Afrobeat scion and Pan-Africanist, Seun Kuti, has said the list of five demands put forward by #EndSARS protesters is “elitist” and not inclusive of the country’s poorer people.
Protests to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad – the dreaded police unit accused of corruption, violence and human rights abuses – broke out in early October and later degenerated into riots.
The protesters’ demands included the immediate release of all protesters arrested, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality, psychological evaluation of all security officers, the creation of an independent body to oversee the investigation of all reports of police misconduct, and increasing the salaries of police officers.
“The five for five is rubbish. The five for five is the elitist request for people in Lekki,” Kuti who is the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s son said during an interview with ARISE News.
“There are two understandings of the protests. Some people understand that they just want to stop SARS. Some people understand that they want to stop oppression.”
“#EndSARS is just a slogan, our mission is to end oppression in Nigeria.”
Kuti said there was a marked divide between the ruling class (and the “professionals” who supported them) and the “common man.” According to the artiste, the “elite” are not concerned with the affairs of the country until it directly affects them. Calls to end SARS and the list of demands were meant to cater only to the affluent.
“There’s a complete divide. The rich and professionals of this country have a way of aligning with the oppressor, so they can always find problems when it affects them,” Kuti said.
He continued: “Once they can find a way to solve it for themselves, no one can complain again. If it has been solved for the Nigerian professional, it has been solved for everybody. That’s the same mindset that was brought to SARS.”
Kuti said the disbanded police unit targeted people with “iPhones and Mercedes Benz”, luxuries usually associated with the middle class.
“For them, that was the problem; that the rich were also being harassed, as if SARS is the only brutal force in Nigerian police.
“For me, the people of this country still have a lot to demand, a lot of terms to put on the table for this present ruling class to acknowledge.”
Unarmed and peaceful protesters of the #EndSARS protest which began as a fight against police brutality were shot on Tuesday by security forces at Lekki, an upscale area of Lagos. Conflicting reports have since emerged, with the Nigerian army denying its complicity in the tragedy.
Kuti declared that the only way he was going to engage in any form of dialogue with the government is if they reveal factual information about the incident.
“The complete truth of what happened at the Lekki tollgate must be told to the people. I will not start any conversation that is built on a lie, that’s built on deceit, built on duplicity and things like that.
“That already shows that there’s no honesty on the side of the oppressors. Well, the oppressors can never be honest,” he said, citing this measure as a short-term solution to the crisis.
In regard to investigating the attack on protesters at Lekki, Kuti said, “If you are at the top of an organisation when all of these bad things are happening, you are in some way complicit. There is nowhere in the world where you will be allowed to investigate yourself.”
He also said that the Nigerian Senate must vow to the young people that they will have to cut 90% of their “jumbo pay”. According to him, it is inhumane that they spend such a humongous sum when there are many on the streets dying of poverty and hunger.
He proposed a long-term solution which requires the Nigerian people to support their communities in developing a political party that will represent them.
Kuti, who frowns on ageism and tribalism, said that the solution to Nigeria’s problems is not in the hands of the Nigerian youth but the Nigerian people.
He therefore urged them to unite in building a strong party, warning that the project should not be seen as a three or five year plan but a 100-year plan so that generations to come will benefit from it.
Rita Osakwe, Vanessa Obioha