Beyond #EndSARS protests, I see the ongoing mass action against the brutality of the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad as a social movement which can hardly be subdued by force.
The movement which was initially started on Twitter by Segun Awosanya, popularly known as Segalink, saw its recent resurgence after a video started trending on Twitter showing a SARS police officer shooting a young Nigerian in front of a hotel In Ughelli, Delta State.
Soon after, #EndSARS began trending globally, triggering a mass action engineered by the youth. The video was an eye-opener for most Nigerians that the brutality and inhuman treatments by security operatives could no longer be condoned; else the country could plunge into a human rights crisis.
While the Federal Government has granted most of the demands including disbanding SARS Unit of the police, the protesters have sustained their agitation against worsening insecurity in the country.
Celebrities including, CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey; US Rapper, Kanye West; Canadian Singer, Drake; former professional footballer Rio Ferdinand and “Star Wars” actor John Boyega have joined a growing list of international stars showing solidarity support to the #EndSARS protests.
Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests resonated with the demands by the Black Lives Matter agitators in faraway United States. At their center, the movements convey a similar message: A nation that permits state security operatives to manhandle innocent citizens without any potential repercussions is not a mature democracy. And, as in the United States, this is not the first time Nigerians have risen up against police brutality. As the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire.
Thus, many Nigerians have had cause to share their ordeals in the hands of notorious security operatives. I had a similar experience in October 2019 when some policemen arrested a Lagos-based professional webmaster, Mr. Adebowale Adekoya, who manages our websites. From Lagos with armed policemen, he was taken to Kwara State, before bringing him to Abuja to effect my arrest over an investigative article published on one of our media platforms, The News Digest.
The article was written by an award-winning campus journalist, Alfred Olufemi, a year before the arrest. Meanwhile, the webmaster who was not involved in the said investigative report, spent a week at the police detention facility. I was also picked in Abuja, detained and driven to Kwara State in a cruelling experience. Much later, we came to know that a prominent political figure was behind our ordeal.
The case is however still in the court. This was only a tip of the iceberg of the cruelty many Nigerians have been subjected to in the hands of security personnel. The administration of President Buhari is attempting to muffle End SARS protests which have already gripped the country like a wildfire, in a similar way that the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan failed to subdue the Occupy Nigeria campaign in 2012.
The #EndSARS protests have been calling for an end to police brutality and oppression resulting in the banning of the F-SARS, the Occupy Nigeria socio-political protest movement of 2012 was in response to fuel subsidy removal, alongside all the corruption endemic in the country’s petroleum industry. Most protests and movements in Nigeria have been geared towards entrenching the rule of law, good governance, transparency and accountability, equity and justice.
Thus, I see #EndSARS as a movement that is bound to yield a far-reaching result for Nigerian youths. While emphasizing on the need for the youths to continue to speak up against the ills in society, it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that government has so far paid attention to our grievances.
As a young Nigerian, I am very proud of the gallantry displayed by the youths in this movement. The accomplishments are unprecedented which now require tactical and foresight in moving forward. At this stage, we should consider a meeting of youth representatives with the government and other critical stakeholders since the authority has demonstrated ready acquiesces to our demands.
At this moment, when the movement has no recognised leadership, it is necessary that a structure be put in place immediately to select charismatic representatives who should articulate and present areas of grievances to the government.
Since the government has granted some of the demands, we need to explore this right opportunity for constructive engagements on other issues including unemployment, education crisis, gender imbalance, and inequality, especially in youth participation in governance among others.
While we continue to mourn young Nigerians who lost their lives to dreaded police officers such as Kazeem Tiamiyu, Tina Ezekwe, Chibuike Daniel Ikeaguchi, Kolade Johnson, Mus’ab Sammani and so on, I appeal to the Nigerian government to provide compensation to the families of this young people. Though, a lost life cannot be brought back, but it will go a long way in providing succor to their families in this hard time.
The only way we can heave a sigh of relief and shout Eureka is when the government, and not the police hierarchy, resolves to offer us what the #EndSARS campaign truly signifies.
That is: a comprehensive reform in policing in the country, which must trickle down to the education sector and the nation’s ailing economy. This must be done in tandem with the general security reform that will arrest the spate of insecurity in the country.
Gidado Shuaib is the Editor of Youths Digest and The News Digest. He wrote in via [email protected]