The Latent Power We Wield

“To be Nigerian is to be surrounded by overwhelming injustice.
To be Nigerian is to trend hashtags and fight tooth and nail for a crumb of justice.
To be Nigerian is to normalise dysfunction because you are sadly left alone to prioritise your survival.
To be Nigerian is to sometimes turn a blind eye to injustice because you are genuinely tired.”

– Olu Afolabi, 2020

As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, I am used to being a victim of relentless injustice against which I feel entirely helpless. Almost every day that I live, I am hurt by situations that should not exist in an ideal nation with an active government.

I can give too many examples:

  • The road I ply to work every day that is a mess of sinking mud where a tarred road should be.
  • The forced “break” that has had me stuck at home for over eight months since I have been due to resume school because the governing body of academic staff in public universities cannot reach a resolution with the federal government.
  • The epileptic economy that has created extremes of the super rich and super poor, leaving no in-betweens.
  • The terror that grips me every time I see a gun-wielding officer of the law, bracing myself for the “accidental discharge” that could happen at any minute.
  • I could go on for a thousand more pages, engaging in what used to be the favourite pastime of the average Nigerian youth- lamenting the situation of the nation, decrying the government, only to round off with raining the weightiest curses we can conceive on the corrupt leadership.

But on the eight day of October 2020, almost spontaneously, this narrative began to change! We began to challenge the illegal activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the police force that has been notorious for their profiling and ruthless acts of torture, extortion, blackmail, and the use of dangerous levels of extrajudicial force against innocent citizens.

Over years, innocent youths have fallen victim of police brutality in the hands these officers with many losing their lives or sustaining lifelong trauma from horrendous torture in the process.

  • 15-year-old Emmanuel Egho was killed on the 25th day of September, 2008 in Enugu while he was playing with other children, unarmed.
  • Jimoh Isiaq, student of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology was hit by bullets shot by the police to “disperse the crowd” during the #EndSARS protests in Ogbomosho. Jimoh was simply an onlooker in a peaceful protest.
  • Ifeoma Abugu, a 28-year-old graduate of the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, was arrested by SARS officers in the place of her fiancé only to be sexually assaulted and killed while in their custody, four days after her introduction ceremony preceding her marriage.
  • 21-year-old Tiamiyu Kazeem, the assistant captain for the Remo Stars football club, was killed on the 22nd day of February, 2020 while being harassed by SARS officials even after he produced his identification card.
  • 17-year-old Tina Ezekwe was killed on Thursday, May 28, 2020, when she was shot by an officer of Nigerian Police Force who claimed to be drunk.
  • 20 year old Chibuike Daniel Ikeaguchi was shot by officers of the Anti-Kidnap unit of the Police Force on Saturday, 19 September, 2020, when he mistook them for SARS officers and took to his heels.
  • Kolade Johnson went down on Sunday, March 31 2019, from a stray bullet that hit him when the anti-cultism unit of the police went on a raid in Onipetesi, Lagos.
  • Mus’ab Sammani was gunned down on Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 in Kano, four months after his return from India where he had recently bagged a degree in Computer Science.

The list of victims, recorded or unrecorded, is almost inexhaustible. Till date, many remain missing and unaccounted for.

I have heard stories. I have heard horrific stories over the years, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that police brutality in Nigeria was this terrible.

Researching these occurrences over the last week, I have been filled with an unspeakable rage against the men and women who have not only failed to protect us as they should, but have also put our lives in grave danger. The older generations have been scared into silence, but our determination to create for ourselves a better nation from the tatters neck-deep in the rot of corruption and recession that we have been left.

Over the past few weeks, Nigerians have found their voices and protested both online and offline nationwide and all over the world. We have mobilised funds to provide legal aid to arrested protesters, compensation for the families of dead victims, medical aid for injured protesters, welfare packages at every protest, and waste management volunteers who have left the protest grounds cleaner than they met them.

Guns have been shot, and we have regrouped. Hashtags have been banned, and we have created new ones.

With every attempt to shut us down by infiltrating the frontlines, the baton has been passed on to a new activist. This revolution has no single leader, only youths who have refused to be separated by religion or tribe stand against the systemic rot in our nation, and reform Nigeria. I have never been more prouder be a part of a movement.

During the next general elections in 2023, we will be trooping out to receive our Permanent Voter’s Cards against all odds, and exercising our rights to vote by choosing for ourselves a leader who will care deeply about this nation and kickstart the change we have waited so long for.

While the Nigeria of my dreams may not be wholly birthed in my lifetime, there is no stopping the movement of positive change that has begun.

We are not helpless, neither are we silent.
We are done sitting around and complaining.
Our latent power is awake, and there is no stopping us now.

Do you recognize the latent power you wield? How are you using it to support the #EndSARS movement?


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