EndSARS: Beyond protests and govt’s intolerance
On October 20, 2021, Nigerian youths defied police warning and gathered at various locations in different parts of the country, to mark the first anniversary of the EndSARS protests that shook Nigeria to its foundation a year earlier in October 2020.
EndSARS is a social movement characterized by mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. It started as a social media campaign and snow-balled into mass protests nationwide. While it lasted in 2020, the protesters called for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was a notorious unit of the Nigeria Police.
On October 3, 2020, SARS operatives allegedly shot a young man at Wetland Hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, injuring him. This incident was filmed and put on the internet. It went viral and sparked an outcry against SARS. The outcry spread, lingered and culminated in the mass protest of unimaginable scale.
But on the night of October 20, 2020, there was what looked like an eclipse when members of the Nigerian Army allegedly opened fire on the peaceful EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos. Amnesty International alleges that, at least, 12 protesters were killed during the shooting.
We share in the pain of many Nigerians, especially the parents and other relations of those young Nigerians who paid the supreme sacrifice. We are pained that, one year after, their souls are yet to rest in their graves because nothing seems to have changed, meaning that they may have died in vain.
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Nigerians are not happy with the way and manner Nigerian state actors have carried on since that heinous act at the Lekki Tollgate. Those actors seem to live in denial of what many believe is an obvious fact, thus leaving a sour taste in our national taste bud.
The way the EndSARS protest was brutally repressed has made us wonder what else it would take for the government to acknowledge the existential problems that define life in Nigeria
“The memory of what truly happened on the night of October 20, 2020, at the Lekki tollgate, has been contested by state agents, but none of their strident denials can take away the fact that the Nigerian government unleashed violence on its own people,” Abimbola Adelakun, a public affairs commentator, noted in her article in a national daily.
“The murders happened, and we will not let them minimise that truth with their feverish repudiations of that fact,” Adelakun alleged. Government is yet to provide an alternative view to this.
Brutality by security agents, including the police, SARS, the army or the State Security Service (SSS), seems to us a cowardly act given their inability to apprehend the actual threats to lives of Nigerians.
It is bad enough that Nigeria faces insecurity problems and deepening poverty. It is even worse that the country is in lack of a government that is ready to invest in social safety nets that could offer anything other than occasional cosmetic changes.
All the issues raised during the EndSARS protests last year have not only remained but have even grown worse. The story remains the same as no region in the country is spared of the massive disruptions to lives and livelihoods by unavoidable social and economic challenges.
Our lives would have been a lot better if government had taken seriously, the anger that gave rise to EndSARS and committed itself to addressing the issues raised through social and economic reforms.
The way the EndSARS protest was brutally repressed has made us wonder what else it would take for the government to acknowledge the existential problems that define life in Nigeria.
With hunger, insecurity, poverty, and the systematic diminishing of life in an average Nigerian, it is safe to say that Nigeria has never had it so bad as it has had in the past six years. Government has solved little or no problems. If anything, it has compounded existing ones.
We are of the opinion that the government should go beyond cracking down on the protesters and begin to implement policies that cater for those needs the youths highlighted during the 2020 protest.
On their part, the youths should go beyond protests. We see this as the best time for the youths to prove that they are a force to reckon with. We believe there is so much the youth can do to bring about change in the polity and in governance. One way is through their votes.
In 2023, the youths of voting age should join older Nigerians to decide who governs them. So, time is now for them to start organizing rather than agonizing and that they can do by talking to themselves. The EndSARS protest was an eye-opener to what the youth are capable of doing if they organize.
We believe that if the youthful energy and knowledge that went into the EndSARS protest is deployed to making a change in the country, it would succeed beyond measures.
We advise the youths to set themselves on the path of reforming and rebuilding Nigeria’s faulty systems. This is the way to go, not protests because protests have proved ineffective to bring the needed change.