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IMN’s Audacity of Lawlessness-By Femi Giwa

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The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has succeeded where others failed. It has successfully branded itself as the victim, effectively casting the Nigerian state as the aggressor comparable to an occupation force. Those familiar with IMN ascendancy are possibly asking how a problematic group that unleashed hell on commuters and other road users in Zaria has today become an outlawed group that people are blindly canvassing for to protest, kill and destroy property without being held to account.

The answer can be found in several seemingly unrelated development that is yet connected – the one connection is that they all helped IMN evolve the persona of the victim, which now allows it to commit more crimes without its members fearing repercussions.

First is the ability of IMN members to continue hiding their penchant for lawlessness behind the façade of peaceful protests, which are anything but peaceful anyway. It is not unusual to see the group swell its rank with women and children while the hardened elements with catapults, swords and other cudgels stay embedded within the protests, these are the fighters that are able to launch projectiles at security agents without being identified as the source. The arson brigade of the group is similarly concealed, they spray paint graffiti on public buildings and private businesses while their other members are milling around to create a human screen that shields the destructive acts from public glare.

The other factor is the ubiquity of social media. Reports of successive encounters with law enforcement are recorded and reported according to IMN’s version of events. They have slick photography and video productions that are published and promoted to tell the IMN story – footages of militants hurling stones and petrol bombs at security personnel are carefully excluded such that the audience goes away with the impression that IMN could not have struck the first blow.

The social media feeds are further promoted by embittered commercial activists, who have other axes to grind with managers of the state so it is logical to have the “an enemy’s enemy is a friend” approach to things. Such emergency activists are thus hooked on defending IMN even when their crimes are glaring.

Thirdly, many may not know or believe it but IMN has a deep pocket, which some analysts had attributed to Iranian sponsorship. Anyone that has ever catered to the material and monetary needs of, say, four people at a time will understand what it takes to finance such; but here is IMN bankrolling the logistics of keeping thousands of mostly unemployed people on the streets for protests.

The deep pocket supports not just the transportation and feeding the protesters on the streets but also pays for the propaganda and media manipulation that created for IMN the image of a “harmless group” when in reality it is a dangerous group, outlawed in Kaduna state and teetering on the verge of becoming Boko Haram’s replacement. The Iranian support extends to sustained coverage on the owned Press TV, which creates short video clips that allege persecution against IMN.
Furthermore, IMN is a beneficiary of the tendency of decision and policy makers to be stuck on political correctness. What this implies is that those that should keep IMN in check in Nigeria continually commit and enslave themselves to concepts that are unrelated to the Nigerian situation.

It is not unusual to hear people demanding that IMN should be treated like groups that are non-violent because some people want Nigeria to be seen as being compliant with human rights conventions. This error is being reinforced by groups like Amnesty International that practically suggests that security agencies should leave IMN alone to torment other citizens. None of those pushing this kind of ideas has ever come out to condemn IMN for its excesses and crimes. The dictum seems to be “the state is always wrong where IMN is concerned.”

In addition, IMN has been emboldened by the Federal Government’s decision to not designate IMN as a terrorist group even when it has become glaring that this is an unavoidable step to contain the group’s growing resort to terror to make its points.

The outcome of the foregoing is that IMN has been able to embrace more lawlessness with each successive protest. If its members kill a policeman the next thing they will claim is that “we were demanding for the release of our leader”. They echo the same refrain when they set a police patrol car on fire. It has been the standard response they have for their numerous atrocities. One is then compelled to ask if Mr Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, the IMN leader is different from other awaiting trial murder suspects in custody awaiting judicial decisions or trial.
The fact remains that El-Zakzaky is being held for cases of multiple murder, which is no longer news. Rev King is on death row for murder so maybe his followers should take to the streets to demand that he be released while attacking security operatives and crying persecution. Those supporting IMN would definitely support them since their goals are at variance with the Nigeria vision.

Common sense demands that the madness stops now. IMN must be made aware that it cannot continue to act lawlessly even when it does not recognise the rights of the Nigerian state over its own existence. Those indulging El Zakzaky and his men must stop now because the farce has gone on for too long. The cat and mouse chase around IMN’s lawlessness are no longer about El Zakzaky and the state but has spilt over to concern all Nigeria. It is a matter of time before citizens begin to resort to self-help for dealing the IMN menace and that will be really ugly.

Giwa wrote from Lagos street, Abuja.

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#EndSARS: Knowing When To Fight And When To Quit – By Philip Agbese

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The positive public perception; the overall consensual verdict and even desirability of the more than 10 days #EndSARS protests have faded. It is fizzling out with the speed of a tornado surprisingly.

By this development, the general consensus among Nigerians is clear-#EndSARS protests originally conceived by Nigerians as peaceful expression of grievances against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an outfit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) over years of extrajudicial killings, brutality, bribery, extortions and unlawful arrests/ detentions have ostensibly become public nuisances.

Apparently, the protests have been hijacked by some politicians who are allegedly sponsoring hooligans, miscreants, criminals and deviants to cause massive public unrest, attack law abiding citizens, breach public peace, torching of public buildings and personal properties, prison breaks, vandalization and looting of businesses. The latest tales from the protests are the targeted assault on prominent politicians and personalities in cities rocked by the protests.

It is daybreak for the protesters now because the #EndSARS protests have become violent and bloody. Its mutation into such violent and undemocratic character has prepared its grave and coffin early enough. Indeed, the death knell has sounded for the protesters.

The reasons instigating the protests are genuine and the concern of every Nigerian. This is irrefutable. But its concomitant abuses have dealt a fatal blow on an otherwise noble cause. Nigerians have won the battle against SARS by drawing Government and global attention to the evils embodied by SARS, a microcosm of the NPF.

And at the same time, Nigerians have lost the battle in the sense that the veiled infiltration of the #EndSARS protests by reprobates and the conspicuous rebranding of its original agenda and concept signifies the defeat of the same populist cause and struggles. It now appears more like a replication of the aborted planned mass disruption of public peace before the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second tenure, the mild version, which later surfaced as #RevolutionNow protests.

Therefore, when the protests morphed from #EndSARS into the display of placards with inscriptions or hashtags like;” #EndBuhari; #BuhariMustResign; #EndMarginalization; #EndbadGovernance; #EndNepotism #OnResourcceControlWeStand; #EndNNPC; #EndModernSlavery; #FreeNigerDeltaRegion; #ShameOnNDDC; #LegalizeNigerDeltaLocalRefineries;#EndBadDrinkingWater #LegalizeNigerDeltaPetroleumProduction; and #EndGovernmentFraud among others signaled a trouble at its explosion stage.

And the sensed trouble is very near; lurking in the corner and dark rooms of Nigeria. The obvious politicization content of the #EndSARS protests gave rise to another group of Nigerians who displayed a poster in Abuja with the counter hashtag, #March4Nigeria. The messaged was lucid that a ten million -man march will be organized to appreciate President Buhari as a listening leader who granted all the requests of the original protests and engineering the needed reforms at the Unity Fountain, Abuja on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020.

These are not only worrisome signals, but witting romance with the path to anarchy, chaos, disruption of public peace and total breakdown of public law and order. No responsible government, unlike emperor Nero, would go feasting while the country is on fire. If times have ever been tough for Nigerians, they would now become tougher.

Let Nigerians take this precaution from Yobe state Gov. Mai Mala Buni, and APC national caretaker chairman, “… the protests should have ended since the Federal Government has responded and promised to address all the demands of the protesters; demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria and total reform of the entire Police Force…The ongoing protests show that there is a hidden agenda after the government has responded to the protesters’ demands. There are criminals who see the disbanded police unit as threat to their criminal activities.”

Dear protesters of #EndSARS and whatever other identity or agenda infused into the remonstrations’, the time to quit is now that the ovation is loudest. There is a strong sense in what Kimberly K. Jones uttered; “The time to quit is before you wish you had.”

The unpleasant howls of the chickens in the poultry yard signifies ominous danger of a prying hawk. Elvis Presley admonished that“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”Knowing when to fight and when to quit the stage with dignity, unbruised and unscathed defines the strength of one’s character.

A wise man who is fighting a battle knows when victory has come and when to accept defeat. Nigerians have earned the most important victories in the #EndSARS conundrum with Mr. President disbanding the discredited police outfit, and a promise of overhauling and reforming the NPF. In fact, Mr. President has promised to meet all the demands of the #EndSARS protesters.

Now, it is crucial for all and sundry to realize that actions on some of the demands of the #EndSARS protesters are immediate, which the President has responded accordingly; while others will definitely take weeks and even months. Therefore, continuous occupation of streets, cities, breach of public peace, violence and destructions can never be the panacea. This will only cause avoidable carnages and deaths.

Quite bluntly Nigerians, with the recent developments in the country on the #EndSARS protests, it’s obvious, the goal post has been missed after all the beautiful dribbles on the playing turf. But the protesting Nigerians failed to locate the 18-meter yard box when the goalkeeper was on the ground. The glory of the protests is also discloured by the alien and unacceptable tenor of the protests.

No one tells a blindman that it is raining, he feels the downpour. Nigerians again, it is time to quit the struggle honourably and give government time to act on the demands. Let compatriots learn from the quip of Sakeya Barns whosaid; “I refuse to let this house become my grave”or Lauren Oliver’s, “There’s always some relief in giving up;” because according to Curtis Tyrone Jones, “Life is never too heavy to pick up where we left off.”

The brazen breach of the democratic rights of other Nigerians in the guise of asserting and exercising what the protesters feels it’s their own liberties is pathetic display of dimwit and has irrevocably hamstrung the struggle. The ongoing criminal activities in the country in the name of #EndSARs protests should prick every conscience. In this regard, Nigerians won the battle, but lost at the same time. It is a time-honored lesson for all.

There is no victor nor vanquished! Definitely, Government has learnt from its past mistake of docility over the unlawful oddities of SARS; also, individuals have learnt a pile of lessons too. An American author, Dan Crenshaw in his book, “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Change,” unknowingly counselled the #EndSARS remonstrators; …. Quitting isn’t about succumbing to reality or failing to change what can’t be changed. Quitting is not the same as failure. Quitting means giving up – in a context where there are other options. Options you know you have.” The time to quit the #EndSARS protests is now! #

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Exercise Crocodile Smile: Before We Crucify Lt. Gen TY Buratai – By David Onmeje

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Exercise Crocodile Smile VI commenced today , the 20th of October 2020, and is scheduled to last to the 31st of December. The exercise has been a huge success in dealing with criminals and scaling down the level of crime in many parts of the country in the past five years in areas like the Southwest, Southsouth and others within its scope.

But since the Nigerian Army made the announcement to launch this year’s exercise, some have gone to town with the wrong interpretations saying it is a ploy to unleash soldiers on EndSARS protesters. The mischief in that line of thought exposes in the fact that since they launch Crocodile Smile in Warri, Delta State, in 2016, the exercise has been relaunched in five different phases every year within the same period of the year.

How the bid by the Nigerian Army to continue in that tradition became an issue this year due to the ongoing EndSARS protests befuddles the mind as there’s no link between the commencement of the Exercise Crocodile Smile VI and the ongoing protests if not for the sake of mischief.

The EndSARs protesters from Day One had made it clear that their angst is not with the Nigerian military but a unit of the Nigeria Police which they accuse of wrong doing and sought that it be disbanded and the Federal Government has complied with that.

They also sought the reform of the Nigeria Police due to perceived professional misconduct, which process again, is in place.
At no time did any of the protesters list any act of wrong doing against the Nigerian Army though it has been in the field of operation and engaging terrorists and bandits that were making life hard for the people.

Since 2015, when the Nigerian military took the fight to the doors of the insurgents, it has maintained high professional standards in the fight against terrorism and banditry and has adhered strictly to the rules of engagement that not even the insurgents have accused it of any professional misconduct or crime.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai has even opened channels for people to report any act of abuse or professional misconduct by any soldier or officer. So, it is clear that the protesters hold the Nigerian Army under General Buratai in high esteem and have absolute regard for how it has conducted its affairs in the last five years .

This is why the Nigerian Army has insisted it is wrong to say the exercise is targeted at protesters explaining that this year’s exercise has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.

Said the Nigerian Army:“For the records, Exercise CROCODILE SMILE is a yearly exercise in the NA Calendar/Forecast of Events which traditionally holds from October to December of each year.

“Thus, to now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing ENDSARS protest is to say the least highly misinformed. Exercise CROCODILE SMILE VI has nothing to do with the ongoing protest and the NA has never been involved in the ongoing protest in any form whatsoever. So far, the army has acted professionally since the civil protest started over two weeks ago.”

But beyond that, the Chief of Army Staff has built a reputation for himself as a General with high respect for human dignity and one who is a staunch defender of democracy and it values that no such fears should be entertained in the first place.

Gen. Buratai has brought many reforms to the army to foster military/ civilian relations and to defend democracy and rule of law.

It was the current Chief of Army Staff who introduced the Corporate Social Responsibility into the Nigerian Army to make the institution give back to the society in terms of projects and other services.

Under him, the Army Medical Corps have been deployed several times to assist civilians in getting medical care and health services. Such that as the Army is fighting criminals in many parts of Nigeria, the soldiers are helping people pick up the pieces of their lives.

In that bid, soldiers have organised classes in warring and war ravaged communities, helped in clearing blocked drainage through environmental sanitation exercises as well as construct bridges in communities to ease transportation.

General Buratai has also made it a policy to interact with the populace at the highest level by personally going to communities and engaging them in discussions. To further demonstrate his commitment to democracy and rule of law, the Chief of Army Staff also commissioned Situation Rooms for election monitoring to stop violence and other ugly incidents that go with elections.

He has also partnered several times with media executives and Civil Society Organisations to foster a better understanding between them and military. With the measures he has put in place people’s perception about the military has begun to change and it is now common sight to see troops being welcomed anywhere they are sighted in any operation unlike before when people take to their heels.

It is high time people begin to appreciate the Exercise Crocodile Smile as it has achieved a lot in curbing crimes such as crude oil theft, kidnapping, banditry and others.

Through the exercise, the Army have destroyed several criminal hideouts and made further attacks on the public difficult for the criminals.

Its intention to extend the current exercise to cover cyber warfare to identify, track and counter negative propaganda on social media is highly commendable as it would help track suspects from their bases.

Its inclusion of a positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country is also brilliant. It will not be asking for too much giving the Nigerian Army benefit of doubt as it launches Exercise Crocodile Smile VI.

Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.

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#EndSARS: GOs As Protest Puppet Masters – By Philip Agbese

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We may just be nearing the end in the head scratching search for the financiers of the gourmet food being served on a daily basis to the #EndSARS protesters. The protesters have persisted on staying on the streets even after government has agreed to meet their five-point demand for reforming the police. The offer of food and other freebies, like free of charge repair of vehicles damaged at the protests and the social attraction of women and exchange of phone numbers, has been a magnet for some youth, who said they are participating in the protest as much as for the food as the principle of demanding change.

However, with the protesters vowing to remain on the streets, and growing belligerent, there is increasing suspicion that there are indeed powerful vested interests teleguiding the protests. They were behind the scene at the backend, particularly with the inane claim that the protest has no leaders – never mind that a five-point demand was articulated and presented to government, possibly by a ghost.

But on Sunday, Mr. David Oyedepo, presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church, in keeping with his tradition of toxically abusing the sanctity of the pulpit, exposed himself as potentially being one of the financiers and sponsor of the protests. In a Trumpesque rant during the second service to his captive audience, he carried on about how the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is the equivalent of the biblical evil king.

On the surface, the Bishop appears to be another senior concerned Nigerian citizen expressing displeasure over the state of affairs. But a deep dig shows that he is rather an instigator of violence against the government of the day, total collapse of law and order that could lead to total anarchy. There is no doubt the bishop has motive, means and malicious intent to tarnish the reputation of the present government and disintegration of Nigeria obviously for selfish reasons.

A few things stand out on which Oyedepo has clearly indicated his anger at the government’s actions as they directly affect his business empire. First was the stoppage of free parking of private jets that the Bishop and his associates had enjoyed under the previous administration, whose anti-corruption drive also caused the amount of money that Oyedepo’s church members are able to remit as planting of seeds, donations, offerings, tithes, pledges and sundry funds payable to his church. Another source of his unjustified anger is the requirement to comply with Financial Reporting Regulation that would have tenured the leadership of churches if its implementation where not stood down. The amended Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law was particularly distressing for the ostentatious capitalist Bishop, who did not hide his disdain and anger at the law that could impose a governing board to ensure financial transparency in the running of churches as charities.

It must not be forgotten that Bishop Oyedepo tried to mislead Nigerians that COVID-19 was caused by non-existent 5G telecommunications facilities. When he was proved wrong, he rose against the COVID-19 control protocol that required places of worship to shut down for a duration of time. In the weeks that churches and mosques were shut down, the earnings of Winners’ Chapel took a bad hit. His inability to corral people into the expansive halls of his church and threaten them with the horrors of hell meant that they were not blackmailed into parting with money they do not have; of course as a savvy businessman, he was quick to embrace the digital platform and virtual church service but expectations that people will donate digitally were woefully shattered. Indeed, the Bishop became distraught and desperate.

On his part, the Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche, contributed to corralling #EndSARS protesters into deviating from the objective of pursuing reform of the police to asking for broader reforms. Possibly, unable to tinker with psyche of protesters from the background, he delivered a talk on “The Way of Peace,” which video was highly circulated in which he egged on protesters to oppose massive injustice, unfairness and lack of equity, oppression, suppression and subjugation of one people by another, nepotism, tribalism, regionalism, religionism and every form of such prejudice deprivation, poverty and hunger.

One would wonder what kind of doctor Enenche would have been if he were to be in full practice. He possibly would have been the type that will attempt carrying out a radical surgery to remove cancer that has spread all over a patient’s body instead of first dealing with knife stab wound that brought the patient into the accident and emergency ward, for that is what the #EndSARS protest can be likened to. The pressing national emergency at this point is to deal with the issue of right abuses by the police and then confront the other undesirable issues in the land in successive layers.

For Pastor Folu Adeboye, wife of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the strategy for keeping the #EndSARS protest on the streets is to ensure that protesters don’t get famished, so she delivered three truckloads of food and water to them. Hubby, Pastor Enoch Adeboye previously voiced support for the protests when he wrote on his Instagram page that “Our daughters will not be able to prophesy, and young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive. I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they “speak up” to #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS #ENDSWAT”.

It is interesting that these expressions of support, and, in Oyedepo’s case, open incitement, are in spite of the clear signs that the protests have turned violent with protesters chanting anti-government, anti-Buhari and pro-violence slogans. So far, there were over 12 persons dead. If things degenerate further, the clergymen have prepared alibis for themselves by rounding off their inciting acts and comments with the lame appeal to the protesters to be orderly, peaceful and law abiding. It will be interesting to hear from them how young people will remain law abiding when induced to wholesomely hate the leadership of their country by people in the kind of position of trust that the clergy occupied.

Knowing that every single thing being protested today predates President Buhari’s administration, one wonders why these clergymen did not find it pertinent to incite the youth in the manner they are doing now. Could it be that the excesses of SARS just surfaced or could it be that corruption was oiling their businesses so effectively then that they did not notice the anomalous conditions under which we live in Nigeria?

If religion is described as the opium of the masses, then people were weaned of their addiction to the sermons of commercial clergymen in weeks of the COVID-19 induced lockdown. A lot of them simply did not return for their fix after the lockdown was lifted, which has left these businessmen in dire financial straight as revenue keep dwindling. They also lost their hold on congregant since the lockdown period exposed the truth – people did not die for not given to the extortionist activities of their spiritual fathers in the period they did not show up to mark the register.

These clergymen are happy that the youths are protesting and the gloating tone in their sermons suggest their joy at the prospect that the end of President Buhari’s government is near. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that if President Muhammadu Buhari goes down in the manner they have orchestrated then, the country will be in flames for the next 50 years, there are people who will ensure that the puppet masters of these protesters become first set of casualties by obliterating their business centres and converting their worship centres to warehouses and declaring an end to theocratic interference and religion in Nigeria.

A timely counsel for these businessmen-clergy is to play the role expected of them. Their religious centres should run as real charities, with the bulk of the money they extort being spent on genuinely addressing human suffering, and without the pointless political posturing. They should allow the police reforms agreed by all involved to go ahead so that it would be concluded in time.

The other matters, like corruption and ethno-religious schism, they have introduced to the protest will take time and deeper efforts to fight. On the part of the clergymen, it requires that they stop accepting stolen money from their members who are in government and they must also limit their get rich-by-any-means sermons, popularly called prosperity gospel. As for the government, it is time for those in charge to fully deliver on the constitutional expectation that Nigeria is secular state. The undeserve waivers they usually give to these religious businessmen have to stop with the full powers of the Financial Reporting Council and CAMA unleashed on them. After all, they have proven that they are part of the problem.

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