Young Nigerians may have been late to the party, but they can still take their country back.
It’s been the iconic, story-telling images for me: Aisha Yesufu stares down the barrel of drawn police rifles and a plume of teargas canisters, a fist in the air, unbowed and unbroken.
Kiki Mordi pulls up in a truck because any other means of commuting at this critical time for our nation, would have been so mainstream.
Protesters on the streets of Abuja find time to hold aloft the middle finger as they are hunkered down by police trucks, water cannons and teargas canisters, a wry smile on their faces.
Mr. Macaroni leads overnight, sit-in protests at the gates of the Lagos State House of Assembly, while braving mosquitoes and miscreants lurking in the shadows.
Wizkid drums support for #EndSARS protesters from the Nigerian High Commission in London after harassing the presidency all week on Twitter.
A young woman gets drenched in the rain while calling for an end to police brutality.
Young men bring DeeJays to protest venues, singing along and gyrating to the tunes from their favorite artistes; and a young man waves an #EndSARS banner from a mobile police post, while in flight.
Young Nigerians have often been derisively dismissed as keypad, social media warriors, unable to hit the streets because they care more about reality TV shows and nightclubs than they do about civics, politics and governance.
For far too long, young Nigerians have been dismissed as cowards–the kind of crowd who allow decisions to be taken on their behalf without their inputs, even though they are the most powerful demographic in the land.
Former presidency spokesperson, Reuben Abati, once pejoratively referred to young Nigerians as “twittering, facebooking children of anger.” His successor, Femi Adesina laughed off young social media critics and labelled them “wailing wailers.”
To the geriatric political class, young Nigerians couldn’t stage a protest to save their lives. So they went about looting the nation’s treasury for fun and rigging themselves into office because no one could hold them to account.
Now, young people may just be taking their country back. Young people are social media warriors no more.
Which is why the impressive turnouts at all #EndSARS protest venues across Nigeria and in major cities across the world, gladdens the heart and should be encouraged. Not since the petrol subsidy protests of 2012 have we seen young Nigerians this motivated and united behind a common cause.
The social media warriors have had enough. After being pushed to the wall for so long, they are revolting with all they’ve got. They have grounded the commercial capital city of Lagos–the nation’s lifeblood.
They are organising from social media and executing their plans on the streets. They are pooling resources and donating to the cause, finally putting their monies where their fingers are. And they have kept #EndSARS trending at number one worldwide for days on end. They suddenly hold all the aces.
Every globally recognised celebrity and football superstar worth the name has tweeted the #EndSARS hashtag. The frightening scale of police brutality in Nigeria has made it into the international media; and just about everyone on the face of the planet has been curious about what’s happening in Nigeria and showing support one way or the other.
#EndSARS may just be that inflection point our nation has been yearning for. It’s a lightning rod of some sorts–the catalyst for the change we’ve always pined for.
These protests are a metaphor of some sorts; the beachhead. The rallying point for all that has been wrong with our country since independence in 1960.
These protests are more than the call for an end to police brutality and human rights abuses from police personnel. This is about demanding good governance and yelling to every politician that young lives matter.
And for good measure, the revolution is being televised and tweeted globally.
These protests are about resetting our failed federation as we know it. The protests are about making young Nigerians realise how powerful they can be if they speak with one voice and organise politically. Those who once dismissed these young men and women as cowards or never-do-wells, may just be having a rethink now.
The notorious police unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a microcosm of our public officials and political leadership–corrupt, rudderless, excessive show of force and satanically brutal. So they kill and maim for sport.
And they are still killing and maiming for sport.
Jimoh Ishaq has just been added to a long list of young men and women who have been extra-judicially killed by the police for daring to look good, sport dreadlocks, own smartphones or wield laptops.
He joins Emmanuel Egbo, Gabriel Ejoor, Tiamiyu Kazeem, Kolade Johnson, Daniel Adewuyi, Ifeoma Abugu and Tony Oruama. Yes, we remember all their names because they are us. We remember that their lives were cut short before they have even lived.
SARS has killed brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, children, friends, cousins and aunts.
And even after the announced disbandment of the rogue unit by the president and the Inspector General of Police, SARS or regular police personnel are still killing young people. They know no other occupation.
Which is why these protests must continue until Nigerians receive a firm, tangible commitment from the authorities that the police have turned a new leaf and that officers have shunned their barbaric, brutal, nihilistic and extortionist ways.
When we say #EndSARS, we are calling for a new, reformed police force in tune with the intricacies of 21st century policing. We want a modernist approach to policing. The type of policing that regards everyone as innocent until proven guilty.
We want an end to these brutal, blood-thirsty, badly trained assemblage who have become so adept at profiling. We want a new force to rise from the ashes of SARS or other killer tactical squads.
And for the young people who have gotten the ears of the president, governors and the police high command by hitting the streets in one accord, let this be a reminder that if you all organise to vote and get registered to vote for candidates whose values you share, you can begin to shape that new nation you’ve always dreamt of.
You’ve got the power and numbers to do so. Impossible is nothing.
*Topnewstv Editor’s Opinion is the opinion of an editor at Topnewstv. It does not represent the views of the Organisation Topnewstv.