JUSTICE FOR OCTOBER 2020 ENDSARS PROTESTERS AND ALL VICTIMS OF POLICE BRUTALITY AND STATE REPRESSION
Release all #EndSARS Protesters still in Detention as well as all Political Detainees
Fight State Repression! End Capitalism!! For a Democratic and Socialist Nigeria!!!
October 2020 will go down in history as a month of revolt. It was the month Nigerian youth took the wheel of history, rolling it with the aim of opening a new page. While a new page of history wasn’t opened, the days of protest secured its place in our historical annals, something which will not be erased by the continuing propaganda campaign aiming to portrait the movement as hooliganism.
By Michael Lenin, National Coordinator, YRC
On the occasion of the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protest, the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) saluted all radical youth who stood against police brutality and state repression last year October as well as those who have continued to resist repression since then. As a report by the Guardian newspaper reveals, hundreds of youths arrested around the End SARS movement are still being held without trial in various prisons. The YRC calls for their immediate and unconditional release as well as all political detainees.
October, 7, 2020 saw a movement of youth begin, a movement that would shake the entire country for 13 days as Nigerian youths took the path of struggle. The protest was against the brutality of men of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), a special unit of the Nigerian Police Force initially formed to combat robbery and crimes but which had taken to committing crimes and robbing innocent youths. Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) played active role in this struggle through the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), the youth platform of the DSM. We produced thousands of leaflets, participated in the protests and also addressed protesters. The protest forced the Nigerian government to announce the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad which has an established record of notorious activities.
CONCESSION AND REPRESSION
However, this protest of youth did not only force the government to make compromise, it also forced the state to unleash vicious attacks on innocent protesters. The ruling class feared that the protest could spark off a wider mass movement, like the January 2012 uprising, against the status quo. The resulting violence exposed capitalist state for what it is – a tool in the hands of the capitalist class to repress the working class and broad masses and sustain the status quo of brutal exploitation and corruption.
Right from the inception of the protest, the government had started a coordinated attack on protesters, both with the use of the police and hired thugs to disrupt the nationwide protests. Ironically, during the protest against police brutality, men of the Nigerian police were deployed to attack protesters. In Abuja, the federal capital territory, the first day of the protest was met with police brutality; this continued until the last days of the protest where thugs were mobilized to attack protesters. Often these thugs were conveyed in official vehicles of the police. In Lagos, at the Alausa protest ground, armed thugs were conveyed in government-owned buses to attack protesters while police were directly used in some places in Lagos. In Osun, the use of thugs and police was adopted; innocent protesters suffered various degrees of brutality from government hired thugs while a protester was shot dead by a police officer attached to the Governor of the state, Gov. Oyetola. Sadly, we will not remember the brutality of the capitalist state and its apparatuses by this chain of events alone, they will be remembered for their full blown brutality on protesters done on October 20.
LEKKI SHOOTING- CONSPIRACY, DEATH AND THE PANEL OF DECEIT
Realizing that the resoluteness of the protesting youth had not been doused by its initial spree of attacks, the capitalist class took the path of blood and death while making talk of reform and consultation. Ultimately the protest of the youth was drenched in blood. This shows the character of the capitalist state – the ruling class’s profit and rule comes first before human well-being. Some hours before the shooting of protesters by men of the Nigerian army in Lekki, protesters in Abuja had been attacked by bloodthirsty thugs who injured many protesters.
One major company whose profit had been affected by the days of protest at Lekki tollgate is the Lekki Concession Company. This company has been overseeing the exploitation of motorists plying that road for years through collection of tolls from motorists. It is this same company that connived with the Nigerian government to maim protesters.
It can be easily recalled how the Lagos state government hurriedly declared a curfew, a short notice curfew. Obviously, this was a show of insensitivity to the resulting chaos such an unjustifiable sudden order would cause especially in a place like Lagos. Behind this insensitivity is a ploy by the capitalist ruling to drench the protest of the youth in blood. And they did. From all evidences, military men were deployed to the protest ground at Lekki tollgate and Alausa even before the time the curfew was meant to start. Before the clock could tick, the guns had been cocked; the bullets had pierced through innocent flesh. As exposed by different investigative reports, the LCC not only switched off its major CCTV, but also tampered with the recording done before it switched them off.
The Governor of Lagos State was the first to shed the crocodile tears for the ruling class and the first to change the narration of the true events, albeit unsuccessfully. The panel of enquiry set up by the Lagos state government and other states are nothing but panels of deceit. For months now, nothing has been achieved by the panels to get justice for the victims of Lekki shooting and victims of state repression in general across the country.
In fact, while the panel was going on, the state was busy arresting innocent youth its guns didn’t kill, the bank accounts of many key promoters were blocked. How then can one make sense of the words of Governor Sanwo-Olu that justice would be served. The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), had stated immediately the panels of enquiry was formed that the panels are incapable of ensuring justice. Today, the truth is glaring. Even the Governor of Lagos State who formed the panel never appeared at the panel for questioning, the appearance of the military was inconsistent, just as its words, until it stopped attending.
For us in the YRC, we believe that it is only a democratic and open panel comprising representatives of workers’ unions, human rights organization, Socialists, NBA, NMA etc that can begin the process towards justice. Therefore, following the failure of the various panels to give justice, we now need to build a mass campaign to fight for justice for the victims of #ENDSARS clampdown and police brutality. Such a mass campaign must avoid the mistake of the #EndSARS struggle by building a democratic and accountable leadership. One of the limitations of the #EndSARS struggle was its hostility to the idea of leadership due to the youth experience of the unprincipled labour leadership as wells as the corrupt leadership of the bourgeois political parties in the country.
The capitalist state continues to carry out all sorts of attacks on youth and workers activists, protesting students at Kaduna and Abia were shot at, many protesters are still languishing in jail while the horrific stories of police brutality continues. Police brutality can reduce if there is struggle but it cannot be defeated without also defeating the brutal and exploitative capitalist system. This is because in the final analysis, the police and the army are instruments of class oppression. Once again, the youth need to wake up to this reality, and begin to take the path of struggle, not just against police brutality but also against the economic brutalities like mass unemployment and public education underfunding created by the capitalist system and the class representing it.
Therefore, the campaign for justice for the victims of #ENDSARS clampdown and police brutality must also fight for gainful employment for all, unemployment benefits for youth as well adequate funding of public education. Also importantly, as some youths came to that conclusion after the ENDSARS protest there is need to build a mass political movement to struggle for political power. But this movement or party has to be based on a program and idea that support and guarantee provision of the basic needs of youths and working masses, not just on the basis of being youthful. This is necessary in order to challenge the rotten regime and fight for a way out, not only fighting corruption but also the very capitalist system which suffers repeated crises and does not allow the development of society in Nigeria or internationally.
Therefore, we call on the change-seeking young people to join in building the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as an alternative to pro-capitalist parties and support the campaign calling on the labour movement to assist in creating a mass party of workers and youth with a socialist program to wrest political power in order to replace the oppressive and exploitative system of capitalism with a socialist system through a socialist revolution.