…says Nigeria must not be built on young peoples’ blood
By Dapo Akinrefon & Gabriel Olawale
Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare said Sunday said that the #EndSARS protest was a tip of an iceberg, saying that any attempt to resolve the issue must go beyond the surface to excavate the underlying factors that led to the protest.
Speaking during the State of the Nation Broadcast, Bakare said that no degree of brutal repression of protesters can quench the flame of protests in the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people.
His words: “Your bullets may drive them off the streets, but your bullets cannot pierce their spirits or puncture their resilience.
“Our overarching challenge is systemic governance failure which, over the decades, has worsened the living conditions of Nigerians. As a result, although the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has been disbanded, the spirit of SARS continues to prowl unchecked.
“For too long, the Nigerian people have been subjected to a less than desirable nation. For too long, the citizens of our country have been served insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment. For too long, our people have been denied access to the basic goods that make for a decent standard of living. We have been denied quality education, good healthcare, quality roads, access to electricity, and much more.:
Bakare, who is also the Convener of Save Nigeria Group, in his message titled: ‘The building blocks of nationhood: A blueprint for the new Nigeria’ said this at the church’s new auditorium in Oregun.
He, however, appealed to the youths, whose patriotic spirits have been brutalised and traumatised by a repressive Nigerian state, not to lose hope.
He said: “I salute the courage of this unbreakable generation; I salute the resilience of every Nigerian youth, named and unnamed, who has stood up to be counted in this momentous era. I remember at this time the heartbreaking tales of extortion, torture, rape, and murder that drove our young people to the streets in the first place.
“Our hearts bleed at the memory of the peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate who were shot and killed on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, by the Armed Forces of the Nigerian state as they held up the Nigerian flag. May their souls rest in peace and may God comfort their families.
“In like manner, we also remember those unsung heroes of the Nigeria Police Force who, despite being part of an institution that has the worst reputation for corruption and ineptitude in the Nigerian public sector, serve with remarkable professionalism and bravery, sometimes doing so at the cost of their lives.
“I encourage them to keep hope alive because the Nigeria of their dreams, the New Nigeria, is within reach. I appeal to the older generation to speak up at this point in defence of our hard-earned freedom. This is not the nation our founding fathers lived and died for. This is not the nation we fought for in the trenches of pro-democracy movements.
“This is not the nation we hope to bequeath to our children. We will build this nation, not upon the altar of the blood of our young people, but on their visions and aspirations. I am confident that we can end the brutalisation of our people, put an end to the State-Aided Robbery Squad, and begin the process of nation-building.
“It is time to turn the stumbling blocks of our past into stepping stones to our future. Let us, therefore, arise to build a great nation, that all who have died in the quest for a new nation will not have died in vain, and that the Nigerian dream will become the Nigerian reality.”
Bakare also acknowledged the efforts made by the government to address the protesters’ demands, saying “government must move from commitment to full compliance in the implementation of the 5-for-5 demands of the EndSARS protesters and in overhauling our policing architecture. Above all, I strongly recommend that President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full weight of the law. The officers who carried out such wicked acts should also be prosecuted under international legal standards.”
Why older generation need to apologise
Also, the former Vice Presidential candidate, apologised to the younger generation on areas they think the old generation have failed them.
He said: “At independence, we inherited a promising nation, but we are bequeathing a predatory nation to the young generation. We inherited a nation whose structural foundations were built on principles of true federalism, a nation in which the diverse groups had the freedom to determine their destinies
“But we are bequeathing a unitary nation, federal only in name, in which subnational expressions are suppressed by an overbearing centre. We inherited a nation in which free and functional basic education, as well as affordable and quality tertiary education, guaranteed the path from penury to prominence, but we are bequeathing a nation whose educational system is lying-in-state.
“We inherited a nation where a young graduate was guaranteed immediate employment with housing and a car loan, but we have bequeathed a nation in which our youth are largely underemployed, unemployed or Yahoo-employed. We inherited a relatively secure nation characterised by a thriving nightlife and a peaceful village life, but we have bequeathed to the younger generation a society grappling with kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, and police brutality. We inherited a banner without stain, but we have introduced a new colour to our green-white-green: blood red.
“This is why there has been a definite generational spin to the protests. It is why we hear rallying cries like ‘You messed with the wrong generation.’ It is why young people are telling stories of how they went out to protest in spite of the warnings of their parents. It is why you hear the indicting lamentation: ‘If before I was born the generation that were there had fought for a great Nigeria, I won’t be here doing this.’ It is why some protesters have asked why the likes of Prof. Soyinka, Tunde Bakare, Oby Ezekwesili, Pat Utomi, Femi Falana, the so-called ‘senior activists in Nigeria,’ are not on the streets.
“To citizens of the young generation who are disappointed in the older generation; to those young freedom fighters who believe that the generation of their fathers and mothers has failed them; to those young Nigerians who have stood up to oppression; permit me to stand in the gap to apologise on behalf of my generation and the older generation for the undesirable state of the nation you were born into.
“We salute your courage, and we applaud your resilience. We hear you, we share your pain, we share your story, we share your dreams for a better nation; and, although you may not realise it, we did our best to fight for you.
Fighting to ensure that you live in a nation where you can even air your views was what sentenced Prof. Wole Soyinka to twenty-two months in prison, Chief Gani Fawehinmi experience decades of harassment, assassination threats and thirty-two episodes in detention among other patriotic Nigerians.
“My quest for a better nation than the one I met, was what exposed me to the harassments, defamation of character, arrests and threats to life that my children witnessed their dad being subjected to as they grew up in this country.
It is obvious that the fight of my generation and the older generation has not yielded the Nigeria that you, the youth of our nation, can be proud of.
“We should be encouraged by the fact that every battle won is a step taken in the direction of a better nation. The fight is a progressive one, and every generation must contribute its victories. The battles won by the generation of your fathers and mothers has become the launchpad for you to fight and win this battle for the recognition and preservation of the dignity of the human being.
“Citizens of our great nation, to build the Nigeria of our dreams is a collaborative responsibility. We must not pitch one generation against another. Generational integration, rather than generational shift, should be our strategy of choice. As I have said in times past, the hindsight of the older generation must propel the foresight of the younger generation. Nation-building is a continuum; there must be a unity of purpose across generations and across regions.
The Nigeria of our Dreams
“We want a Nigeria where the right to life is sacred and no one is brutalised or extrajudicially murdered; where no one goes to bed hungry and no child is left without access to quality education.
“Nigeria where our homes, schools, streets, villages, highways and cities are safe and secure, and Nigerians can work, play or travel with their minds at rest, and go to bed with their hearts at peace; a Nigeria where our hospitals are life-saving institutions and every Nigerian has access to quality healthcare; where no youth is unemployed and our young men and women are job creators.
“Nigeria where businesses thrive on innovation and made-in-Nigeria goods can compete anywhere in the world; where homes and businesses have access to uninterrupted power supply, and ideas are facilitated by functional infrastructure and cutting-edge technology; where no part of our nation – North, South, East or West – has a reason to feel marginalised, and where every Nigerian is proud to say, ‘I am a Nigerian;’ a Nigeria that is a model for Africa and a beacon of hope to the world – that is the Nigeria of our dreams; the Nigeria we must come together to build.”