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By Prisca Sam-Duru

When United Kingdom author, Trish Lorenz, released her debut book titled: Soro Soke: The Young Disruptors of an African MegaCity, she must have thought she was doing Nigerians and indeed, Africans a rare favour. 

The confidence she exuded while speaking about the book during an interview following the release of the book, evidently portrayed her as one filling a void; non-existing of course.

Following the release of the book, and subsequently, the author’s interview with Crassh, Nigerians lashed seriously at her for not just telling an African story as though Africa lacked qualified writers, but also for claiming that she nick-named the #EndSARS protesters, Soro Soke Generation. “This cohort exhibits a confident outspokenness and a tendency for creative disruption, leading me to name them the Soro Soke generation,” she was quoted as saying.

In the book, Trish Lorenz, a British journalist based in Berlin, Germany, examined the bravery of the Nigerian youth who led the #EndSARS peaceful protest. She also featured the accounts of Nigerians who took part in the protest.The book won Lorenz the 2021/2022 Nine Dots Prize; a prize that lauds creative thinking tackling contemporary societal issues. And she took to Twitter to celebrate the feat. “I am so excited that my first book, Soro Soke, is published today. To see it advertised in the CUP bookstore windows is mind blowing. I can’t stop smiling.”

Recall that in 2020, Nigerians took to the streets to protest an end to police brutality, with the #EndSARS. The peaceful protest carried out by the young generation unfortunately, became bloody as a result of poor handling of event by security officials. 

Soro Soke, “a Yoruba-sourced activism phrase meaning ‘speak out’ or ‘speak louder,'” was a slogan used by the #EndSARS demonstrators against police brutality and bad governance. 

And so, miffed by the flagrant claim that she, Lorenz, named the #EndSARS protesters Soro Soke generation which she also uses as title of her book, Nigerians embarked on an online protest demanding that she makes a public apology to Nigerians. The online protesters numbering over 5000, ended up signing a petition against Trish Lorenz and the publisher of the book- Cambridge University Press, Crassh, demanding that she recall the book and, her interview taken down. 

According to reports, the online petitioners accused her of using the book and the conversation around it “to expropriate and abuse the name of the struggle.” The petition tagged: Recall ‘Soro Soke’ from Publication- Author cannot CO-OPT and steal a Nigerian Movement!’ commenced in earnest.

“Soro Soke is a Nigerian movement; one that came with our blood, sweat and tears. We are yet to recover from the aftermath.

“The phrase indicated that the Nigerian people would no longer put up with bad governance and they would speak out boldly. Unfortunately, in the course of the protests, the authorities responded with the military and over 50 Nigerians’ lives were lost. Many protesters and activists are still in jail, some in exile. Nigerians have not recovered.

“How can you name and claim what was already existing? She has no connection to the struggle yet she capitalises, benefits and profits off the trauma of Nigerians. “This is evidenced by her winnings from The Nine Dots Prize which comes with a remuneration of about $100,000. She has also received book deals with Cambridge University press and has her books in global bookstores and universities such as Harvard University library. 

“This is a Nigerian story to tell and we have Nigerians who are qualified to tell it. We have already told it without support or visibility. African stories must be told by African people”, the petition reads, adding that “the book is an intellectual property theft and gross disrespect to Nigerians.”

The statement continues; “In all of this, Trish Lorenz, a white woman from Germany, decides to expropriate and abuse the name of the struggle reminiscent of the actions of her ancestors in the Berlin conference of 1884/5. “She has also expropriated SóróSóké which is a work product and symbol taken from the Yoruba nation/tribe of Nigeria and its indigenes.”  

Consequently, they spelt out their demands thus; “Our Ask: 1; This book is intellectual property theft and gross disrespect to Nigerians. It is pouring salt on our open wound. Therefore, publishing must be halted and it should be pulled from all bookstores. (This has been done before when the book Bad and Boujee: Toward a Trap Feminist Theology written by Jennifer M Buck, was pulled for cultural appropriation and intellectual property theft.)”

The cheery news as reported by PM News, is that the online protest has paid off big time as the petition has forced Cambridge University, the publisher of the book to withdraw some claims the author made previously.

Cambridge University Press, Crassh and The Nine Dots Prize, while responding to the petition in a joint statement, admitted the author’s faulty statement. It also explained that Lorenz’s interview had been updated, describing her blunder as “unintentional.” 

The statement read in part: “There was no intention by Trish Lorenz or anyone involved with the book, to suggest that Trish invented the phrase Soro Soke Generation. “No such claim was made in the book. Rather, it was an unintentional turn of phrase in a single interview, the text of which has now been corrected.

“Soro Soke was chosen as its title due to its use as a rallying cry and call for change among young protestors in Nigeria, something which is made clear in the book.”

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