The youths in Nigeria have long endured police brutality and have seen dreams fizzled by those who should protect them. Fast forward to October 2020, what started as a call for a peaceful protest as a reaction to the unending killings by the SARS unit of the police force has engulfed the nation like a whirlwind and garnered the interest of the western media and lovers of Nigeria alike.
The youth voices are in unison, they say police brutality in their country is an evil wind that has raged for far too long. The government is rattled and has no clue on how to resolve the impasse. As the protests rage against police brutality, there are even more deaths on account of police brutality, which is an allusion to buttress that the rot in the Nigerian Police Force is endemic.
How would the government resolve this malady? The youths who have never experienced a country that works for the common good, say “we have no leaders”. We cannot trust the government, they continue to reiterate. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigerian Police have been disbanded on multiple occasions in times past. And most public office holders stash away funds that would have been used for National development for personal benefit. #Endsars seems to be the tipping point, but there is a larger issue plaguing the largest black nation in the World and the supposed giant of Africa.
Corruption, Election Rigging, Unemployment, Underemployment, inadequate infrastructural development, lack of access to basic healthcare, poor investment in education and insecurity amongst others continue to rage the land with brute force. Add police brutality to this and what you get are young people tired of the status quo. They have never enjoyed the benefits of democracy. And they have every right to demand accountability from their government, and rightly so.
Videos and pictures have emerged of thugs attacking peaceful protesters in various parts of the country, from Lagos, to Abuja and Benin with the police looking on, staying aloof. Also, live rounds of ammunitions used by the Nigerian Police Force have continued to kill and maim protesters. In countries where accountability in public office is a thing, the Inspector General of Police would have long resigned and all police officers involved in the killings of peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders would have been arrested and face the full wrath of the law.
It is hard to comprehend that in Nigeria, access to justice is not readily available. And those with access to power, get away with anything, including murder. The major lessons from the #endsars protest is that power belongs to the people. Think Rivers State and the threat to ban the #endsars protest by the Governor, Nyesom Wike, who ironically is a lawyer and married to a high court judge, shows that genuine power lies with the people and the moment they exercise that right is when they begin their journey to freedom.
What the #endsars protest has shown is that the protest is a synonym of the rot where only a few enjoy the commonwealth and make the Nigeria of our dreams a mirage. The solution is not just changing the name from SARS to SWAT, but a total reform of the police, to one that works for all. Also, the political class and powerful elites should henceforth stop using the police as a tool of oppression of the people.
A big thank you to Oghenefego Ofili for all the images.