How #EndSARS Became The Protest Nigerians Unite To Defend
As a Nigerian-American, I’ve had long stretches of uncertainty about where I comfortably belong. It really is the sob story about how white invaders from God’s country, willfully violated the human right’s clause, and massacred cultural landscapes, rendering Black victims powerless for an eternity.
There’s also the tribal unrest, that erupted some years after Nigeria was granted what’s commonly described as “Independence,” when in truth, the crippling shackles of colonialism were never removed.
The stronghold of British imperialism left the deep-rooted scarring of self-hate.
That self-mutilation through the incurable disease of skin bleaching, ignited the damaged psyche that pollutes what it means to be Nigerian, since those former attributes were redefined by the traitorousness of Christianity and the greed of so-called missionaries.
It was always customary for young Nigerian students to seek higher education abroad, for the purpose of gaining “superior” knowledge from the white man, who taught them it was mandatory to learn from their captors to reassure further captivity.
My parents were no different, and promptly followed the trends of the sixties and seventies with the itinerary that deposited them in the United States for university studies, and during those academic years, they married and had kids.
We eventually left America and relocated to Lagos when I was about eight, which looking back, wasn’t the best age for that semi-traumatic uprooting, that introduced me to vastly surroundings that constantly challenged my ability to adjust.
My childhood was defined by the gangster era of the eighties in the thriving, former capital city of Lagos.
The polarizing experience featured back-to-back military coups, and the potency of a fractured government, that operated on the blueprint of bribery and corruption, funded by foreign powers with heavy interest in the business of oil, and zero concern for the environmental hazards that still pollute areas like the Niger Delta.
The strangling themes of a former British colony matches other territories with similar history, and it usually includes strong evidence of systemic oppression, and the societal abuse that’s fostered by a brutish dictatorships, enhanced by the normalized lack of law and order.
Nigeria has never had anything that resembles law enforcement because that would mean the presence of accountability across the board — from top to bottom.
And since freedom of speech was never a thing, considering how notable voices like journalist Dele Giwa and writer/activist Ken Saro-Wiwa paid the high price for those privileges, it’s always been a deadly risk to function as a justice seeker in Nigeria.
But things are starting to shift in a direction that I never expected, but may have fantasized about.
The disconnect with my homeland wasn’t inspired by seasoned contemptuousness. Although I can’t deny that I resent how nothing evolved for the betterment of trapped citizens, who would rather drown in the Mediterranean Sea or be sold into modern day slavery in Libya, in order to escape the living hell that colonialism designed and invaders abandoned.
The newly-minted #EndSARS isn’t the first of its kind to originate from the activism of Nigerians both at home and abroad, who are sick and tired of the bullshit stemming from all branches of the police force, and are committed to raise their voices — come what may.
This time, it’s highlighting the familiar, systemic failure that police brutality manifests with unlawful killings of innocent Nigerians, who are at the mercy of the ruthless antics of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
SARS is notorious for apprehending, torturing, and murdering their captives without issue.
Protests have been initiated in my home city of Lagos, and other parts of the world, with urgent pleas and non-negotiable requests for a more humane approach to governing, that acknowledges basic human rights, and vows to establish a society where everyone is treated equally.
In scenes that are ironically reminiscent of what we witness in the States, those who’ve taken to the clogged streets are being physically assaulted by police, and even tear gassed before getting arrested, and carted away to God’s knows where.
The police in Nigeria have always been horrendous, and resistant to the notion of honorably performing job duties, without the bribes that empower the belief system that you can’t be found guilty, if you shell out the cash guaranteeing freedom.
The police in Nigeria have always been street thugs and out-of-control scoundrels, who will assist in kidnapping plots, especially the incidents that occur at international airports, hosting arrivals of the offspring of evidently wealthy Nigerian parents.
The issue of police brutality in Nigeria is not new, but what is hopeful is the resounding push back orchestrated by those who dare because they care, and will loudly let everyone know about it.
#EndSARS quickly became the hashtag that won’t quit, until the global massive movement gets closer to the approved outcome, and prominent figures of Nigerian descent are using platforms to speak truth to power.
Amnesty International confirmed that even though SARS was temporarily disabled, the uncooperativeness and inaction of the Nigerian government when it comes abolishing the criminalized unit will prevent the rightful end to this human rights violation.
Thanks to the amplified mechanics of social media, along with the unyielding activists on the ground and in heralded spaces, Nigeria’s controversial president, Muhammadu Buhari recently confirmed the disbanding of SARS, along with the declaration that this is the beginning of much-needed police reform.
However, it’s hard not to be reminded of the deceptiveness of a former military head of state, who not long ago, installed another dictatorship after one of many military coups that erupted in Nigeria during the exhaustive decade of the eighties.
The era of Buharism (1983–1985) was fueled by the introduction of his regime’s poor attempt to reduce lawlessness and boost public morale, through War Against Indiscipline, (WAI), a polarizing initiative that swiftly turned into the illustration of an authoritarian’s graphic handbook.
The youth of those days suffered the heaviest blows with inhumane punishments that didn’t fit accusations of habitual truancy or cheating on exams, which easily garnered more than 20 years in the prisons that most would rather die to avoid.
Essayist and playwright, Wole Soyinka, one of Nigeria’s most prized and prolific thinkers documented the damning effects of Buhari’s two-year iron fist on a scorned nation, that was also combatting never-ending tribal warfare, in his esteemed essay, “The Crimes of Buhari.”
There’s no doubt that Buhari’s reemergence through his campaign for a second presidency, which was advanced by the full support and counsel of Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Axelrod’s political consulting firm AKPD was a strategic move for foreign interests.
Buhari won the 2015 election, and pledged to defeat Boko Haram, the jihadist terrorist group based in Northern Nigeria, that kidnapped the Chibok Girls back in 2014, but that, and many other outstanding items crippling the survivability of vulnerable citizens have yet to be resolved.
But with the world watching, and taking notes with accessibility to real-time developments, Buhari’s response to this latest atrocity that has resulted in senseless deaths, and increased the threats of a national emergency that has been heightened for decades, may miraculously produce lifesaving measures that turn the tide.
And while my reservations about whether or not Nigeria can triumphantly rise from the ashes of doom remain intact, I can’t dismiss how the revolutionary facets of 2020 are slowly reuniting my Americanness with the heart beat of my homeland in the security of Black power — undiluted and re-manifested.
It’s the epic fight against white supremacy, and the biblical resultants that have kept former colonies painfully chained to the war ships of those invasions.
The right to live without the channelled oppression from known sources — from continent to continent is the stolen privilege that must be restored — by any means necessary.
The fight rages on, as selfless protesters who represent faces of tomorrow are in the line of fire — standing their ground.
I’m not there in physical form, but my spirit soars in awe and gratitude for what can be possible.
And now more than ever, the verses of our national anthem resonate with profound eloquence:
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labour of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.
Oh God of creation, direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.