If you’re a frequent visitor on any social media platform whether you’re Nigerian or non-Nigerian you would have seen posts about the ongoing #endsars movement in Nigeria. The youths of Nigeria have come out en-masse to protest the brutality of innocent Nigerians in the hands of the police. Especially an infamous special unit of the Nigerian police known as SARS.
What is SARS
SARS is the Nigerian Special Anti-robbery Squad. A tactical unit of the Nigerian police that was set up in 1992 to handle violent crimes like Armed Robbery, Kidnapping and Theft. The unit has for a long time being known as a rogue police unit as they use their powers to extort, harass and in some cases kill innocent youth.
They usually profile youths who drive nice cars, look well-off, have an alternative hairstyle or dress sense, have expensive gadgets on them etc. They accuse these youths of being fraudsters or prostitutes. The well to do ones get off after dropping some money for these officials. Some are not so lucky as they are arrested and taken to the SARs headquarters’ (torture room). Whilst some get family members to run around to get the outrageous amounts requested to bail them out, others are left to rot in captivity or in some cases never heard from again.
It all started with a tweet…
On the 3rd of October, someone tweeted about SARS shooting a Young boy and driving off in his car leaving him for dead by the road side. A video was uploaded to back up his claim.
This tweet allegedly is what triggered the #endsars movement. It got retweeted a couple of times, and other people with bad experiences with SARS started sharing their stories and videos leading to a public outcry. By the 7th of October, Nigerians started tagging corporations and Nigerian celebrities to support the movement as they did the back lives matter movement and that was it, a movement was born.
A leaderless protest
What makes the end sars protest so unique is that it has no leader. No one can claim to have started the movement. It is a movement by Nigerian youths who are tired and frustrated with a government they feel does nothing for them but exploit them. There are no jobs, yet these youngsters create jobs for themselves but the government does nothing to encourage or support their endeavors. A lot of the victims of SARS are dancers, hairdressers, IT consultants etc just young Nigerians trying to make a living with their talents and passion.
The current situation in Nigeria has been frustrating for most Nigerian youths. These protests have come at a time when the COVID 19 pandemic is going on, unemployment is at an all-time high, increasing insecurity, state universities are shut down etc. When you have a restless youth feeling helpless and abandoned by their government coupled with the factors listed above, you have a perfect recipe for an uprising.
Seven days after the tweet was reposted, #ENDSARS was trending globally as celebrities, sports personalities and influencers all over the world showed support for the movement.
The government yielded to the demands of youths and on October 4, 2020, it was announced that SARS had been disbanded. Yet this has not pacified the youths as the protests have continued. This shows that the groaning of the people is deeper than just police brutality. It is a fight for good governance and accountability which has been long overdue in Nigeria.
The youths have presented the government with 5 major demands which they want the government to meet before the protests can stop. They are
- Immediate release of arrested protesters
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation of their families,
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10days).
- Psychology evaluation and retraining for all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
- Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and properties of citizens.
There are different generations and with every generation, there are different behavioural patterns. According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, Generation is ‘ a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. People in this birth cohort exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes.” The three key trends that shape generations are ‘parenting, technology and economics’.
There are 5 primary generations today. They are:
- Traditionalists or Silent Generation – 1945 and before. Agesb74-91: These are the conservative, hierarchial and traditional generation
- Baby Boomers, Ages 56-74 – 1946-1964
- Generation X, Ages 39-54 – 1965-1976
- Millennials or Gen Y. Ages 23-38 – 1977-1995: Highly Creative, Achievement oriented, diverse, fun and flexible generationy
- Generation Z or iGen or Centennials – 1996-now 7-22: Competitive, independent entrepreneurial and digital generation. Very diverse and the most educated generation yet with very liberal attitude
The millenials are known as the most diverse generation in every aspect, racially, ethnically etc. Yet Generation Z are even more diverse. The Gen Zers and the millenials share a lot of social and political beliefs so it’s no surprise that they are the ones at the forefront of endsars. They are also the digital generation and the power of technology in today’s world cannot be over emphasized.
In fairness to the older generation they have put up a fight themselves and we will not be where we are today if not for their sacrifice. The work of groups like NADECO, MOSOP, MNR, BBOG etc easily come to mind. Nigeria got the democracy we have now because of the sacrifices of some of the Traditionalist and baby boomers. However, these generations have held on to power and are unwilling to let go or make the necessary changes needed in the nation
A responsible protest
The youths have been responsible, transparent and peaceful in their protests. They have been coming out daily and have not looted or destroyed properties but have been quite organised and even clean up after themselves.
There have been various subgroups like the ‘feminist coalition” who have raised money for the movement and have shown impressive accountability in the disbursement of the funds.
If there has been any violence it has actually been on the side of the Nigerian police who have on some occasions gassed and arrested some of the protesters. There have also been reports of hired thugs sent to disrupt the peaceful protests. Yet the youths have stood their ground, protecting each other and arranging for private security where and when necessary to keep them on track.
Nigerian caterers have also been sending food to the protest grounds, people have been supplying drinks, paying for treatment for the wounded. People are been fed and it’s all organised by these youths with support from the older generation who are watching proudly as their children fight for their future.
Candle light Vigil/Night of remembrance
The youths held a touching night of remembrance (candlelight vigil) to remember the promising young innocent lives that where abruptly ended by the rogue group. There were touching performances as heart-wrenching stories upon stories of how some of these innocents lives were ended were read out to everyone present. It was a moving sight, and I couldn’t hold back my tears just watching on my tablet – writing about it has even made me emotional again! May the souls of these innocent youths rest in peace. 🙏
Some touching stories have come out from the various protests across the nation. One of such is the little boy who gave the protesters his snacks and refused to be paid for them. He told them in yoruba language ‘e ba wa se kin le lo ie iwe’ (Help us fix it so I can have the chance to go to school).
Another touching incidence was reported in Abuja where the protesters approached a terrified traffic warden. On getting to him, he was lifted up and cheered. The protesters told him that they see his hard work and appreciate him. They gave him food and drinks and went on their way, It was reported that shortly after they left he bent over and cried. So many stories like this have been shared on social media and in these stories you catch a glimpse of the Nigeria we want, the New Nigeria.
What happens next? Are the youths going to occupy the streets forever? Will government be able to meet their demands soon enough?
Whether the government meets all the demands now or later, the main crux is that a lot still needs to be done. The youths have been amazing in starting this movement and for it to gain momentum, the support of the older generations is very crucial. We can’t be silent, if you can’t go out share posts, support in whichever way you can – let your voice be heard. What they are protesting for is valid, its a fight for basic necessities like good roads, education and governance. Its a fight for the future of our children. Its a fight for every Nigerian child to have a voice, to have a chance.
A lot of people have been calling for restructuring but there are things that need to be sorted out even before we restructure successfully. The seven-point demand by the Endsars protesters covers some of these issues. They are:
- Institutional Reforms (Security)
- Cost of Governance
- Constitution Reforms
- Education Reforms
- Health Reforms
- Youth Development Reforms
- Public office Reforms
These reforms will however not see the light of day if we do not have a responsible government at the helm of affairs. The solution, therefore, lies in 2023, use your votes. Everyone of age has a right to vote.
My independence day post was actually a call to vote, if we want change we have to ensure we get it and one of the ways to do it is by exercising our right to vote. It doesn’t stop there though, we have to protect that right. We can only protect our votes by exposing people around us that are involved in electoral malpractices.
It’s the digital age so it’s much easier for us to do this. Report whoever is involved in such, post pictures and videos, call them out, shame them. It was done in Kwara with the Otoge movement, the recent election in Edo also shows how powerful the people can be when they work together. Say no, take a stand, defend your vote.
If you know anything about Nigerians then you’ll know about our sense of humour. Nigerians find humour in everything, I guess that’s part of how our spirits have not been broken despite all we’ve been through as a nation. A stroll through the street of Nigerian Twitter or Instagram will leave you in stitches.
I leave you with some of the funny memes that have come out from the #endsars protests.
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