#EndSars: The rallying cry of the Nigerian Youths

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

If you have ever visited Nigeria, you will notice an antithesis of sorts. And by visit, I do not mean only downtown Abuja or Lagos island, while being ferreted between locations in air-conditioned vehicles.

I mean the streets of Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos. The creeks of Warri, Delta State. The hills of Enugu. The city of Kano.


Like I said, you would notice an anti-thesis of sorts. Even in the most ‘developed’ parts of the country.


Pothole-ridden roads. Poor water supply. Epileptic electricity. Run-down government buildings.


A sea of people at the bus-stops, waiting to pile into the insufficient transportation vehicles. People suffering and smiling.


Yet… you would equally also notice the sheer (and arrogant) opulence being displayed by the few, mainly top government officials and politicians. The ones entrusted with the nation’s common wealth, often living as kings and queens, at the expense of the masses.


The majority with hearts full of pain at unmet potentials, juxtaposed against the splendour enjoyed by the few feeding off the fat of the land. That is the antithesis.


I would know this, because I too was once a part of the majority. Born and bred in Nigeria, having lived there for over thirty years, I too was once one of those frustrated youths.


Like a people in a trance, year in year out, we trudged on in our individual struggles, while muttering in the quietness of our homes at the blatant inequalities in the system.


Luckily, my adoptive country came through for me. Like a foster bird-mom swooping in to save its own, I was taken. And gladly so.


But the rest of the youths who were not so lucky??? This weekend, they had enough.


The frustrations bubbled up and poured out. And #EndSARS was the perfect vehicle.


You see, it is one thing for the people to suffer bad governance and irresponsible leadership. That they have to create their own electricity supply, water supply, build their own roads, and grow their own food despite paying taxes is one thing.


To add to these frustrations daily and random extortions, sometimes killings even, by the people being paid to protect, was (definitely) poking the bear too hard.


This is the grievance against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force. Originally formed as a distinct unit of the police force to combat violent crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping – comparable as an equivalent of sorts to the SWAT in the United States of America.


Over time however, SARS devolved into a unit, renowned for serial extortion of the citizens (mainly in Southern Nigeria), and sometimes culminating into fatal shootings of victims.


Not that extortion by the Nigerian Police Force was a new thing, or something the people had not gotten conditioned to (albeit wrongly). But over the past three years, the effrontery with which innocent citizens were randomly stopped, robbed and brutalised sharply increased, with news of killings of innocent people by SARS beginning to seem “normal”.


It was as though they fed fat on the continued silence of the people.


They justified random searches at which these impunities were committed, with claims of combating internet fraudsters (a.k.a Yahoo boys). The only thing: there is a special unit called the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, responsible for focusing solely on financial crimes.


Meanwhile, armed robbers continued to terrorize communities, without the SARS officials’ intervention, while young people continued being extorted, and killed by SARS.


Driving a good-looking car, having a laptop or an iphone, putting on dreads, or looking ‘expensive’ was usually prima-facie ‘evidence’ that a young person was a ‘Yahoo boy”. This would lead to arrests and detention, unless requested sums of money were paid. Sometimes, as high as N500,000.


Complaints fell on deaf ears. Performative pronouncements were made by the government officials at different times. Meanwhile, the brutality of the SARS increased with a frenzy.


It became almost a daily cry on Twitter of young persons being marched to an ATM by men of the SARS unit, to pay their way out of detention.


Little wonder that the battle cry to #EndSARS began on Twitter, eventually pouring into the streets of the cities.


Protesters have physically rallied in groups across major cities in Nigeria, and even in other countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, while young Nigerians have continued to use their online platforms to draw global attention and ire to the rising protests,


Aisha Yesufu - renowned Nigerian human rights activist - leading a protest in Abuja, Nigeria
 Nigerian youths have had enough and have poured all their frustration into #EndSARS.


Despite assurances from the President of Nigeria via a video address about twenty-four hours ago that the rogue unit has been disbanded, the youths are not relenting. More protests are being put together, and the young people appear to just be getting revved up.


Maybe it is because the Head of State took forever to react and calm the nation down, by which time the anger had bubbled beyond mere placation.


Maybe it is because notwithstanding the announcement, men of the police force and SARS are still brutalising Nigerians, having shot at least five protesters in the past few days and imprisoning some others.


Maybe it is because there are specific demands expected by the people to be met by the Government. The people will not be swindled again with performative pronouncements.


Nigerian actor and rapper 'Falz' Folarin Falana weighs in on #EndSARS via Twitter

Or… maybe the youths are just fed up with decades of poor governance, with #EndSARS simply being the outlet. Perhaps with time, the protests will move to other aspects of governance.


In a country where 61% of its population lives in abject poverty, the majority of its populace survive on less than 2% a day, the exchange rate is currently US$1 = N450 (in the black market) yet, its lawmakers are among the highest paid in the world, it is only a matter of time before the people raise their voices in demanding for true change.


Not the type of ‘change’ that has seen the same set of leaders being recycled and recircled over time. But true change, which would reflect the power of the people, and ensure that the youths are not cut short in their prime.


Perhaps, the time is now. To demand – and receive – true leadership.


Responsible governance is not rocket science, as countries like Norway, Singapore, Canada and even Ghana have shown.


All that is required is true patriotism; the commitment to leave an inheritance for future citizens, and rather than the gobbling up of all its resources by the few presently in power.


To achieve this for Nigeria, government of the day must cut the cost of governance.


Fix the roads. Fix the electricity supply. Create equal opportunities for jobs and growth.


Reform the police, and all the security institutions. Retrain their personnel to understand that they serve the people, and not the other way round.


End banditry in the North. End Kidnappings.


End Boko Haram, once and for all. Not technically. Or futuristically. But fully.


Do all the things promised to the people, and on the basis of which the people voted.


If not, with time, we will see that #EndSARS is simply a rallying cry of the people, for the people, and by the people.





Photo Credits: All photos culled from Twitter

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  1. This is powerful. Thanks for lending your voice to the fight✊🏽