It is fairly right to say that the #EndSARS protests achieved a lot, even though it groaned at some point when it was abused to purpose. Apart from forcing the replacement of the accursed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) with Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT), it also sub served other purposes, chief among which was exposure of the frosty relationship between the government and the youth.
Many had expressed surprise at the response and near total involvement of youths throughout Nigeria in the peaceful protests. Beyond police brutality, the protest was more a response to the seeming unconcerned attitude of the government to the plight of the youths. The no-thaw relationship between the government and the youths derives more from the continuous rise in youths’ unemployment and the realization that no effort is being made to involve them in government business.
Perhaps only a few state governors run youth-inclusive government in Nigeria. The Governors do not just encourage youth participation in government, but they also have significant number of them appointed into positions in their government. One of such governors is Chief Willie Obiano of Anambra state.
He may not enjoy this status alone as there are others who are equally involved, but he certainly did a thing or two that marks his government out as exceptionally youth friendly. The Governor has large proportion of those who attend his executive council meeting drawn from the youth.
To date, many commissioners in Obiano’s cabinet are of youthful age. Many more are in his employ as special aides. His Chief of Staff, Chief of Protocol etcetera are all youths. There are many other youths working in the government who are deploying their youthful energy and vision to drive the unique Anambra spirit.
Anybody conversant with development in the state, especially the state radio station, will notice an uptick in broadcast excellence since Obiano came on board. The Anambra Broadcasting Station (ABS) is a typical example where youthful vigour matched with vision has driven an otherwise moribund station to commendable height.
Perhaps, because most of the Governor’s aides are youths, service delivery in government has taken a turn for the better. Everything is done with promptness. The time between payment and service delivery has so improved that what took months to accomplish now takes days to achieve. The improvement might not have happened, if youthful energy and vision were sacrificed at the altar of lethargy and shortsightedness.
It is not any different in the State House of Assembly where two third of the members, including the Speaker, is a youth. Thus, popular bills do not take eternity to go through the necessary readings before they are passed. It is the same scenario in the National Assembly where those who fly APGA flag in the House of Representatives are all youths.
Again, a lot of youth empowerment programs are active in the state. So far, a good number of the youths have been taken off the street by enrolling them is one or two skill acquisition schemes. The establishment of the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) in 2014 ensures that take-off capital with low interest rate is there to shore up the working capital. To this end, most of the youths are gainfully engaged, while some are employers of labour.
To further engage the youths, certain agencies like Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade; Anambra Road Maintenance Agency (ARMA), Anambra Traffic Management Agency (ARTMA) Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) et al were brought into being.
The End SARS protest may have come and gone, but the memory lingers. It will not be presumptuous to say that the country runs a risk of violent protest if nothing tangible is done to address some of the issues raised by the protesters. There is still chance for improvement.