Dear esteemed compatriots of the fourth estate of the realm, we welcome you to this media parley in the wake of the historic #EndSARS mass movement which embroiled the country for the better part of this month.
We salute the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest police brutality and fight for a better society across the country. We pay our solemn respect to the dead, the exact number of which is yet to be ascertained. Their struggle will not be in vain. United and determined we will fight until we win total liberation.
The need for reflections to draw lessons and inspiration from this defining moment, as we take the struggle forward cannot be overemphasized. The Coalition for Revolution (CORE) intends to seize this opportunity to put the uprising and its immediate aftermath in perspective, and also present our position for the way forward which is captured in the 12-Point CORE Charter for Liberation.
Context of the spark
The #EndSARS protests, like most revolts, started spontaneously. The context of this spark included several elements. Many youths have faced the brutality of SARS directly, or knew someone or the other who had been oppressed, tortured, or killed by the police. There was also mass anger against increasing cost of living, unemployment, and hopelessness. A renewed tradition of street protests had also been stirred by the Coalition for Revolution, which organised a nationwide demonstration on 1 October, just a few days before the #EndSARS movement was born.
This context is important for understanding the background of the movement’s background. It is also useful for us to put the unfolding moment in perspective. The economic attacks on the poor masses and youth is likely to increase. The elites want to make us bear the brunt of the social and economic crisis which has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IMF conditionalities for the $3.4bn loan facility which the federal government obtained earlier in the year include further liberalisation of the economy. Meanwhile, companies are laying off workers in a country without unemployment benefits. Informal economy operators cannot access credit to grow their crumbling businesses. More people are homeless because of demolitions of informal settlements than at the beginning of the year.
A critical lesson from the #EndSARS movement is that we can win concessions only if we fight. The movement also demonstrates the fact that we can fight and win when we mobilise and unite. CORE will continue mass mobilisation, organising and political education to help strengthen the working-class and youth movements for the battles ahead.
We honour the dead and demand justice
We recall the attacks on protesters throughout the period of the mass protest, culminating in the massacre of 20 October with protesters killed at Lekki, Alausa and several other centres of the struggle. We demand that the killers, police, soldiers, and thugs hired by the state be brought to book and compensation paid to the families of those killed.
While we welcome the judicial panels of inquiry being constituted across the country, we must call for vigilance. Despite revelations from the judicial panel of inquiry on the killings of Shiites in Zaria five years ago, justice is yet to be meted out to the killers of 347 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. We will closely monitor the sessions of the panels, but we will not be letting our guards down. This is CORE is working closely with other civil society forces to come up with a comprehensive list of the people killed, and we will use every avenue, including the judicial panels to ensure that they are accorded due justice.
As we speak on the security forces’ attacks on protesters, the peculiar case of Osun state must be stressed. Up till now, soldiers, police and thugs affiliated to the governor and his ruling party continue to attack CORE activists. We recall that, two CORE activists, Mutiu Lateef aka Fresh and Halimi Olamilekan Ahmed were killed by thugs in the presence of the governor Mr Olagoke Oyetola at Osogbo on 17 October. We have written to the governor demanding justice, to no avail. Rather the security forces continue hounding CORE activists. This is totally unacceptable and must stop.
Aftermath of the protests as sign of things to come
The national situation after repression of the #EndSARS movement provides insight of things to come. Thousands flocked to warehouses where palliatives meant to ameliorate the sufferings of poor people during the confinement were kept.
Government officials have tried to justify the unjustifiable with questionable excuses. We have heard some officials say they were keeping the foodstuffs for a second wave of the pandemic. Did they want people to die of hunger before that second wave? We have also heard excuses that the foodstuffs were made available only a few months back. But the governor of Nasarawa state said there was no foodstuff in any warehouse of the state because he ensured immediate distribution of the foodstuffs which were received at the same time as other states’ governments received theirs.
We, like most Nigerians, are convinced that the palliatives were being hoarded for distribution as political patronage. The inhuman politicians and government officials who kept these foodstuffs are the authority hoodlums who deserve to face the ire of the law and the people. The poor masses who went to take these goods are not hoodlums. They acted out of hunger and anger. We demand the release of everybody arrested for participating specifically in taking back the palliatives.
A dangerous development in the aftermath of the protests is the fanning of ethnic sentiments. During the #EndSARS protests, young workers, professionals, traders, artisans, and all other strata of the oppressed stood together as one. Members of the elite class, the rich and powerful in and out of government were primarily responsible for stoking the dangerous fires of ethnic division.
In unity and struggle we find strength. CORE urges the exploited and oppressed to reject and combat all ideologies like ethnicism which can only divide us if we allow them to grow.
CORE 12-Point Charter for Total Liberation
CORE realises that hunger, unemployment, police brutality, generalised insecurity, oppression of women, environmental spoilation, and the spread of ethnic ideologies are not disjointed or arbitrary phenomena. They are interconnected manifestations of a system which puts the wealth and concerns of a few people, the 1 percenters, the elite over and above the interests of the poor masses, working-class people and youth.
Our struggle for total liberation must thus place system change squarely on the agenda. That is why we have adopted a 12-point CORE Charter for Total Liberation which we now present to you thus:
- Free and qualitative healthcare, education, and housing for all
- Living wages and decent work
- An economy that works for the people
- Transforming the Informal Economy
- An effective and democratic end to insecurity
- Transforming Gender Relations
- Environmental justice and protection
- Empowering Youth
- Social justice, equity, and liberty
- Instituting working people’s Rule of Law
- The National Question
- International Relations
(For details, see: CORE Charter for Total Liberation)
The people united and determined cannot be defeated
Baba Aye Gbenga Komolafe