Editor's note: Founder of the prestigious African Economic Merit Awards (AEMA), McEva Temofe, writes on the recent #EndSARS protests while providing insightful reasons why Nigerian youths are agitating even beyond police brutality.
The call to put an end to police intimidation and brutality of the citizens was the loudest cry among the Nigerian youth to the defiance of the Nigerian government. Many youths of both sex, teenagers and the elders have narrated dark fears of their encounters with the Nigerian police and the stories are too horrifying to digest.
When there is continuous intimidation of a fellow person, there is room for violence and destruction. All kinds of platforms have been used to express dissatisfaction towards police brutality, from music to movies, stage plays, cartoons, poems, articles, interviews by well-meaning citizens and other areas of communication, all in a bid to end police brutality.
The #EndSARS protest or will I rather call it a movement, started by video evidence of untried suspects being shot to death by the police in broad daylight, shooting of innocent citizens and continuous extortion. #ENDSARS is what happens when deep-seated injustice and oppression meet single-minded courage and determination.
It’s difficult to tell which of the stories that sparked the protests is more heart-rendering. The story of the woman whose brother was killed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and whose grief was compounded by SARS men demanding sex before the young man’s corpse would be released? Eventually, the corpse was released after a radio announcer intervened. But the victim’s mother died while waiting.
What about the case of young Aborisade who was forced to get off an inter-state bus because he was carrying an iPhone and after the SARS men didn’t find enough money in his account, framed him as a robbery suspect?
Or the case of Ifeoma Abugu, a young lady that had just completed her national youth service who was arrested in the stead of her fiancé, sexually molested in detention and left to die in the cell? Or TiamiYu Kazeem who was stopped by SARS men and as they tried to take him into custody, fell out of the SARS van and was run over by a moving car?
The youth were labeled ‘LAZY’ by the Nigerian president, I believe, for being too quiet, non-reactive to bad government policies, refusing to fully participate in governance, and taking the present as their future.
The tired, oppressed and angry youth stopped being lazy when the call to end police brutality by the government became unattended to. This had been one of the most peaceful protests ever held until the people called for immediate step down of the president and intervention of international communities. There is hunger in the land, in a way, this became a well thought of strategy to use against the peaceful protesters. Days into the protest, hoodlums were used against peaceful protesters demanding for their constitutional right to better policing. Lives and properties were lost and feelings of peaceful protesters turned sour.
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The hunger in the land can make those seeking for a tiny loaf of bread for a day meal go against those fighting for a better nation. The manipulation of poorly catered for citizens resulted to escalation of violence. Those who were caught had taken less than 5 dollars to cause chaos.
In a sane nation, when there is anarchy, the governing body restructures its cabinet and appoints more competent hands. The politics being played at the national to local levels is a complete junta. The elite political leaders had been making promises to the Nigerian youth since 1963 that they were the future leaders but currently, in 2020, 60 years after independence, no Nigerian youth has ever led or is leading the country.
Leaders are being recycled, youth remain unemployed, roads are not motorable. Poor healthcare, bad educational system, corrupt policies, sectional programmes, insecurity have become the hallmarks of a country that keeps deteriorating, making the future of the Nigerian youth look bleak.
A common Nigerian youth is scared for his/her safety when the cloud is turning dark so as not to lose his or her life to a stray bullet, police extortion & brutality, or armed robbery with no security help. The majority of those meant to protect lives are manned at the gates of wealthy and powerful Nigerians and foreigners. When there is no security, investors avoid full investment plans in a nation and this leads to a reduction in the level of employment, thereby causing economic declination.
The Nigerian security forces, have always being in favor of the elite and the poor masses suffer for what they know not but pay heavy tax of no service in return.
Early in October, 2020 the Nigerian youth marched in thousands to put an end to police extortion & brutality, an effort that later led to a greater awakening and call for an end to bad governance. The courageous youth took to social media and millions of Nigerians, both within and in the diaspora, joined the protest that gained international attention.
The horrific night of 20th October, was a dark sad night that millions of youths and myself will never forget in a minute. The military gunshots were felt all over the country. A greater shock to my heart was the quietness of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I condemn in totality the attack at the Lekki toll gate.
The October peaceful protest is one of the most courageous moments of the youth in Nigeria.
What gladdens my heart is the beauty of the unifying spirit of the youth. In this cause, there was no tribal, religion, or ethnic barrier for the mission of the protest to be fulfilled.
If the country still wants to be a body, this is the time all stakeholders need to come strongly together and encourage the country to be restructured. Let each state manage its resources and be held accountable by the citizens of the state. Before we ignore the call to restructure, let’s not forget the peaceful call by the Nigerian youth to end SARS, a nonviolent protest that was later turned violent, leading to loss of lives and properties.
Nigeria is a country with rich human resource, natural resources and arable land. I believe in a Nigeria where the world can find hope, build a future, the youth leading the nation and securing the future of the generation next.
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