I wrote about the widespread protests against police brutality in Nigeria last week. Across the country, in several cities, youths came out to call for an end to police brutality and the ending of SARS, the Special Anti Robbery Squad, with a penchant for reckless harassment, killing and oppression of young people in the country. The struggle still goes on.
On Tuesday, October 20, 2020 chaos broke out. The protests that had hitherto been peaceful and orderly turned wild. Thugs and hoodlums took over all over the country. I suspect they may have been mobilised by some evil people against the protests. Violence broke out in many cities, leading to looting and burning of cars and properties. They sent a military band to gun down a group of orderly protesters who were not armed, were not violent, and did not pose any threat to anybody. Several young people were killed in circumstances that look suspicious and premeditated. This was the last straw!
As part of the older generation, I have sat and watched the protesters, supporting them with my prayers and my conversations. I have been on social media, reading up on the different posts pushing the #EndSARS agenda. I have watched the videos of the protests and listened to many impassioned speeches. I have seen the celebrities who have come out to lend their support to the protests.
From deep within my heart, I pray that these young people succeed in this agenda. It is time we broke free from the oppression of the Police. In fact, not just from police oppression, but from every type of oppression that they have subjected Nigerian citizens to over the many years of its existence. How can a democratic government unleash violence on its own people? On unarmed and non-violent children?
I was in secondary school when we had the democratic elections for the second republic. When President Shagari became President in 1979, the nation welcomed the government of the people by the people for the people. The first republic had not worked so well for us. The military had hijacked it through coups. We were ready to try again. In the four years that Shagari ruled, I recall how things declined in the country. The military took over by various coups and for several years, (I think about sixteen years), we suffered through different military dictatorships until Obasanjo gave us another chance for democracy in 1999.
The military rulers plundered the country and maltreated the people. We suffered through all kinds of hardships. I recall there was a time when the basic foods were no longer easily available and we had to queue up to buy rice, milk, sugar, vegetable oil and other essential products. I recall my mother buying us baby milk, because that was what was available. Rice was a scarce commodity, and we paid through the nose to buy it. Even bread was off our food table. We went back to our traditional foods. Yam replaced bread. Sometimes gari and amala were eaten for breakfast. Our middle class family dropped a level as we struggled to keep body and soul together.
That generation of Nigerians, the generation to which I belong, has suffered a lot. We were the generation that needed parental permission to do everything. It was the generation where your parents chose your schools and course of study. You complied, whether or not you liked it. Parents didn’t ask you what you wanted. They did what they thought best for you. It is the generation that experienced military brutality as they always met protesters with military force. Many died young.
My generation of Nigerians quickly learned to survive by being compliant. We absorbed the inconveniences and the sufferings. Once in a while, a voice or two would cry out and inevitably, they were quickly silenced. That generation learnt to fend for themselves at an early age. Once you passed through school, you were on your own and the earlier you got a job or business going, the better for you. No parent would buy you a car or give you pocket money after your degree. You were entirely on your own.
We grew up and became adults in a democratic nation where the leaders plundered the nation, even worse than the military had. Our democracy was anything but choice. The people had no choice in their rulers. Political godfathers decided elections and not the people. The people were so poor that they sold their votes for a measure of rice and oil. Poverty became the norm, with over forty percent of the population living below the poverty line, while our politicians flaunted ill gotten wealth in the faces of the populace, showing off luxurious cars, jewelry, and luxurious houses purchased all over the world. We abhorred them. But we did not have a voice to reject them.
My generation was muted and compliant. Yes, I agree. But we are the ones who brought up this generation of active, self-confident and expressive Nigerians: the youth of today who will not stand oppression or keep quiet about it. We are the ones who slaved to send them to good schools abroad to ensure they had a chance in the world and would not end up like we did. We did not make a difference in our time. But we have brought up children who will. So, as the protest goes on and our youths stand up to a corrupt government, we support them in the background, by praying that they succeed. We support them by not keeping them away from the streets. We may not be doing much, but we are mighty proud of them as they raise their voices in one accord.
These are the ones that will birth the new Nigeria that we have always prayed and hoped for. We pray that these protests will make an indelible mark in the history of Nigeria. We pray that these protests will be the beginning of the change that we desire. We pray that these protests will not be in vain. We pray that the blood of these young people will not have been shed in vain. This is not the end of the protests. This is the birth of a new Nigeria. It will come to pass.
#End SARS! #EndBadGovernance #EndCorruption # End Impunity in Poor Leadership
#End Innocent Bloodshed