Over the past 2 weeks things have really been intensive in Nigeria to say the least. The young people in most parts of the country came together to peacefully protest against police brutality under the #EndSARS campaign, regardless of gender or tribe…for once the twitter streets were free of banter and everyone was focused on a new Nigeria.
The #EndSARS advocacy isn’t a new movement, if you need a quick overview, you can check out The Daily Show. Although the advocacy started in 2017, the buy-in of the general public has never been this massive as you can see in the google trends analytics below, the ongoing conversations are through the roof:
Nigerians within and outside Nigeria were elated by the organic momentum of the protest and for the first time in a long time we could sense a Nigeria worth living in and possibly dying for. As our voices grew online, so did the awareness to celebrities all over the world , neighboring African countries, and the physical protests across the country.
Through the protest, the Nigerian government was more disappointing than ever, from the state level to the Federal level. They tried to follow the regular tactics of closed door negotiations just to pacify the people without solving the problem. The attempts at private negotiations exposed the government’s inability and unwillingness to enable Nigerians to live and thrive in peace and unity. The big blow hit on 20th of October, 2020, what is now popularly described as Black Tuesday, where peaceful protesters were shot at by the Nigerian Army at Lekki Toll Gate as they sang the Nigerian Anthem holding on the the promise of what we were fighting for. They are real heroes, all those who lived through the traumatic experience and those who lost their lives.
The follow-up punch came with the blatant denial of the deaths by the Lagos state government and the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Defense Headquarters’ Director of Information said that an analysis on the video showing Nigerian soldiers shooting innocent civilians indicates that the videos were photoshopped 🤣. If Nigerians weren’t in influential roles across the world and foreigners hadn’t interacted with our brilliant minds online and offline, we would probably be rated as the dumbest country in the world! Live Instagram videos photoshopped from multiple sources? Wow!
The knockout was the long awaited speech from the president. The address from the president was underwhelming to say the least, he didn’t address any of the issues that the people asked for, he reiterated that the Police ‘SARS’ group was banned which didn’t solve any form of police brutality…so essentially, the reality hit afresh across the world how inadequate the Nigerian government is, two weeks of building momentum fell on deaf ears. In the Nigerian fashion, we came up with several jokes online on massively emigrating and another sect of Nigerians took the streets massively vandalizing property and attacking police stations. In the heat of the the vandalization, warehouses were found all over the country with palliatives stockpiled which were intended for the covid19 lockdown relief. Nigerians were and are exhausted!
The question on everyone’s mind now is where do we go from here to achieve actual results? Suggestions and strategies are springing up from different groups and individuals but it’s a question of which movement will receive the acceptance of the general public.
As I write this, there are numerous messages spreading across the country to promote division on grounds of tribe and religion, but this movement showed me that if we’re going to get the change we hope for as a country, we need to actively engage in the positive activities that would propel the New Nigeria and we’ll have to work twice as hard because the good guys are working from a deficit. Regardless of what the immediate next steps are, these are broad categories that we need prioritize as we work towards having a real democracy by 2023:
Up until this point the average Nigerian has been programmed to be their own government, turn a blind eye to injustice, and hustle for yourself while hoping for the best…we lost the bond of caring about the next person, we didn’t prioritize our interconnection. At the beginning of the protest, a lot of people just wanted the protesters off the streets so they could carry on with their business as usual. The selfish mindset is our first hurdle…we need to continue with a mindset of togetherness, we need to believe in a Nigeria that people care for each other more than their selfish interests! Every other possibility will be built on the right mindset.
We need to learn more about ourselves, our tribes, our lifestyles, our government, our strength. The class divide was apparent when violence broke out across the nation, no one was really looking out for the best interest of the poor man. The truth that the vast majority of Nigerians are poor and lack quality education became apparent. I don’t know much about our political structure, I can imagine it’s the same for most Nigerians.
Media – Communication – Intelligence
The local media houses were a mess to say the least. It’s important to keep the public at ease but the local media houses were used as a tool of oppresion during the protest season. We were saved by twitter and Instagram but even Instagram started flagging posts as fake news at some point. We need more professionals with long range cameras, drones, and hidden cameras to get information and proof in real-time.
We also need opensource media distribution online, on TV, and radio in forms that can’t be shut down or directly influenced by the government.
We have to push and reemphasize values of community, respect, love, unity through our movement. We can’t change the bitter cycle that is now Nigeria if we don’t overcome it with love. We need to value human life in the New Nigeria, we can’t go around killing the police people that killed us, we need to build the justice system the right way unless it will be skewed all over again. We need to respect everyone! Those who don’t agree with us and the older generations, we can’t build a reputable nation on slander…bants are always welcome 😁.
Leadership and Unity
Nigerians have proved that they can band together against a common enemy but we need to show that we can band together towards a positive cause regardless of tribe, gender, class, or orientation. Choosing the right leadership is the hallmark of democracy, so we aren’t ready for the a real democracy until we learn how to select a competent few to represent the best interest of the many.
It’s why we need to win the police battle, because civilians had to think about how to protect themselves through the protest. The Nigerian police needs to get to the point where it can perform its duty ethically or we have to think up alternative security solutions that can scale and that is too much extra work! How many civilians do we need to put through self defense drills? 🤕
One of the highlights of the protests were the acts of people cleaning the protests grounds when everyone was done. We need to take better of our streets, waste management, public toilets…imagine what the protests would have been like in a stinking and messy environment. Just by cleaning the environment, we bring a little sanity to the land.
We are diverse in our creativity and our expression. I had an issue when people were complaining about the recreational activities on the protest grounds, there were people who were there all day! A little recreation didn’t hurt the movement. Everyone who made it the the protest ground at some point knew about the conviction of everyone who showed up…it’s in our nature to be expressive in achieving our goals. It’s important we don’t limit our expressiveness in a bid to pass across a “serious” message, if not what makes us different from the generation that criticizes our dreadlocks and unconventional jobs? We need to keep rolling out our music, creative visuals and all forms of expressions for our liberation.
People are hungry! We can’t tell a hungry Nigerian to fight for the future with pride on an empty tummy. We need to feed people in the same manner as it was done on the protest grounds, but we need to take the food to the people who lack it in the next phase.
Finance and Accountability
A lot of people were willing to donate to the cause, but it was icing on the cake when the money donated towards the End SARS campaign was properly disbursed and accounted for by the Feminist Coalition. We need more fund generation options and transparency at every level managing money towards any form of the movement, in public and private practice. There can’t be any form of looting because that’s a lot of what got us here.
Also, it is important that we make conscious efforts to support Nigerian brands…let’s keep the money circulating amongst us.
The government is definitely learning from their weaknesses. We also have snitches in this generation who are interested in lining up the pockets and bent of keeping the country poor, we saw this through a lot of mixed messaging on twitter in an attempt to dilute the voice of the protest. We need to constantly innovate and look for ways to be ahead of the wicked people in the country. There is strength in our collective will for positive change.
We need both ends, we need to build our country with our hands and we need to advocate for change from the thieves and irresponsible officials in public offices. What are your thoughts on the next steps?