The past few weeks has been one filled with a myriad of emotions. First there was anger and despair at a system who was so vested in suppressing its young or in killing it. Then there was hope. Hope in our voice. If we couldn’t save the lost, we could ensure that it comes this far and no more.
And so we spoke up. With one voice. United in our cause. Not for selfish reasons but because we identified that each of us still alive could be a victim the next second. Not because of criminal acts but just because we are alive.
For over 10days we spoke. In most cities of Nigeria there was an expression of the #endsars movement. Leaderless, uncoordinated yet very coordinated. Our collective pain was our leader. We asked for one thing- #endsars
SARS- the police unit charged with combatting armed robbery and other such criminal activities had made the people its enemy and took advantage of every moment to inflict terror on its victims.
The survivors of SARS’ told of wicked happenings beyond our wildest imaginations. They told of the dead, never to be heard off.
Of a truth, SARS is just a symptom. Reality is the Nigerian system seeks to strike you down and keep you there every step of the way. Every Nigerian citizen- home and abroad has a story of Nigeria ‘happening’ to them. It’s so bad that a few have found ways to exploit the corrupt system in a- ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ move.
And so the Nigerian citizens- young enough to still believe we could make a change took to the streets in peaceful protests across most cities of Nigeria for SARS’ reign of terror was devoid of the usual sentiments such as tribalism that had plagued Nigeria since time immemorial.
The protests heralded hope for a new Nigeria. Never have a majority come together, putting aside their differences as was witnessed in those days. We witnessed individuals adept at coordination and accountability. Donations were recieved, disbursed and accounted for.
About 2 weeks after the protests began, after several attempts by the Nigerian government to pacify its citizens with platitudes, the tactics changed. We witnessed events that though unverified but can only be state sponsored terror. On the night of Tuesday, 20th October 2020 after a hastily declared curfew by the Lagos state government, military officials opened fire on peaceful unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate.
It’s been over 72hours since that event. The Lagos state government has attributed it to ‘forces beyond its control’. The Nigerian army is confused in its denial, the presidency refuses to acknowledge the event and rather gives a vague but threatening address.
Post that address- the Nigerian people are still hurting. A lot are demoralised. A few are still hopeful but one thing is clear- it’s not over.
I speak to us young people, whatever next steps you choose are valid.
Should you choose to leave and continue the fight from the diaspora, please do. In the recent battle, the voice of our diaspora brethren magnified our cause.
Should you chose to stay and continue the fight from within, as in the words of Nelson Mandela- we cannot win a war, but we can win an election. That choice is also valid.
What would be wrong is that having come this far, we give up and become that which we despise. We must not join them because we cannot beat them. We mustn’t sell our voice for a few coins.
We lost people in this battle. Painful to think of, I can only imagine what their families are going through. People sadly lost their source of livelihood in the breakdown of law and order which followed.
This battle is a marathon not a sprint. We cannot and could not have changed anything significant over two weeks for indeed SARS was just a symptom of a deep seated rot which must be excavated to make room for a new Nigeria. Therefore, as we say in our local parlance, we have tested our mic. It works. The battle isn’t won or lost. Most of all it isn’t over. We move!