Trigger warning: Mild mentions of police brutality, sexual assault and rape.
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Sọrọ Sókè — speak up!
Nigerians are proud and we do everything with confidence. I mean, we are the largest Black nation on Earth, with over 200 million (probably more) in the country and countless Nigerians in diaspora. Now, we are using our voices across the globe to speak out against injustice. Injustice by our own government, our police who are supposed to protect us. Buhari and his government need to understand the world is listening and this will not die down. It’s far too long that Nigerian youth have been slandered, dismissed and have been unheard. But, enough is enough.
Just over a few weeks ago, we celebrated our Independence Day on the 1st October and now, there’s protests across Nigeria and the diaspora from London, Berlin, Toronto to Dallas. The fact these protests are happening, just after our Independence Day is powerful. Perhaps this is the birth of a new independence for Nigerian youth, triggering a much needed change in such a brutally corrupt system.
As a diaspora, it’s amazing to see how we are all speaking out. Whether it is by protesting, donating, writing or just spreading awareness. No matter our religious or ethnic differences, at the end of the day — we are all Nigerian and we are all connected. These protests have crossed state lines whether they are in Akure, Kano or Asaba — despite the alleged divisions between Northern and Southern Nigeria, we are unified and that is the most important thing. Unity looks good on us.
Around 1900 Nigerians have been killed by police in 2020 — more than twice the amount of people murdered by police officers in the US this year. #ENDSARS is also Black Lives Matter, whether people are being killed by a white officer or a Black one. Nigerian lives matter and are valuable. So, the same energy must be kept everywhere.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) carry guns without any official ID indicating that they are part of the police force. Even then, still useless. If not for social media, we probably would not have known about the END SARS movement, mobilised by young Nigerians. Nigerian police are notorious for police brutality; whether it’s kidnapping or torture or even killing. SARS has wreaked terror on so many livelihoods and the fact that it has been in existence since 1992 says a lot. I can’t even imagine the number of people who have suffered at the hands of SARS.
For Nigerians abroad that love to live life in Lekki or Asokoro in December and are quiet on this issue, you really should be ashamed.
The officers target young Nigerians, those who may look different in terms of dress or have an expensive car or phone, assuming they are a Yahoo boy. Pause right there, just because someone dresses in a certain way or owns particular things doesn’t mean they are a Yahoo boy. Let alone, imagine being a young woman. In the past week, I have read stories about women being raped, assaulted and then killed by SARS. If you retaliate or answer back in what these officers may deem ‘disrespectful’, it gets long. This is something I cannot stand about Nigerian culture (note: there’s over 250 ethnic groups, this is a generalisation), not everything is disrespectful.
The specific profiling of youth with individualistic styles or any ounce of creativity triggers the government, unless it’s their children. It’s imperative to understand that Nigeria is still suffering from internalised colonialism. You cannot define a person based on their looks, no matter if they have tattoos or piercings, drive a Benz, have multicoloured braids. It just doesn't make sense.
To see Nigerian youth, whether at home or in the diaspora, demand change and accountability from the incompetent government is fascinating. Protesters have gathered outside the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force, splattering red paint across the road. The paint symbolises the killings by the SARS. Now, that they have been disbanded, it changes nothing. Clearly, it is an opportunity for Buhari and his goons to save face internationally, whilst disgracing the country on a regular basis, from the time the Chibok girls were kidnapped and the country did nothing. Just humiliating us on a global basis. The Nigerian government need to know that this is not just about SARS but it is a catalyst for everything. And they are shaking, we love to see it.
Scrolling through the timeline and seeing #ENDSARS everywhere is so liberating, we even have our little symbol but this isn’t the end. Now that SARS has been ‘disbanded’, it’s still not enough. The government has established ‘SWAT’, the Special Weapons and Tactics unit as a replacement. SARS or SWAT — there’s no difference, it’s the same thing we are fighting against. Seeing protests still going on in heavy Nigerian rain, from protesters sleeping on the streets with no protection and people giving out food — this is what community looks like. Everybody does their part, everybody must sọrọ sókè. You don’t even have to be Nigerian to support this, you just need to have compassion.
It’s easy to say that this is a leaderless movement and is wholly supported by Gen Z and celebrities such as Falz, John Boyega and Wizkid. In a country where women are constantly overlooked, to see The Feminist Coalition at the backbone of the movement is important, with multiple donations and community aid. Who could have imagined a day like this could come? This is Nigeria we are talking about. Being explicitly led by Nigerian women — a cultural reset. The fact there is no ‘face’ to the protests speaks volumes, Nigerian politicians can’t pinpoint it on anybody. It’s a collectivist movement — individualism doesn’t help anybody.
They always say the youth are the future but until all forms of terror have been abolished, will there even be a future? Thankfully, we have digital media platforms like Zikoko and MoreBranches, documenting the experiences of the realities of being a young person in Nigeria.
But revolution or not, Nigerians are always vibing. I mean, who does it better?
Either way, I know we can do this. I’ve never been prouder to be Nigerian in my entire life.
There is strength in numbers, every voice matters, every donation counts so sọrọ sókè.