The Revolution will not be Televised, it will go Viral — The #EndSars Movement
My thoughts are all over the place, I am sad, I am angry, I feel helpless. Bear with me, while I try to piece together my thoughts.
On Tuesday, October 20, 2020, the Nigerian Military opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate and turned what had been a relatively peaceful protest into a bloodbath, with internal organs and bullet wounds on display. These are protesters like thousand of others across the country who had gone out to demand an end to police brutality, and the rogue police unit, SARS.
Even if protesters were violating a curfew, which they weren’t, who declared the punishment execution by the military?
“We have no Leader”
Organic is the best way to describe the #EndSars movement. A common sentiment held by the protesters is that there is no leader, and the leaders are the many who have lost their lives as a result of police brutality. If there was a leader it would be the young people killed at Lekki Toll Gate today. If there was a leader, it would be Jimoh Isiaq or it would be Chijoke Iloanya. If there was a leader, it would be the countless lives cut short at the hands of rogue police officers during this protest, and the unknown number lost before the protest. But they are all dead, so there is no leader.
“Na Person Wey Dey Alive, Dey Make Money”
The Critics, Verse 1: One of the oddest things during this protest has been comments about how the protests have been disruptive and affected business and commerce in the country, particularly in Lagos. Well, Sherlock, that’s the point. For months, the government has inconvenienced Lagosians with bridge repairs, for weeks we were in lockdown because of COVID, and no one seemed to complain. But the youth in Nigeria are demanding their rights as stated in the constitution and suddenly, it’s a problem?
“Every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in an execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
Now that tens of people were shot at the toll gate, and the government has called for a 24-hour curfew, I wonder if those same people will have complaints about the government.
The Critics, Verse 2: Many young people, myself included, have also been critical of the generation before us. “If they had protested, then we won’t have to protest today.” While I initially agreed with this sentiment, I now think it is somewhat unfair.
We have a tool that was not available years ago, Social Media — Twitter has made itself the home for all voices. Where everyone is a reporter and storyteller in their own right, with the right words and phrasing your thoughts put into 280 characters or less can reach millions. You can assemble, you can motivate, you can elicit global support.
Today, the world got to see peaceful protesters, singing the National Anthem, executed. Media Houses in Nigeria have largely kept mum about the protest and the killings, this is no surprise. But we no longer have to depend on them to tell our stories. Even if the revolution is taking off the streets by government-sanctioned bullets, the revolution will not end, the revolution is viral.
The Critics, Verse 3: “They have no leaders, the demands are unclear.” The demands were clear when the protest started. It’s clear now.
It’s simple. It’s justice for the many killed.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
We will remember what was said. We will remember those who were silent.
On his fourth attempt, President Buhari became the president of Nigeria. Nigerians believed that a former military leader so desperate to lead, and who was famous for his War Against Indiscipline, will set the country straight after decades of boundless corruption. There was much jubilation when he was elected, there was a noteworthy inaugural speech, the nation was optimistic. I wish we knew more about our history than the breadcrumbs we’d been served, we would have known our optimism was simply delusion and naivety. We believed a military dictator could embrace democracy. Tonight, we were faced with the consequences of our naive belief.
I wonder if this protest had been planned out if a different starting point would have emerged. The problems in Nigeria are so many, it’s overwhelming: health care; education; corruption; lack of basic social amenities; infrastructure; the list goes on. For months the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike. It’s interesting that just last week, the government decided to bring ASUU back to the table for negotiations. When students were at home for months, no one seemed to care, until they joined the protest.
Extrajudicial killings and police brutality has led to the disappearance and deaths of so many. It’s not too much to ask not to be killed in your country. After all, “Na person wey dey alive, dey demand better life.”