The past 17 days of the #EndSARS protests have been momentous for the country, and shown that Nigerian youths can rally round a cause. Though the tragic killing of peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate on Tuesday night triggered a violent reaction by sections of the angry youth population, which may have tainted the narration, the fact remains that the focus and coordination of the peaceful protests had never been seen in the past. The protesters were very peaceful and you had a situation where Christians and Muslims, gathered according to their faith, to pray for the nation. That was the prevailing situation until what now appears to be a sponsored attack on the protesters at the Lekki #EndSARS centre by a detachment of armed soldiers, who shot several rounds at the protesters, resulting in the killing of a number of them. Several others sustained various degrees of gunshot injuries or from other means. Early on the following day, Wednesday, aggrieved youths across Lagos and some other states went on rampage and engaged in arson and looting. Police stations and several public buildings and facilities were either razed or vandalised.
All these started with a tweeter joke, spearheaded by young Nigerian celebrities and then escalated into bottle-neck angers ready to be poured out from the Nigerian youths. Going by different posts displayed on various placards; the fury in the young fellows has pushed out their positive intelligence, unity, network, advantageousness and strong will of a generation that wants to leave happily ever after.
Now, as the protest gets to a crescendo across borders with international communities watching with eagle eye, it is baffling how tumultuously the youths systematically organized themselves in last couple of days without a pronounced leader. Information from the grapevine have it that they quickly rejected and resisted the traditional leadership structure and opted for a decentralized style of leadership where most young youths between the ages of 25-30years came out en masse with their various skills to propagate a peaceful movement.
This piece therefore is elicited with a careful watch, noting the enthusiastic strength and unity the youths have shown so far. Their great thinking, resilience, togetherness and onerous stature is what a generation of futuristic mind’s needs. It is also worthy of emulation.
Interestingly and as a reminder, one of the popular National Anthem stanza says, ‘Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand’, this is a deep saying and, yes, with the conduct of the youths during their peaceful agitation, the youths can confidently say; ‘their generation stands in brotherhood.’ When I read various accounts on social media since the protest started, I became very proud of our armless protesting youths. To think that on Friday, 16th October, Muslim protesters at the Alausa, seat of power of the Lagos State were observing their Friday Jumat Prayers, their Christian youth fellow protesters watched over them, tears fell off my eyes. That is the brotherhood we are talking about. When a brother watches over a brother’s back to make sure he does not sustain any form of injury, when a brother makes sure his brother is safe in the midst of crisis. When a brother raised fund to buy prosthetic leg for another who is in dire need of it. When a brother shared bottled water, food and drinks from same bottle and plate without considering and complaining of dirty smelling mouths. When a brother raised funds for hawkers they came across their way to have a new life; when brothers armed with Nigerian flags only took to the streets to restrain police from killing them. When brothers held and watched each other’s back as they marched to address their future from their leaders. When brothers truly stand in brotherhood with others. It is in the spirit of the same brotherhood that pushed the Nigerian youths out as they remember their fellow fallen heroes through the bullets of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) and police officers.
Fascinatingly, stories that touch the heart have really emanated from the gathering of the young protesters. Baffling is the fact that instead of them to be discouraged as the day goes by, they rather increased in number, staging their protest at strategic points, with various variations at their ports. If it is true that these youths have raised a whooping sum of over N65million within one week of their protest, readers would agree with me that they are really out to birth a new Nigeria; except these are allegations yet to be verified.
It is significant that Flutter Wave link was shut down and yet switched over to bitcoins and within one hour raised money to support the cause. They showed that they meant business and were not out to entertain Nigerians. They provided themselves a team of medical personnel and ambulances for emergencies. A senior banker who spoke with me at one of the protest grounds said: “I will not disclose the name of my bank. They (the government) thought that hunger would send us home, but we are literally having buffet services back-to-back with full supply of small chops, rice, pasta and ewa agoyin. Other foods we provide for ourselves include pizza, local fried meat known as asun, akara, puff-puff and drinks on a regular basis.” Who then supplies all these was my question? “As a banker, I came out from my house this morning ready to support 40 protesters with food, water and drinks. Nobody is sponsoring the protest; we are the ones providing all that we need by ourselves.”
Another facet of the resilience of the protesters at the Lekki centre was that they built a solar-powered mass charging facility, to enable protesters charge their phones while the sit-down-protest lasted. Without an office and a leader, the protest gained so much momentum, and youths raised dust to the admiration of the international community. Loud in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ekiti, Benin, Katsina, Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Kaduna etc, youths sang the song, ‘In brotherhood we stand’ and demanded an end to police brutality and bad governance.
There is an urgent need to reduce the cost of governance at all levels. Government should among other things provide for 24-hour public power supply, better educational system, provision of basic amenities, standard healthcare system, create jobs for “lazy youths” and be transparent and must be held accountable for positions at all times.
Now, with the harvested deaths from all angles especially the Lekki tollgate genocide, the land bleeds with blood of innocent citizens who were only armed with Nigerian flags and sat on the floor. A social media enthusiast wrote, “Lekki Tollgate – a mosque on Friday, church on Sunday and burial ground on Tuesday. What a country.”
In reaction to the attack against protesters, former United States Vice President, and who is a presidential candidate in the November 3, 2020 election, Joe Biden, issued a statement: “I urge President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence. The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”
In the same vein, former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called on President Buhari and the Nigerian Army to stop killing #EndSARS protesters in the country.