failure, it is an embarrassment to the Inspector General himself if I must confess.
Bekeme: Absolutely. Absolutely. Somebody has to take responsibility.
Brian: I have been in traffic for the past four hours, and I am driving happy. Because it shows that there is something happening for everybody to feel the pain. The rich, the poor, wherever you are, feel the pain. That every other person is stealing in this country, and yes, it is not going to end the SARS, it is not going to end the SWAT. It is going to be positive in general.
Bekeme: Thank you, Brian. Thank you so much for calling. I feel exactly the same way that you do. And it has been an exciting moment in our history. The famous lazy Nigerian youths, we have actually stepped up and shown that, you know, we have something beyond what the elders expect. So, you see, times generations keep on moving but you know, we expect the same kind of behaviour across generations. But, you know, people know how to do things differently and that is why they have come out and they have spoken up and I appreciate everybody who have taken time out to support this in some way on social media coming out on the streets, the mothers, the fathers the churches, other religious organisations. Thank you all so much. I think that one thing that we must do is that we must show that we are committed to the Nigerian vision. And you know, it is great to think of carrying a Nigerian flag and please do not start carrying flags and don’t destroy properties. This is a peaceful protest. We are demanding our rights and we have to do it in decorum. No drugs, no alcohol. You know, we just want the government to give us what is our due, give the police what is there due as a police to respect themselves because we will keep on telling us you know, the police are members of our society. So, if they are behaving like that, then that means our society is warped. Well, that means you have to show the rest of the country and the world that you know, we are Nigerians. Thank you all so much for listening to the Good Citizen Radio Show. If you are out there, you are inconvenient in some way, take it with your chest. This is the one time that this will happen you know. This show is brought to you again by CSR-in-Action and funded by Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation. I hope that you will get to enjoy your Friday evening and keep on supporting the mission to make Nigeria great again. Have yourselves a wonderful evening. Bye bye