The #EndSARS protest against police brutality in Nigeria was organic, it was not led by the opposition, labour unions or any popular activist. It was the reactions of a generation of young people, united by their shared history of being oppressed and murdered by a rogue police unit. The #EndSARS movement started initially in 2017 with protests and engagements with the Police authorities but the Force did not take any firm step to stop the SARS reign of terror. The SARS regime of torture, kidnapping, rape, murder and extortion continued, a lot of it documented and verified.
The protests started and continued till 20 October because government was not committing to the kind of radical changes that was needed. Also, the government has a history of being insincere with their promises. In the evening of that day, peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos were shot at by soldiers. Earlier in the day, the State had announced a curfew which was to begin at 4 pm but was later extended to 9pm. Some staff members of the Lekki Concession Company removed cameras from the tollgate and lights were put off in the area, even billboard lights went off mysteriously. Protesters using MTN and Airtel networks also complained about loss of signal during the shootings. The governor said the cameras were laser cameras for identifying number plates and not CCTV cameras, the advert company that owns the billboards also said they put their boards off because of the curfew and MTN later apologised for the loss of coverage. These events might be unrelated but they must be noted.
As the shootings began, protesters kept singing the Nigerian national anthem but this did not deter the assassins. There was a courageous young lady, DJ Switch whose live video showed the world what was happening. The video was live on Instagram, neither doctored nor recorded. Eyewitnesses also said that the soldiers made away with bodies after they stopped shooting. This is not surprising as members of the Nigerian army had done a similar thing with bodies of Shiite protesters they murdered in Zaria in 2018.
In the Slapdash approach which is now typical of President Buhari, he did not say a word about the shootings until the evening of Thursday 22 October. In the recorded broadcast, he did not even mention the Lekki shootings. Perhaps he was not even aware or he doesn’t care, both of which would be extremely sad.
Initially, the Lagos State Governor denied that anyone died. He has since admitted that 2 people died even though eyewitness accounts state that the figures are higher. He also blamed the incident on forces beyond the state’s control and the Defence Headquarters denied having anything to do with the shooting. Later, the governor admitted that footages showed that the assassins were wearing Military uniforms, suggesting that they were members of the Nigerian Army, a claim which has since been denied by the Defence Headquarters. It is logical to conclude that either the Lagos State Governor or the Defence headquarter is lying. Two important institutions contradicting themselves signify that there are fundamental leadership errors in the country.
It is unfortunate that certain people have been denying the deaths of the patriots whose lives were lost at the shootings. No one dispute the shootings, what they dispute is the deaths. I wonder what they expect the result of live rounds being shot at people to be. That there are any survivors from the incident is sheer happenstance. Even if anyone says that it is not a massacre, it is all semantics. People were shot at, that is incontrovertible. The trauma of taking gunfire is bad enough and should not be trivialised. Have we become so insensitive that human lives no longer mean anything to us?
The truth is that protesters were peaceful and soldiers shot them. This is unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. We were not outsmarted or outnumbered, we were outgunned. We are the majority and we will prevail. We will keep applying pressure legally. If anyone thinks this will go away, they are sadly mistaken. If anyone thinks a Nigeria where Police officers are recruiting OPC members to guard stations is sustainable, they are mistaken. If anyone thinks a Nigeria where young people are being profiled and murdered with no consequences is sustainable, they are mistaken. If anyone thinks a Nigeria where the urban poor react to decades of neglect by plundering anything and everything is sight is ideal, they should have a rethink. Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb and the ruling class (not just the politicians now) are aiding the process of self-destruction.
This is not a Niger Delta problem, not a Yoruba problem or a Northern problem. This is about the very existence of Nigeria. This is not just about Police Brutality; it is about the very existence of Nigeria. The time has come for things to change, the country is healing. This is Nigeria’s opportunity at redemption. Now foreign countries are becoming inhabitable for the ruling class, thanks to the Internet and millions of Nigerians they have forced to go on economic exile.