By Chika Abanobi
It’s more than a year since the ENDSARS protest ended in what turned out to be an anticlimax, with the alleged massacre of peaceful protesters at Lekki gate, Lagos. But its echoes have continued to reverberate from time to time. To capture the watershed moment in our nation’s history, Ebuka Obiakor, a young filmmaker, has produced a film with an intriguing title “The Brim,” which he said his mum helped him o come up with.
The film, shot in locations in Lagos with a seven-actor cast, none of who is a known face in the Nigerian film industry, tells the story of one George, a British returnee who did not believe a word of the stories making the rounds, on blogs and traditional media, about the bestial brutalities of officers and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). He felt they were fake news or that the stories were mostly exaggerated.
That was until he too, in the company of his friend, Ernest, a software developer, fell a victim, and nearly lost his life. For carrying on him a British-issued Visa, and, Ernest, a laptop with which he was doing some work for some clients, they was promptly dubbed Internet fraudsters or “Yahoo Boys.” For doing the work on “Python,” the general-purpose programming language, developed in 1991 by Python Software Foundation, Ernest was, in addition, accused, of belonging to a campus cult. Their lives were only saved when they agreed to part with certain sums, demanded by their accusers, the police operatives. No one was surprised, therefore, when George, the Defender of SARS, changed his mind after the incident, and joined the protest. His decision to use unknown faces was intentional, Obiakor explained.
In making this film, apart from general reports about atrocities committed by the now disbanded SARS, Obiakor had some personal experiences to draw from. One of them happened in 2019, in Asaba, capital of Delta State, when he was beaten, blue and back, by a SARS operative for inexplicable reason. “In the course of my Asaba experience, the SARS guy landed close to 10 punches on me. I was amazed. He beat me like a common thief. What was my offence? Nothing. The following day when I reported the matter to a higher police authority, he was summoned. The moment he saw me he was surprised that I could get there. Absolutely, he thought I was nobody because he met me in a taxi.
“When it occurred to him that he could be dismissed from the Police Force, he started pleading with me. The same guy who was acting like a demon-possessed, the previous day, suddenly became as gentle as a dove. Most of the officers present started pleading on his behalf. Being a soft-spirited young man, I forgave him and decided to drop the case. That saved his job. I can go on and on. There was a day, I was accosted and taken to their hideout. They do have hideouts, like a bush or inside a van. They went through my phone and saw my picture with Mr. President. That picture saved my life. He must have reasoned that taking me along with others that were about to be extorted could expose him to danger. Hence he let me go. I had been taken inside the bush and extorted before. That was highlighted in the movie. I am the software developer in that movie. These are real life stories: my story, no make-up.”
The man who, for many years, have been making commercial video ads for corporate organizations shares with Saturday Sun the reason he decided to make the film on ENDSARS protest. “I noticed during the ENDSARS protest that there were a lot of misconceptions. Some people thought the youths were out to topple the government. I decided to bring to the screen so they can get a picture of what we are talking about, of our plights. I wanted them to see it crystal clear and have a better knowledge. This wasn’t about taking over the government or hating the police. It’s about that unit “SARS”; we needed them off the street. We all need the police. We can’t do without them. But we want them to be professional with their job. I love the police; some of them are outstanding. But when majority of them are unprofessional in the way they do their work, people tend to see the entire police force as unfriendly. I want to be able to go to a station or make a call and lay my complaint and it will be attended to asap. We deserve a safe environment where we don’t have to be scared of our law enforcers.”
On the audience reception of the film, he said: “This is my first experience in film-making. Though a short film the effort was worth it. We launched the Youtube channel few days to the movie release and the comments have been encouraging. Being my first time making a movie, I was scared about releasing it. I didn’t know how my audience would view it. I didn’t want people to feel the story wasn’t told properly; so I had to take my time with the project. I was surprised we could garner up to 4000 views within two days. I never saw that coming; that was a big motivation for me.”