ENDSARS Protest: Lessons for effective governance, active Citizen participation and Nation-building

By Tijani Hassan Abdulkarim

The diamond jubilee independence anniversary of Nigeria celebrated on 1st of October, 2020 can be described as an anniversary not well marked afterwards. The reason is not far-fetched as the country for the first time in a long while experienced a serial civil disobedience campaign under the banner of "#ENDSARS".

#ENDSARS protest which started as a call to checkmate the excesses of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS); a unit of the Nigerian Police saddled with the responsibility of preventing kidnapping and robbery crimes across the length and breadth of the country, snowballed into a mass protest. It's demands transcended a wider  scope as captured by the topic of this paper.

#ENDSARS protest created an avenue for active Citizen participation. Civil demonstration which is a core aspect of democracy enabled the masses to voice out their grievances and other challenges. Such demands are: end Boko Haram, end Herdsmen and bandits killing, and kidnapping, and unemployment, end Police brutality, reform Nigeria police, reform hospitals, schools, roads and the power sector.


#ENDSARS protest exposed some of the ineffectiveness in the administration of the country. It is the ineffectiveness that culminated into the natural disgrace of the government as witnessed in the month of October, 2020.

Governance in its simple and fair practice requires accountability for consistent, cohesive policies, processes and implementing the right decisions. When a system becomes ineffective and those in the system are lame to see it's ineffectiveness, it becomes incumbent on the masses to stand their ground and voice out their feelings. Moreover, we are in a democracy; a system of government where the people exercise their governing.

From the streams of protest that cut across different states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the citizens were able to put the government on their toes to resolve their demands amicably. The government at the states and centre became conscious for once of their responsibilities. 

The Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu was compelled to recognise the excesses of SARS, hence, their disbandment on the 11th of October, 2020.

A lot of take-away lessons can be deduced from the #ENDSARS protest as far as effective governance is concerned. First on the list is the granting to the people their rights to embark on civil demonstration to reawaken the government of their responsibilities. 

Secondly, it drew international attention and was on the verge of smearing the name of Nigeria on the global Scape. This also accounts for the speedy and the initio-no controversial resolution of the pros and cons surrounding the#ENDSARS protest.

It was indeed a campaign that brought about responsive and effective governance (to some extent) in Nigeria.


Citizen participation or popular participation is the process whereby the citizens of a particular country or state engages actively in the political decisions making of their country or state. Nigeria from experience is a country where the voice of the people are often not amplified to the level of getting the attention of those at the corridor of power. The only time when the masses are given a listening ear is during elections which happens to be a four years routine.

By using the instrumentality of civil disobedience, Nigerians, especially the youths have shown their desire, vigour and valore towards the need to be part of the decision making process of the country.
#ENDSARS protest was used as an instrument for amplifying the voice of Nigerians. For once, the government yielded to the demands and opinion of the masses.

Therefore, it is germaine to identify that protest is a veritable means for active Citizen participation in governance.


Nation-building which refers to the individual or collective efforts, actions and processes adopted for the purpose of adding to the growth and development output of a nation was abused (to some extent) during the course of the #ENDSARS protest.

The initial intention among the hundredth of thousands of Nigerians who stormed the street to protest was to fight for a genuine course. Their objectives was; to bring about National development as far as stamping out Police brutality was concerned. 

Their aim was to call for the reformation of the Police Force to meet up with International best practices in line with crime management, arrest and conviction.

However, the Protest was highjacked and infiltrated by some persons whose motives are laden with the the desire to cause breakdown of law and order. Such bad-eggs among the general public were responsible for the wanton destruction of life and properties both from the corner of the government and the protesters. 

This undoubtedly tarnished the genuine course on which the foundation of the #ENDSARS protest was laid.


In sum, Nigerians (both the leaders and the led) have learnt a great deal of lessons when it comes to managing the affairs and utilising public opinions on pressing National issues. It is the duty of the government to institute channels where public complaint can be reported and such complaint adjudicated accordingly.

This will include but not limited to punishing the offenders publicly to serve as deterrent to others. 

It should be comprehensive; even if it relates to public office holders and or government agencies.

Similarly, the Nigerian populace should also take cautions and identify their limits when divulging their opinions in the form of Mass protest. Let us remember that most mass protest do  not normally go as planned. 

Proper avenues such as public opinion leaders, civil society organisations and pressure groups should be adopted when it comes to seeking the attention of the government towards addressing the needs of the people.

Until and unless the above recommendations are adopted, any future or subsequent demonstration will suffer same fate as the #ENDSARS protest (i.e.a free for all jamboree). The main objectives of such protest will elude the People. 


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