It is no secret that SARS is a symptom of a systemic failure in our policing structure. We also know this protest will not solve the root causes and that is not the aim of the protests (or at least, it shouldn't be).

Think of the protests as giving first aid to a sick patient before they can get lasting medical care. You have to first stop the bleeding before trying to fix the patient's poor diet. We need to stop the brutalizing of our youth first before we can fix our police system.

We need to stop the brutalizing of our youth first before we can fix our police system.

Besides peaceful protests, we need other means of applying  pressure to yield results. Let us explore tactics we can deploy to improve our chances of success.

Short term tactics

I would like to appreciate Segun Awosanya (@segalink), Citizens' Gavel (@citizen_gavel) and others for the yeoman's job of rescuing people from police harassment. To reduce police harassment, we need to entrench, multiply and popularize.

We entrench by putting youths in positions of authority and influence so they can help when needed.

We multiply by doing the above in every locality to bring help closer to the people.

We popularize by growing their social media reach and making their contact information widely available.

Long term tactics

I would like to focus on one - association - and the different ways we can apply it for long term change. Association is how we enforce and propagate cultural norms and practices. With it, we can nudge people (the so-called "big men") who would rather be aloof to join the protest.
We need to direct it at the structures supporting police brutality:  

  • funding,
  • anonymity,
  • social connections.

How to fight the funding of rogue police units

Youths are the conveners and executors of the protests, as they are the primary sufferers of police brutality at the hands of police. The "big men" can afford protection from the same police and so see no need to join the protests. Appealing to their compassion has not worked so far, so we should adopt a more effective form of appeal.

Appealing to their self-interest through economic boycotts  is the way to go. This reduces the resources available to buy protection to shield them from the ills plaguing everyone else. It will also encourage them to join the protests as they would then be exposed to the problems. It also has the effect of eliminating a source of funds to the police, making them more willing to listen. People tend to be better listeners when their sources of income are endangered.

People tend to be better listeners when their sources of income are endangered.

Let's walk through how this would work. Imagine a stereotypical "big man" in your community who is a  distributor of drinks and has police protection. We boycott his business until he gives up his police protection. If that doesn't work, we up the pressure by going after his support structures. Boycott his suppliers and customers until they boycott him.

It's best to start with those that sell perishables or have high fixed costs as they can't afford to wait it out. This gain easy wins in short time periods and provide momentum to take on bigger targets.

How to fight anonymity of officers who commit crimes

Make officers who harass citizens popular. Attach their faces to the crimes. Put a collective societal spotlight on them. Demand accountability from their immediate superiors. That would make them less likely to cover for or take the fall for the errant officers. It would also  rob them of peer support that would help them brave the consequences of their crimes.

Put pressure on the appropriate quarters to prosecute and discipline as needed. Demand public updates on all steps taken and progress made. Force everything out into the open. Taking away concealment reduces the ability to maneuver. Crimes can’t be swept under the rug if there is no rug.

Crimes can't be swept under the rug if there is no rug.

How to fight the social connections enabling brutality

Boycott businesses owned by their family members and friends. Refuse to associate with them unless they condemn and distance themselves from the culpable officers. This would starve them of emotional support. It would also reduce resources available to run away from their crimes.

All tactics we adopt should be fluid and adaptable to be able to respond to countermoves.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Credits: Photo by ev on Unsplash