#ENDSARS and Lekki: What It Means

By Bunmi Makinwa

Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of 'leadership'
People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

For several days, I have been part of the millions of people across the world who watched, exchanged and commented on or initiated videos, photos, and read texts, articles on #ENDSARS protests in Nigeria and many places.

Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos stood out. It was one of the earliest sites of the protests. Lekki area in Lagos is known for its large youthful population. It attracts the young upward mobile, new rich, struggling, celebrities and entrepreneurs. There are also those people who want to be identified with novelty, and parents who want their children to be close to where the actions are. It has residential, businesses and leisure places, all mixed into often indistinct communities.

Lekki, often a short label used to name many disjointed places around Lagos Island, has provided a territorial expansion for the rather small Island that got choked with economic and social growth over many years.

As was observed in the past few days, Lekki has become a haven of social and political activism, not only a place for so-called youth who want to enjoy life. The young people from Lekki and the rich and poor areas around it became the signposts of #ENDSARS campaign that has put Nigeria under immense pressure. These young people became arrow heads of unprecedented campaign to end police brutality and poor governance.

The group of #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate created an atmosphere. They ate, danced, gave political speeches all day long and even late at nights. They prayed, preached, worshipped. They organized services for food and refreshments, physical exercise and relaxation, medical and counseling services and security. They raised funds, disbursed and accounted for them. They made revolutionary statements, screamed obscenities, issued threats – all things that young, vibrant people do.

It was all peaceful. The campaigners showed that it was possible to be angry, noisy, emotional and yet stay calm and non-violent. Online social media and services were their major rallying structure.

In several parts of Nigeria, #ENDSARS protesters also carried out activities. Many of the protesters were controlled and peaceful. In some other places, protesters were confused with interlopers, hustlers, hoodlums and hungry people who for their various reasons exploited the protests. There were allegations of cases of sponsored hooligans who attacked and robbed people, committed arson to the chagrin of many Nigerians and the genuine protesters. The violence sometimes generated other violent reactions, and chains of violence grew across the country.

EndSARS protest: Lagos loses N234 million to tollgates closure |
#EndSARS protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos

In contrast to the places that witnessed violence, throughout the days of protest, the Lekki Toll Gate site remained peaceful, steadfast, focused, determined to achieve its objectives. Lekki became a new symbol of young people’s organizational and agenda-led capability for initiating change. It would try the patience of Lagos State Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu who worked relentlessly to seek compromises and solutions, though with limited success.

The protest at Lekki prevented vehicular and human traffic flow; it disturbed normal life considerably, but it did not become a fighting site, nor did it become a place for heinous acts.

It all fell apart on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Firstly, a poorly planned 24-hour curfew imposed by Lagos State government gave little time for people to get home. Then as night fell, the usual lights and CCTV in the area were turned off. In the abnormal situation, military forces moved in and shot at protesters with what appeared and sounded like heavy military guns. It is not yet known how many people died or were injured. The civil and peaceful disobedience should not have earned protesters a long-term imprisonment, not even a life sentence. But they got fired on, condemned to death.

Is it the way to handle peaceful protests?

Nigeria | Lagos under 24-hour curfew to quell protests against Nigeria's  police - Africa
Chaos ensues after a last minute curfew is announced in Lagos

The incident at Lekki Toll Gate introduced a discomforting dimension to peaceful protests in Nigeria. It questions the integrity of its democratic practice built on 60 years of post-independence experience. No government should turn its armory against its own people, least of all its young people engaged in peaceful demands for change.

At this time, there are several investigative panels and committees looking into various aspects of the protests and actions taken by governments and security forces. It is critical that their work be done speedily, blame and punishment be apportioned, and remedies be applied. The main and initial focus on #ENDSARS an demands made by protesters should not be buried in the melee of issues – the protesters should reorganize and develop new tactics to attain their goals.

On 16 June 1976, South African policemen of the apartheid regime shot at students who took part in the Soweto Uprising and killed 13-year old student Hector Pieterson. The photo of wounded Hector carried by another student with his sister running alongside became a symbol of resistance. The incident radicalized South Africans who were against their oppressive regime. It increased the insurgency by militant students and young activists who sabotaged the government within. Many of the students left  the country to join African National Congress’ uMkhonto We Sizwe (the armed wing).

Here and now, Lekki Toll Gate and the various images and photos online stand out as embodiment of the new generation of young Nigerians desiring peaceful change, facing an ill-prepared security apparatus of an odious, inefficient government.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Facts and Lessons on Coronavirus

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for coronavirus

It is highly unlikely that you will be infected by Coronavirus, code-named COVID-19, according to prominent facts from the ongoing epidemic of the virus. This is not what you would think given the hysteria, myths and information that spread every day on the disease.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans or animals. Among the most well-known coronaviruses are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Swine Flu. The most-recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease and has been code-named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is known so far to have originated from an animal.

Prevention and avoidance of infection is easy and possible through simple actions that each individual can take, and which organizations, companies and communities can facilitate.

The chances of recovery from the disease are also very high compared to other recent viral epidemics. Facts and data on COVID-19 reinforce the positive conclusions stated above. Yet the spread of COVID-19 is real and new facts are likely to surface as the epidemic becomes scientifically more familiar.

The caricature of Chinese people as being carriers of COVID-19 is incorrect. Though the first known cases of the disease and the largest number of infections and deaths were in Wuhan in Ubei province of China, COVID-19 has appeared in at least 64 countries, three of them are in Africa – Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria.

Egypt was the first African country to report a Coronavirus case, a Chinese person who has since tested negative and has been discharged from quarantine. Algeria has two suspected cases and one of them was confirmed for infection. The two cases were Italians. Nigeria has reported a case and the Italian who travelled to Lagos on February 25 had his case confirmed on February 27. He has been quarantined at a facility in Lagos.

According to the government of Lagos State, the patient’s symptoms have subsided. It means that his potential to infect others has decreased. If the trend continues, he will be released as he will no more pose any danger to others.

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It is likely that more Africans will be infected by COVID-19 as time goes on, especially Africans who live in or visit places that have a high number of cases of the disease. For example, two South Africans were detected to have the disease on board the cruise ship, The Diamond Princess, in Japan. The Diamond Princess has recorded 705 cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths to date. It carried 3,711 people and was sailing from Singapore to Japan when the first case was discovered.

Unfortunately, infected people may carry the virus for many days before they show symptoms, and they can infect others. Infection takes place through droplets when infected persons sneeze or cough. Fomites, object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another, also may carry the virus through to others. Metals and metallic objects are said to be efficient fomites for COVID-19.

Estimates by credible organizations are that infected people have 98 per cent recovery rate from the disease. The two per cent of patients who die from it are predominantly vulnerable

persons such as older people above the age of 50 and most of them have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease or cancer. It means that young people have a very high capability to recover from infection based on what is known to date about the virus.

In a larger context, whereas SARS has 9.6 per cent and MERS has 34 per cent mortality rates, COVID-19 has about 2 per cent mortality rate.

How does one avoid COVID-19? Remember the following simple measures.

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Wash and rinse hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Do it frequently and encourage others to do the same. The hands are the major carriers of viruses and washing hands with soap and water properly kill most viruses. In the absence of water and soap, sanitizers are also effective but not as well as soap and water. Water alone if it is all that is available is useful but very weak as a cleaner for viruses.

Avoid touching the nose, mouth, eyes with hands. The hands pick up viruses and transmit them easily through these parts of the body.

Stay a good distance, about one metre or three feet, away from anyone who sneezes or coughs. The droplets from their sneeze or cough cannot reach you at this distance. Anyone who sneezes or coughs should cover their noses and mouths to avoid spreading droplets to others.

Fomites, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture, also transmit viruses. In public places especially, use fomites sparingly and clean hands frequently when public objects are used.

Stay at home if you feel ill and seek medical care as soon as possible if the illness persists.

It is important to be informed and to obtain new information on the new virus. However, avoid misinformation and myths. For example, the WHO recommends the use of face masks for those who are taking care of patients with COVID-19 or for those who may have a cough, cold, or sneezing. Wearing masks is not a substitute for regular hand cleaning.

There is a lot of wrong information about the current epidemic given the power of social media that turns just about anyone into specialists. Each country has credible sources of information and there are various international organizations that competently provide information. Top of the list is the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, National Public Health agencies, and well-established, reputable media organizations.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Donald Trump: Not Good for America, or the World

By Bunmi Makinwa

Abrasive, accusative, aggressive and abusive, Donald Trump at initial stage of primaries for a Republican Party nominee for president of the United States, seemed a joke. He was notorious for having insisted that President Barack Obama was not born in the USA. As the number of contestants increased in the primaries, Trump was expected to drop out. Surprisingly, he kept on waxing stronger. Unopposed, he was nominated as presidential candidate of the party. He had sent his 14 rivals crashing out one after the other.

Donald Trump & Senator Ted Cruz (via slate.com)

The primaries witnessed unforgettable profane language, mainly dished out by Trump against his opponents. For example, he characterized former Governor Jeb Bush as having “low energy” and was “Dumb as a rock!”. Senator Ted Cruz did not know whether to laugh or cry when Trump posted an unattractive picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, juxtaposed against that of Melania, his supermodel wife. To Carly Florina, the only woman in the group, Trump said: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that as the face of our next president?” Senator Marco Rubio had taken to calling Trump “Big Don” whilst he was “Little Marco” to Trump, a thinly veiled reference to their exchange earlier on sizes of their masculine organs. Trump’s supporters hailed him as authentic, straight and not corrupted by the establishment. But around the world, media reports and many world leaders could not comprehend how Trump could be America’s best candidate for any office, least of all aspiring to become president of USA.

In December 2015, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron disagreed with Trump’s comments on London police, and called them “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that they “were ill-informed”. Sadiq Khan, who later became Mayor of London, said Trump “can’t just be dismissed as a buffoon – his comments are outrageous, divisive and dangerous”. Britain, the closest ally of USA is hardly known to express such official views on American presidential candidates.

But Trump was unusual and his personality draws ire, as it attracts unwavering following. “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said of Trump. “His discourse is so dumb, so basic,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Mexican President Enrique Pena said, “That’s the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived.” “Trump is an irrational type,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei. The numerous world leaders who admonished Trump included French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, and Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

Somehow, those who cried,”No” were drowned out by the “Yes” noise. Trump’s increasing high opinion poll in the USA was surprising, to put it mildy. Fawning crowd filled his campaign gathering.

Donald Trump at a rally in Dallas, Texas (via decodedc.com)

How could a country that has so much to offer be imprisoned by such limited viewpoints? America has produced more breakthrough research findings, more discoveries, more knowledge in almost any field of human endeavour, than the rest of the world combined. It is the country with the largest foundations, charitable organizations that give to causes and people in lands that some of the donors have no idea whether they actually exist. It is the land of refuge for most people where needs and hopes are met in more ways than they ever imagined. Yet Trump was against outsiders, tolerance and collaboration.

America is a democracy. It was founded and built on the notion of freedom, unfettered and unlimited, except by agreement in areas that are institutionalized. It is a country where to be yourself is real. And what is different is right…unless it is wrong.

The tension between theory and practice of democracy finds all kinds of expressions in peoples and places all over America. Trump is the “kick-arse” American. Loud, brazen, daring and with a must-win compulsion. Even when he loses he makes it look like he wins. Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography, said in The New Yorker magazine that if he were writing The Art of the Deal today, he would have titled the book The Sociopath. “Lying is second nature to him…More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true,” said Schwartz.

It is not what the world says or thinks that will stop Trump. The strongest opponent of Donald Trump is the phenomenon that Donald Trump represents, and that he champions. Among his unhinged believers it is necessary to be daring, angry, even obscene and, why not, fascist.

American Presidential Candidate Donald Trump (via thehawkeye.com)

There are many reasons why Trump’s election as president of USA is a major problem for America’s leadership position in the world. Here are five reasons his victory cannot make America great again.

Firstly, beyond the notion that a character of his type can emerge from a most admirable country, it would confirm that through a democratic expression of votes, such a leader could indeed be accepted. Trump, repulsive as he may be, would become the face of “real” America.

Secondly, it would legitimize the use of crude, abusive language in American campaign politics at a level never witnessed in the modern era, and perhaps ever before. Trump as presidential candidate during TV broadcast denigrated a female journalist, Megyn Kelly; mocked a handicap journalist at a campaign rally; dismissed the service of a most respected veteran of the Vietnam war, Senator John McCain; and disrespected parents who lost their son fighting a war for his country.

Thirdly, it would confirm that being a bully is normal, accepted, even admired by most Americans.

Fourthly, it will undermine the two-party system which is the basis of America’s politics. Trump has fragmented the Republican Party. His victory would help him consolidate the division and effectively he would re-mould the party as his new empire. Such a situation would render very difficult coalescence around the middle range where balance is attained; where neither far left nor far right can dominate, and where both right and left converge in elections that have been won in turns over time almost rhythmically by Democrats and Republicans..

Fifthly, Trump as president would put to rest the belief that a woman could reach the highest political office in the USA. Despite criticisms of her, Hillary Clinton has had the best preparation and experience that can be required for the presidency. Absent Clinton, the political horizon is not replete with strong possible female contenders. Not only would Trump’s triumph, if it happened, kill the enthusiasm generated by Clinton as a possible next president, it will send a message that the country is not prepared for such a change.

The 1920 presidential election was the first in which women were permitted to vote in every state, more than a century after men had dominated political life of the country. It may then take about two centuries before a woman would emerge as president.
Within the Republican Party, many have dissociated themselves from Trump and would like to see the end of the phenomenon that he extols. His attackers call him “insane”, “reckless”, “unfit”, “temperamental”, “racist”. He is seen as lacking patience, curiosity, knowledge, character, and balance. The surge against him from within is the force that can destroy the Trump phenomenon.

The view that Trump and his views represent America is not false, nor is it correct. This is the crux of the matter. In fact, it is the paradox of the country’s democracy. America is like the pendulum of grandfather clock. It swings between two tendencies, right and left. But it does not hit the walls of the clock.

Buhari And Roots of Corruption

FIFTY-FOUR per cent of the voters in the March presidential elections wanted “change” and they chose President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to bring it about.

For change maximalists, change was expected to start with a storm that left no stone unturned. Change was to be a clean sweep of all that they saw as wrong; a visible show of business unusual where politics is done differently and new policies and actions were to appear.

For change minimalists, the departure of PDP from power at the centre in Abuja and enthronement of APC was change already. The replacement of former President Goodluck Jonathan with President Muhammadu Buhari was a breather that signified progress. Sooner than later, other major changes integral to Buhari and APC would manifest, they reckon.
The new government is acting decisively and visibly and strongly on two major planks of the campaign promises – stopping Boko Haram insurgency and fighting corruption. Unless corruption is put at bay, even the efforts against Boko Haram will be inconsequential. President Buhari, with the best of intentions, cannot and should not fight a “lone” battle against corruption, nor should he aim only at short-term goals within his mandate period. Corruption has become endemic and both its roots and trunks must be removed. His ongoing actions at the trunks should go further to the roots.

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