The anti police brutality uprising which began as a protest against the much reviled Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) by a handful of activists in Nigeria few years ago, gradually snowballed into a massive movement spearheaded by youths and spread across the world. In this analysis, Daily Sun x-rays how the movement started and eventually exploded and what it portends for the 2023 elections.
Initially, many dismissed the protests believing that those spearheading it will eventually tire out and the protests will fizzle out, but as more and more youths took to social media to draw awareness to the many years of police brutality, a powerful movement was created and begun gaining momentum and support across the globe.
According to Nendo, a research and marketing firm based in Nairobi and working across Africa which looks at millions of online updates on Africans to predict trends, EndSARS was tweeted 99 million times from twitter handles across the globe. The data which Daily Sun obtained permission to use showed how young Nigerians turned EndSARS into a global movement.
In a deep-dive into the data behind the #EndSARS movement, over 90 million tweets from more than five million twitter users round the globe were analaysed by Nendo to uncover unseen insights. The data showed that in 2019, Nigerians on Twitter sent an average of 1.5 million tweets a day. During the peak of #EndSARS, Nigerians sent over 10 times this amount rallying around the hashtag. (Source: Brandwatch)
Conversations on the protests against SARS had received 99 million mentions as of October 25,2020. EndSARS started in December of 2017 but it didn’t have the sort of public outcry like in October 2020. By October 6, there were already a total of 73,463 mentions as a result of Nigerian entertainers such as Wizkid, Don Jazzy, Davido, Genevieve Nnaji among others, who had joined in on the EndSARS conversation.
October 9 was the tipping point when the volume of conversation surged with 6,884,257 mentions streaming in using the hashtags: #EndSARS #EndSARSNow and #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria. Mentions for the period analyzed were at an all time high on the 11th of October, reaching a total of 14,958,523. This is due to millions of Nigerians across the world adding their voices. News outlets like The Sun Newspaper were also major contributors to #EndSARS, reporting on the protests.
The top 10 countries driving the #EndSARS conversation were: Nigeria 21 million tweets; USA two million, Indonesia, 585,000; UK, 489,000; Ghana, 404,000; Canada, 307,000; South Africa, 281,000; United Arab Emirates, 73,000; Ireland, 54,000 and France, 50,000.
The top nine Nigerian cities driving the EndSARS conversations were: Lagos,14 million; Abuja, one million; Ibadan, 801,000; Port Harcourt, 596,000; Ilorin, 240,000; Benin, 224,000; Enugu, 223,000; Kaduna, 195,000; Akure,152,000. Conversations on the #EndSARS protest started peaking on October 5 on Twitter. So far, the total impressions have exceeded 280 million and total users tweeting has gone from four to eight million.
Analysts, activists want young people to sustain momentum and cause shift in 2023
At the peak of the protests, the Federal Government was forced to disband SARS and implement better police reforms. Though the movement had no visible leader, activists provided legal and health services for the protesters and a helpline that could respond to emergencies were provided. These services were possible through the many crowd-funding efforts.
Unfortunately, in a bid to quell the protests, soldiers were deployed to Lekki toll gate, Lagos where the largest gathering of protesters were gathered and according to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on CNN, shots were fired at the protesters by the soldiers. Many lost their lives as a result of the shooting. Though eventually, hoodlums went on rampage, looting, vandalising and burning down private and public facilities, many prominent Nigerians believe that young people can bring about a drastic shift during the 2023 elections if they can rally with the same vigour.
Abdul Mahmud, lawyer and human rights activist said the EndSARS struggle must not be left to die and should be translated into capturing power in 2023. “The EndSARS struggle must be translated into capturing power in 2023. The political class is united in its common resolve to loot palliatives, so Nigerian youths in the North and South must unite against them,” he said.
Prominent Northern leader, Tanko Yakassai, told Daily Sun that the youths have the power of numbers and if properly harnessed, they can capture power in 2023 or determine who occupies Aso Rock. He however said that the peculiarity of Nigerian politics makes it inevitable that voters always consider the personality on the ballot more than competence.
He said: “The problem of Nigerian politics is that election is always related to the personality and it depends on who we have as candidate particularly if we continue with the presidential system. If between now and the time of election as some people are advocating that we tinker with the system of government, then things may change. But certainly, the personality of the candidate that will contest election is very important. What I know is that while there are people who are talking about power shifting to the South East, I have not observed that the South East is making any effort towards that because it is not something that people will just give you because you wish it to be so. You have to work for it. I read what people like my friend, former Governor of Anambra State, saying that if the 2023 presidency is not given to the South East, they will break away. I don’t think that is the way to go about it.
“If you observed the EndSARS protest, it showed that even the youths are committed to Nigeria, so I expect that is what will drive the issue of power shift. The younger elements have the power of number, therefore it will certainly play a role in the coming elections but whatever happens in my assessment, the personality of the candidate will be a very important deciding factor. From every indication, the two major political parties, will sponsor candidates from the North and South. The APC is likely to present a South West candidate, while the PDP is likely to produce their candidate from the North.”
Investment banker and economist, Atedo Peterside said during a television interview that the EndSARS protest has brought about a great awakening among the youths especially from those who were hitherto not interested in politics. He said youths should channel the same effort into political activism and ensure that they determine those who will be elected in 2023.
“We are talking about the future of Nigeria and it is for the youths, so if things happen that get the youths to be disenchanted nationwide, then we are in trouble. But I think that what happened on Tuesday, October 20, can be turned around because it was on that day, that many youths in Nigeria who historically, took no interest in politics woke up. Some woke up earlier, but I think that even those who were not motivated now understand and agree that they must become politically active.
“The gentle giant has woken up and the greatest way to move a nation forward is to harness the strength of that giant and the youths have learned lessons from this incident. You will be most effective when you link your demands with political activism. They should start getting their voters cards. Don’t wait for the last one month or two months, because, then your card may fail to arrive. There is no force more powerful than the youths in Nigeria in terms of voting.
“One simple signal the youths can send is to say that they won’t support anybody who today is above the age of 60. If you all unite on that, I bet you that all the ambitious people who are below 60 will be competing to curry favour from you. Don’t reject them, use them and in turn, manipulate them because it is your right and that is the way you claim your country back. Those of you who go out and fight for meaningful reforms to improve Nigeria for our future are the ones that we are going to support. When you forcefully send such signals, they will obey you,” Peterside said.
A youth centered party may be formed
At the peak of the protests, some Nigerian youths begun making plans to form their own political party called ‘Youths Democratic Party’. Though the names of those behind the move are still unclear, the proposed party is said to comprise of only youths. The launch of this new political party sparked reactions from several angles with some calling for fundraising to raise money for the registration and running of the political party, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The YDP twitted to its followers saying that the party is made up of youths who are tired of bad governance and the government’s policies. It said: “The Youth Democratic Party is a collective movement of each and every Nigerian youth who is tired of bad governance and anti- people policies. We have one voice. Enough is Enough. End bad governance in Nigeria. One for all, all for one. No APC, no PDP. No tribalism, no religion. Just youths who want a better country to call their own.”
Nigerian professional wrestler, Kamaru Usman said: “If Nigerians can donate this much for a protest, I am sure we can fund a better party, (Youth Democratic Party) here we go,” while activist, Aisha Yesufu said: “Good morning to Nigerian youths. The struggles have been tough, but I want to assure you all again that power belongs to the people. The SARS movement has no leader and should remain that way. Retweet if you believe in Youth Democratic Party (YDP).”
Casir Ozuruigbo said: “If all Nigerian youths donate N500, trust me, we will be able to gather enough, register our party, Youth Democratic Party (YDP) and finally retire all our ancestors from councilors to Senators to Governors to President.” Another user, Kris Whyte said, “We have to build a new Nigeria for ourselves and push those old people away from power,” while Osigbeme Junior tweeted, “I hope that come 2023, we can carry out online voting due to the rigging and the likes. Imagine a Nigeria where people can vote from their mobile phones just like the way they normally vote in Big Brother Nigeria.”