Sòròsókè (speak louder), represents agency activation of voice to know the unknown, clarify a confused state, and challenge negligence, right denial and injustice. On the flip side is ‘off-the-mic’, a tactical strategy to conceal the truth, ignore a genuine concern, silent opposition, frame constructive criticism as ‘corruption is fighting back’ and tyrannise being accountable.
It was Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabio while appearing before a National Assembly panel investigating alleged fleecing of billions of naira in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who was instructed to ‘off-the-mic’ to prevent further disclosures or clarifications on the beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
Since then, ‘off-the-mic’ gained ascendancy in national discourse. #ENDSARS Sòròsókè movement is therefore a protest against “Sarsism’ (a behavioural disposition which oppresses, extorts, brutalises, denies rights, annihilates, victimises and ignores the victimisation of the vulnerable) and every ‘Sarsious’ character within and across institutions in Nigeria.
After years of stomaching ruthless brutality of the police, under the watchful eyes of irresponsive, parasitic, unaccountable and apathetic government, the victimised youth of Nigeria decided to take the microphone from their parents who have been conquered by the ruling class to servitude. Unlike the forceful attitude of snatching and hijacking which characterised the ‘off-the-mic’ generation, the Sòròsókès exerted themselves on the public space previously occupied by their now compromised and perplexed fathers and mothers.
They neutralised divisive tools of religion, ethnicity and party affiliation to unveil the abundant resources lying untapped by Nigeria due to the activities of principalities and powers in high places. They exude empathy in their protest by helping the needy and vulnerable, they provide help to their tormentors, fought against state merchants who tried to hijack their coordinated activities which is not focussed on balkanising the country as their parents would want, but a reset country where justice will not only exist in the national anthem but be served to all social status, notwithstanding.
They desire a country where they will be treated as first class citizens and their voices are heard. They start their daily protests with prayers and national anthem, armed themselves with the Nigeria’s flag and matched on the streets demanding justice, reforms, accountability in governance and reduction in Salaries of Representatives and Senators (SARS) who gets complete budget allocation while sectors more relevant to the youth (Education, Health, industry) get poverty allocations.
Under the watchful eyes of the ‘off-the-mic’ (OTM) generation, Nigeria transited from a nation of promises with global reckoning to the land of dashed hopes presided over by wasters. Years of neglect and maltreatment created monsters in various institutions including the Nigerian police. The disbanded blood-sucking extortionists SARS grew to become high-handed due to underfunding and near absent governing and supervision system.
When you are asked to go on operation with your personal vehicles (just as many workers, including lecturers run Department with their money), you become unquestionable and become government on your own. In 2018, a paltry N35billion naira was appropriated for capital and overhead expenditure for Nigeria Police but N20billion was released! In the same year, South Africa allocated N1.1372trillion naira to her police. As at 2015, South Africa has 150,000 police personnel spread across 1,138 police stations protecting 53.4million peoples.
As at February 2019, Nigeria police had 302, 152personnel to guide 200million people in over 5,000 police stations. Note that half of this number is with the ruling class as aides. The remaining is depleted by deaths, retirement, and dismissal without replacement. Furthermore, lack of training compounds police woes. A retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Babatunde Ogunyanwo revealed that it is possible to find “officers of 30years of experience not having records of up to 8 years capacity building training instead of the projection of once or twice annual training.
This explains the deficiency in weapon handling, self-confidence and many a time poor human relations and quality service delivery”. A police constable in Kenya receives N126,404 while his Nigerian counterpart takes N50,000. The Inspector General of Police in Kenya earns N3,018,995.61 while Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police earns about N711, 498 naira monthly!.
At retirement, a Nigerian police officer who was earning N50,000 earns between N12,000 and N18,000 monthly. The IGP who earned N711, 498 upon retirement will earn between N150,000 and N177,000 as against the practice in sister agencies where you continue to earn your last salary even in retirement.
In this same country, a Senator earns N13.5million monthly, Ondo state Deputy Governor gets over N13million monthly, a University Professor gets paid N416,000 after spending twenty -five years in the University while a worker earns N30,000 as minimum wage. Like the rest of us, the ruling class created a monster in the police to keep them subservient and deploy them to ‘off-the-mic’ of those speaking up against tyranny. Even members of the public use them to intimidate and punish one another.
Do you think the youth are crazy for speaking up? Over 14million children are out of school; close to 2million write UTME yearly but about 500,000 get admitted leaving 1.5million to face wasted year. Constituting over sixty-percent of Nigeria’s population, the youth learn in poorly equipped institutions and sleep in zoo-like hostels. While many of the genuine #ENDSARS protesters are entrepreneurs, the prince of Daura de-markets them internationally as lazy cohorts! The unemployment rate is 27.1% with youth dominating the job hunting market. Many of them get duped by job scammers and get extorted when they report at police station. They meet destiny hijackers and wasters everywhere and very few assist them to get justice. Thus the #ENDSARS movement is a timely Shout Against Ruling Serpents (SARS) in Nigeria.
The history of postcolonial Nigeria has been a clash between the Sòròsókès and the ‘off-the-mic’. Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), NUPENG, PENGASON and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were all Sòròsókè in their glorious past. Except for ASUU who is battling to retain her voice; other pressure groups seem to have dissolved their structures into the ruling class.
In the 1970s, the conscience of the nation against bad government and sinister policies were Universities and their firebrand intellectuals. Then, University Senate was fearless. Fast-forward to 2020 and what you have is ‘off-the-mic’ Senate with lost agency; and Vice Chancellors who are invited to Abuja with text messages. On their own as Vice Chancellors, they ‘off-the-mic’ on Sòròsókès within the system and suspend students Union activities at will.
They are happy to have a docile student populace who cannot challenge abuse of their rights. It is as bad as rusticating students for peaceful request of amenities/resources which they paid for. Unfortunately, the same ‘off-the-mic’ Vice Chancellors need Sòròsókès like ASUU to fight to bring money into the system for its revitalisation.
Years of terrorising governance has made many to resign to fate and hold on to religion, forgetting that religious institutions are part of the ideological instruments of the State to preach against Sòròsókè in order to continue to benefit from the status quo. The Youth have shocked the off-the-mic generation of what they are capable of doing.
Despite killing of more than 12 of them and frantic efforts by the State to break their ranks and infiltrate them with thugs to discredit them; their togetherness and believe in Nigeria signpost a greater tomorrow.
The Protest may be hijacked by anti-social elements as livelihood opportunities get blocked by the protest. This may provide opportunity to activate state power to halt physical roadblocks.
Whichever way it ends, it is a symbolic rejuvenation of youth consciousness and their desire for a better country. ‘Off-your-mic’ and suffer in silence but never discourage those speaking loud against tyranny and Shouting Against Ruling Serpents (SARS) to reset the country.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent this piece via [email protected]