According to research by the Daily Independent, the youth-led #EndSARS protest of 2020 may significantly affect the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
Indignation over the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a division of the Nigerian police, began as social media campaigns but escalated into street demonstrations in October 2020 as thousands of young people peacefully demanded good governance and the disbandment of SARS.
The peaceful protest which was well-coordinated by the youths, however, assumed a violent dimension when security agents, mostly soldiers on the night of October 20 attacked the youths at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
While the number of those killed and injured is being disputed till date, the unwarranted attack resulted in the transmutation of the peaceful protest into violent demonstrations, culminating in carnage and wanton destruction of economic assets across the country, especially in Lagos State.
Though the protest came to an abrupt end, the determined youths vowed to take active part in the 2023 general elections and put an end to bad governance in the country.
While the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed the threats of the youths as unrealistic given the fact that general elections have always been a two-horse race, the dynamics changed in May 2022 when Peter Obi, former Anambra State governor, joined the Labour Party (LP) and was elected as its presidential candidate. Obi’s entrance into the race was received with wild jubilations among the youths, especially the leaders of the #End- SARS protest.
Some of these leaders, such as Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigner, Aisha Yesufu, Rinu Oduala; popular comedian and activist, Debo Adedayo (Mr. Macaroni) and the music sensation duo, P-Square, have been mobilising support for him and encouraged youths to register, get their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in order to vote in the 2023 general elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which just concluded its Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) exercise across the country in its latest report disclosed that about 71% percent of the 12.2 million newly registered voters are youths.
According to the statistics released by the electoral umpire, about 8.7 million are between the ages of 18 and 34 while about 2.4 million are between ages 35 and 49. Those between ages 50 and 69 are about 856, 017 while about 127, 541 are over 70.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Festus Keyamo (SAN), Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said the outcome of the EndSARS protest will not have any impact on the 2023 elections as most of the issues raised by the protesters have been addressed by the Federal Government.
Keyamo, who is the spokesperson of the APC for the 2023 presidential election, said, “The issues raised at that time are still pertinent now. The government addressed almost all the demands of the EndSARS protesters except they had ulterior motives like we suspected at that time.
“They asked for a disbandment of SARS, it was disbanded. They asked for a retraining of policemen, it was granted and that is going on now.
So, I don’t see any anger in the land again because all the demands were addressed”.
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, disagrees with Keyamo, saying that the issues that led to the EndSARS protest will play a significant role in the 2023 elections.
Adegboruwa, who was a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, said most of the reports of the EndSARS panel have not been implemented across the country while the government has also failed to find solutions to the myriads of problems confronting the nation.
“The issues that led to the EndSARS protest will play a significant role in the 2023 general elections. This is because the electorate have become more enlightened. I believe this is what happened in Edo State where the ruling party paid dearly for bad governance. It was also part of what happened in Osun State where the poor performance of the governor at the state level and the APC at the national level resulted into mass rejection of the candidate of the APC”.
“So, the issues relating to the EndSARS is about the abuse of human rights, oppressive conduct of the police and this has escalated. As you are aware in recent times, a policeman used a cutlass to beat a citizen.Recently in Lagos, another policeman forcefully took the telephone of a citizen and started searching it and some other examples of rampant abuses of the fundamental rights of the citizens”.
“So, the issues that led to EndSARS have not abated. The way in which the government treated the outcome of the EndSARS shows that it was just a ploy to silence the youths and buy them over.
“All the states that submitted their EndSARS report, none has been attended to till now. No payment has been made by the Federal Government. The National Assembly that boasted that they will not approve budget unless there is payment to victims, nothing has come out of it. Those reports are gathering dusts like all other reports submitted to the governments”.
“The people are waiting to pay the APC government back in its own coin, not only for EndSARS but for bad governance, insecurity, the universities are locked up, aviation fuel has messed up the airline industry, people cannot travel on the road because of insecurity”.
“The trains have all been withdrawn because of insecurity, inflation is climbing up, foreign exchange is uncontrollable. It is like we are at a war front presently. I know that surely, Nigerians will pay APC back for this poor performance during the 2023 general elections”, Adegboruwa said.
In his reaction, Kola Ologbondiyan, immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, also said the End- SARS protest will have an impact on the outcome of the 2023 elections.
“It will certainly have. Nigerian youths will not forget how some of them were murdered in cold blood. Nigerian youths will pay back with their votes those who ensured that their fellow compatriots were murdered on that fateful night. No matter who the presidential candidate of APC is; no matter what they do, Nigerians, especially the youths will demand an account of their roles in the killings that took place in Lekki”.
On his part, Monday Ubani, former Second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), said the enthusiasm of the youths as regards taking part in the 2023 elections is highly commendable.
“What I have seen so far is that there is a resurgence of enthusiasm on the part of the younger generation to participate in the electoral process in Nigeria, going by their engagement on the social media and the passion they showed by registering to get their PVCs in order to vote.
“Whether the same spirit that was evident during End- SARS will play out in the 2023 elections is another thing entirely. This is because most of the leaders that led the EndSARS protest are already taking positions politically now, even in different political parties”.
“The guy that started the issue of EndSARS protest, Segun Awosanya, has been attacking the younger ones. So, most of them may be guided by their own interests and what will benefit them, not necessarily on the issue of getting new government in power”.