Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”― William Faulkner
This is no ordinary time but this, is the right time. This is the time that millions of Nigerians have dreamt about; that majority of Nigerians have anticipated for a very long time, a time when they will stand and say; ‘enough is enough’.
Social media was awash with #EndSARS home and abroad, this was no small act of defiance, it was seismic. It was an iconic moment in history, this was no Arab spring protest. This was young Nigerians who made this happen.
The time of ‘only God can save Nigeria’ passivity boat has long sailed and thankfully so. Our brave and courageous young people did and said what many of the past two generations could not do; they organised and strategically stood up across the nation in one voice : #EndSARS. It was a long time coming.
It was no time to stay on ones knees, it was the time to grasp the free fall failing nation by its collar and shake some much needed sense in to it, redirect the missteps to what it should and what it could be. It is early days yet but my money is on the young people. They are going to see this through come high or hell water.
They have been pushed to the point that no option left but to stand up and reclaim their future and their Nigeria. This is not fight for old people, this is the fight for the very existence of Nigeria for future generations.
The day before the protests, I spoke to my nieces. They are vocal and pragmatic females .They gave me an insider perspectives. Please see below my nieces, Aisha below, What next Nigeria?.
My other niece, Liatan , she holds a master’s degree, but is unable to gain long term employment, despite the fact that she is very well qualified. She like other young people have learned a trade or have side hustle, to keep body and soul together . Liatan told me that she would go with her toddler to march, it was after all, in the best interest of her and her son, that she does. She recounted horror stories of police brutality and oppression, some personal. She told me how afraid she feels when she and friends venture out. They feared the police more than the robbers. Life in Nigeria is pretty grim for young Nigerians. Successive leaders have squandered our most precious resources; young people, they have not invested in their education, training or employment.
Far too many young people are leaving Nigeria out of desperation and many are experiencing trauma on a daily basis. We have also lost young people to police brutality and many also took their own lives , because they felt hopeless and helpless.
Young Nigerians can no longer adjust to oppression and humiliation by thugs and hoodlums.
The fear of big man authority and uniformed personnel always beat too many to submission.
Alice walker said; ‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any’, this is no longer the case.
There is power in numbers even more so, if the collective are organised and have clear and transparent objectives, the people always win. The last time I checked, Nigeria was a democratic country.
Our young people did not come out to play and those who felt it was a joke and a flash in the pan, are sadly mistaken.
They were organised, intelligent, social media savvy and peaceful.
Wizkid described how the SARS rogues treat people:
They just victimise you. They stop you on the road and if you don’t have ID, you’re getting thrown into a bus. You’re getting arrested, you’re getting beaten, you’re getting extorted — like, why? For what reason? Before I became a star, I went through all those things at the hands of the police. I had situations when the police arrested me. It’s crazy for me that things like that happen.”
The Young people have garnered international interest and recognition of their plight. Wizkid; “There have never really been any marches before,” the singer explains. “It’s not because people don’t want to, it’s because we’re scared to. You can lose your life doing that. Because the police back home shoot without any reason. If they see you on the street doing something, you’re definitely getting shot. I’ll continue to speak out as much as I can. I want the world to understand what’s going on.”
Sars was set up in 1992 to address rising violent crime, they have not been effective other than replace the robbers with a legalised uniform terrorists.
These thugs and vagabonds rag tag army are power drunk( all pun intended) harrrass,harangue, physically and sexually abuse young girls and women with wanton impunity and this ragtag weapons carry hoodlums went on a daily rampage wounding, maiming, rapping, exhorting money and property from the ordinary people and boasting that, no one could stop because they were the law.
This was a revolution of the mind and this revolution was definitely televised.
One of young people shared his thought; that the old guards (Politicians) have the luxury to live a long life and a young man of 24 does not know if he will live to be 25!
This stopped me in my track, what he said,got to me and it got me so bad. It shook me to the core.
Parents are not meant to bury their young. Yet far too many of the young people have died as a result of police brutality and everyday oppression.
When people are pushed to the wall, the only way left is, to fight back.
Hope has returned albeit cautiously to Nigeria.
For those who lost their young lives including,
Jimoh Isiaka, shot dead by police in Oyo state and Etaga Stanley, in the southern state of Delta. We pray that their contribution to the protest is not in vain and strength and fortitude to bear their loss.
This is bigger than just Sars – “women we are not safe,” Anuola, 26; “This is not just about Sars, it’s about ending police brutality,” said Ikechukwu Onanuku, a musician in Lagos, who led chants as a thousand marched in the affluent neighbourhood of Ikoyi, blocking a bridge and a roundabout.
“We won’t stop, we’ll be here tomorrow and the next day and next year until there’s change. People are fed up, not just here but globally,” he said, adding that he had almost lost his life after an encounter with the Sars unit. “I could almost not be here,” he said.
The right to protest is enshrined in Nigerian law, but protest movements are regularly suppressed as security forces often see them as threats to stability. Experiences of police abuses are near ubiquitous.
At the demonstration in Ikoyi, medics attended to protesters standing in the heat, providing free glucose and paracetamol. Organisers have raised thousands of pounds to buy water, food and supplies for protesters in different parts of the country. Hundreds of lawyers have volunteered to help those detained.
Rinu Oduala, a brand influencer at a sit-in outside the government headquarters in Lagos said she felt the protests were fuelling hope. “It’s inspiring because people have come out to donate money, food and all, from all over the world, she said. I’m hopeful because the whole world is watching us.”
What next Nigeria?
I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things. My older brothers and sister had started to school when, sometimes, they would come in and ask for a buttered biscuit or something and my mother, impatiently, would tell them no. But I would cry out and make a fuss until I got what I wanted. I remember well how my mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice like Wilfred; but I would think to myself that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry. So early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
― Malcolm X,
For the past six days, immense protests have gripped Nigeria in a way I have never seen before. Sure, there were the protests against removing the fuel subsidy and that seemed like the beginning of new things. Until it was hijacked by politicians and other insincere people. Since then, Nigerians, especially young Nigerians have been trudging along, cynical and hoping for a whiff of the abroad, where the promise of “Things that work” lie.
That was, until now. In a wave of unprecedented civil disobedience, my generation has taken to the streets and when we did, we did everything in a typical millennial and Gen Z fashion. Our protests include a six million naira fund for bailing out protesters, food and medical emergencies. Our protests include therapists for people who have been truamatized by SARS and find the environment of protests triggering or traumatizing. We do not back down in the face of bullets and blood. As our Port Harcourt brothers like to say, “We go rugged am”. In short, we are not here to play.
The #EndSARS protests have highlighted fatigue that has reached its peak for most Nigerians. At the moment, the government has frozen the Flutter wave account that holds the money for emergencies happening in the protests. Nigerians decided to, in turn, donate bitcoins to ensure the government can’t touch our money. We are showing what protests have evolved into and setting the groundwork for future protests.
The amazing thing about technology and social media is that because we are connected in ways we would have deemed impossible ten years ago, empathy is no longer local. The #EndSARS protests can draw parallels with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. From symbolic hand gestures and body movements to the anti-establishment and abolish the police rhetoric, the movement for justice is global.
It is hard to recount the amazing and tragic events of the past six days. People have died. But people are hopeful again. The fact that hope is alive and burning in the hearts of Nigerians is amazing. But we must ask, “What next Nigeria?”
What next after we abolish the police? What next after our demands are met? What next after we don’t achieve our goals? Have we thought of that possibility? The world is watching us, and while the consequences of these protests seem small and limited to our borders, they may not really be so. Active demand for change is never inconsequential.
I put this question forward for us to keep the momentum going and keep the movement alive. For me, what is next is removing these leaders out of our offices. We need to run for offices independent of the establishment, funded by us, for us. For you, it might be something different, another important area that needs working on. But whatever it is, pursue and support it. This might be the only chance we get in our lifetime. We need to seize it because our lives depend on it.