The protest started well in the ancient city of Benin, as with every other part of the country where we saw well organised and coordinated youths, focused on the issue at hand – ending SARS! They showed sympathy to those that deserved it, shared food and drinks freely, were prayerful, cleaned the environment, and were largely peaceful, though showing no regard to other road users and many groups joined the protests for different reasons and goals.
Protests had progressed calmly for over 12 days with the government listening and trying to ‘Soro Soke’ in resolving issues raised.
Incidentally, we were just getting used to the new slogan of ‘Edo no be Lagos’ which we believed would become more established as we moved toward the second term movement of the incumbent boss in Edo State Osadebey house, but the new slogan re-echoed again and hell was let loose.
The Benin situation got worse with the hijacked protests leading to bonfires everywhere, extortion, looting, arson, burning and carting away of firearms from Police stations, prison breaks and then a 24-hour curfew! Even Michael Scofield would have been puzzled as to how prisoners broke free (or rather, strolled free) from supposed maximum security facility – possible contender for a page in Guinness Book of World Records.
The Nigerians in starched green government uniforms, who have largely been idle in this part of the country, were asked to commence immediate press-ups and get ready to flog any ‘idiot’ that has cotton buds stuck to his or her ear lobes. Interestingly, l have not seen any of the khaki boys because I just got hooked up inside my ‘bunk’ with my bucket of garri and freshly delivered honey, but I can guess the look on their faces…A clear chance to stretch the body. Crocodile wan smile for this correct operation! I would have loved to see how Nigerian crocodiles smile, but many loved ones, including my aged mum have called me to respect myself.
I’ve always heard words like lawlessness and insecurity, but yesterday 19th October 2020, they took a whole new meaning when I saw prisoners escaping effortlessly from maximum security jail facilities, with police stations, vans and uniforms set ablaze. Our police friends who are supposed to protect our lives were running for their own dear lives. Custom service officers, vehicles and various makeshift abodes were not spared. Shops of innocent Nigerians were looted and some burnt down, while horrifying destruction of government buildings, vehicles by fire were carried out at random by the raging masses.
Good Lord!!…I never knew we had so many youths in the ancient city of Benin, despite the mass exodus outside the country. Angry youths, highly mobile, hungry, deadly, fearless, educated, illetrate, ugly, handsom, pretty but all frustrated, moving in unison with crowds watching, filming, some even put on seized uniforms and strolled with them while others helped themselves to whatever they desired – from releasing inmates, to stealing police boots and riffles!…Yes, l felt real fear yesterday!
Then came the expected 24-hour curfew which still seemed to have caught most people unprepared people by suprise. Petrol filling stations, banks, markets stopped operation and Edo state was placed on total lockdown with less than 4hours notice.
The only option for residents now is to manage whatever they have because no one knows how long Mr Curfew and Smiling Crocodiles will hang around with us.
A big question now is ‘what next?’… do the maths yourself: freed prisoners + hungry angry youths + loaded riffles + police uniforms – burnt police stations = x. Find x?
Of course, there is a bigger ‘X’ that is more important for us all, to find… COVID-19 pandemic worldwide + global protests + lawlessness everywhere + increasing insecurity + growing critical times = ‘X’
In the interim let us consider the fact that we now have a huge number of escaped prisoners loose within our society who have now swelled the number of extremely hardened bad boys on the streets with armed weapons looted from the burnt down police stations. Those watching from a distance should not pity those of us living in Benin city because it is said that an animal that has escaped from the cage will not want to operate in the same forest but rather look for a safe grazing place. Benin may be the safest place to live now. Those in neighbouring locations should start getting worried.
From what can be observed, Nigerian youths still have a long journey ahead. Though they have taken off very well, they do not know how to safely land to refuel and reconnect other areas. There is need for proper planning, and the drawing board should be within reach of all. I advise the youths to go back, get a board, plan and continue their journey to greatness!
The goal of enthroning good governance accountable to the millions of Nigerian youths and populace in general is clearly and definitely achievable!!
Momodu Dauda (MD) writes from Benin, Edo State
Aledeh News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s