EndSARS: A post-mortem

Sanya Oni


THESE are interesting times, no doubt. Talk of the serial events in the past week looking more like a chapter in the Jefferey Archer’s thriller – Twist in the Tale, the clampdown on the EndSARS activists by a federal government that has apparently learnt nothing nor forgotten anything, has since inserted a comical dimension into the tale!

Not that anyone – at least not yours truly – ever doubted the capacity of the federal government to make what tennis buffs call unforced errors. This is probably one of those seasons when the government can afford to pretend to be acting in good faith while embarking on a course whose optics suggest a different thing entirely. In any case, the signals in the past week could not be clearer or unmistakable: the EndSARS protesters may have latched on popular anger to put the government on the spot locally and internationally, there can be no denying where the raw power lies! And now, like the army on rampage, the government seems finally set to exact its pound of flesh from the leaders of the EndSARS protesters, using such state institutions as the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria! Again, talk of the twist in the tale – a case of yesterday’s hunter being the hunted!

Of course, the story may have only just begun. When the news first broke that the federal government may have put masterminds of the #EndSARS protests on its no-fly list, my gut reaction was certainly not one of a surprise. Although, the matter started as a wild rumour, the sort of fire routinely lit by our hyperactive social media, it was, for me, one moment in which the still silence voice whispered its plausibility – borne out of the knowledge of the strange ways of the government. And that was even moments before the confirmation that Modupe Odele, one of the key actors in the EndSARS drama, had been prevented by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) from making a trip to the Maldives where she had been billed to celebrate her birthday!

Nor was I particularly shocked when the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the institution responsible for the incorporation of organisations and businesses in Nigeria, suddenly deemed a certain company – Enough is Enough (EiE), as no longer worthy of registration – more than eight years after the entity was registered! Clearly, if the charge, which was that the entity registered to engage in General Contracts, Sales of Sport Equipment/Promotion category, “deviated from its main objectives over the course of time” was ludicrous, just as strange was the novelty of communicating the sentencing via a tweet!

But then, Nigeria is a country where strange things happen.

Here is how the tweet from CAC read: “Based on the provisions of Section 579 (2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, (CAMA), the Corporate Affairs Commission has cancelled the registration of the Business name “Enough is Enough BN 2210728” with immediate effect”. Just like that! No room for defence or justification. End of story!

We are talking here of a business that provides bread and butter for its promoters – entities that no one has linked at any specific acts of infractions bordering on financial crime; more like saying that an entity registered to sell garri taking to selling Dangote Cement instead should be denied a lifeline!

But that was not even the strangest of them all. Now, we have the apex monetary authority in the land not only going after the accounts of 20 individuals and organisations said to be linked to the #EndSARS campaign but alleging high crimes committed by them against the Nigerian state. We are not talking here of billions in illicit financial flows being undertaken by unscrupulous lenders  under the apex bank’s remit or the activities of the smart alecs whose activities continue to do harm to the naira; but the activities of some fringe actors which even at the best of times are matters for either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU)!

In the eyes of Emefiele, a man whose house was on fire would do far better to chase those slimy rats than seek to put out the fire! Talk of some cooked-up infractions to keep those boys busy if only to buy the nation some quiet!

I know a tribe out there who would argue that the government did no wrong; and that these institutions broke no law. They are probably right. The law after all is supposed to be an ass – or worse; moreover, Nigeria is no stranger to the specious type of legalism under which notions of justice and fair-play are turned upside down. In this particular case, neither the CBN nor the CAC actually pretends that the play is anything but to teach the activists a lesson of their lifetime. All would seem fair game in the service of their principal, an insular federal government which not only views legitimate agitations from the narrow prism of survival and regime legitimacy but would deploy vital institutions of state for narrow regime ends. And then of course the judiciary not only acquiescing but choosing to tag along in the travesty!  Which is a shame really considering the great opportunities which the EndSARS protests ought to have afforded the administration to reconnect with its so-called “wayward children” as indeed the rest of the society.

For sure, the EndSARS affair is certainly not a contest between saints and sinners. If the youths have not by now, learnt the lesson on the yawning chasm between boundless idealism and the requirement for deft organisation and the huge cost of failure on the latter, they would most likely never learn! And then of course the ease with which an otherwise good cause can be lost. Pitifully, we saw facts loosely traded for seductive propaganda in what is now a world of alternative facts. We saw strain of intolerance, an aversion for alternative viewpoints, an unbending obduracy in which those with differing opinions are targeted for vilification. And finally, the fatal flaw in their inability to know when to call it a day. If I may borrow from Achebe’s famous work to address our youths: it’s yet morning on creation day!