Unfortunately, the narrative is now being tilted towards blaming the youths who stood up to fight to end police brutality and impressed the older generation with their sense of purpose and organisation.
People are asking for dead bodies as proof that shooting occurred at the Lekki toll gate. Isn’t it outrageous enough that soldiers had to shoot live bullets in a crowd of unarmed youths?
They are now ignoring leprosy and labouring to cure ringworm.
They are overlooking the deficiencies of our governance system.
They are also excluding the guys who are central to the destructive turn of the #EndSARS protests. The Area Boys a.k.a Omo Adugbo, miscreants, hoodlums, touts, etc. The guys who did the burning, looting of assets and killing of policemen and soldiers in Lagos and other states. They are still on the rampage in some states as at today, Saturday.
The guys are a big danger to society. Life is meaningless to them. No human being, no institution, no infrastructure makes sense to them.
In just two days of senseless burning of public and private property, and violent clashes with soldiers and policemen, they had killed 11 police officers and seven soldiers as President Muhammadu Buhari informed the meeting of former heads of state on Friday. That casualty figure of the security operatives is high and indicative that if the rioting persists, many more of them would be killed by the hoodlums.
Those of us who live in the suburbs have witnessed the rise in the population of the Area Boys in the last few years. Some of us have been raising the alarm in newspaper articles and informal gatherings as we see these guys at street junctions every morning and evening, tempering their frustrations with hemp smoking and gulping of alcohol now widely available in sachets and small bottles. They also take other psychotropic substances.
These Nigerian youths who missed the opportunity of good education and proper parental care are in legions. They are in every state, almost every major junction in our cities, towns and villages. You’ll find them in motor parks, markets, villages, playgrounds, football and gaming centres.
The hoodlums showed a bit of their vicious stuff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown when they invaded homes in many communities, looting property and raping residents. How soon did we forget?
Politicians know the hoodlums exist and do nothing to prevent them from multiplying. The politicians find valuable allies in them when dealing violently with opponents and rigging elections.
How many Area Boys benefitted from the government social and economic interventions?
The Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech and N-Agro and others, which the President highlighted in his broadcast as his contributions to improve the lot of the youths were designed and are being implemented without the Area Boys in mind.
Some of these guys become motor park touts in the quest for survival. A few lucky ones take to commercial bus driving or motorcycle/tricycle riding and quit the gang. Others transform into pickpockets, rapists, cultists, petty thieves and armed robbers.
The disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that has become the metaphor for all the evils in the country was intended to deal with the menace of the wildest among these fellows. The police unit, unfortunately, became bastardised.
Any effort to resolve the #EndSARS crisis without consideration for the Area Boys will end in futility.
Relevant government agencies should be directed to conduct a census of these Nigerian youths to understand their conditions and needs.
The government should build more rehabilitation centres, recruit psychiatrists, psychologists and social welfare professionals to wean them off drugs and restore them to good living. Spiritualists should also be involved to exorcise the evil spirits controlling the lives of some of them without which they will keep returning to antisocial behaviours.
The government should build and enrol the Area Boys for short training in agricultural training centres, the type being run by the Leventis Foundation in some parts of the country.
The government should set up skill acquisition centres for the Area Boys to learn skills that will help them earn a decent livelihood.
The government should also design an economic intervention programme for this category of Nigerians.
Which government should do most of the above? In a decent political environment, it is the local governments that should take care of these disadvantaged Nigerians.
But here, our local government system cannot take care of itself, let alone the locals. This is the reason we have the menace in the first instance.
This is why we urge that the Buhari administration should fulfil his party’s campaign promise to restructure the country.
A true federal system will take care of most of the social problems the President is struggling to solve and not making an appreciable impact.
Using security operatives to end rioting and restoring the assets the hoodlums destroyed without reorientating and rehabilitating them is an adjournment of the meeting of devils. At the slightest opportunity in the future, they will return to wreak more havoc.