Before the #EndSARS protests started on Thursday, October 8, 2020, there has been so much outcry against police brutality, harassment and extortion in different parts of Nigeria and what started as a social media discussions gave birth to what eventually turned out to be a massive movement against the rots in the Nigerian Police Force, NPF.
Prominent young Nigerians, social media influencers and celebrities like singer and actor, Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, comedian, Mr Macaroni, Rinu, singer, Runtown, Dr Dipo, singer, Wizkid, Davido, Adekunle Gold, Simi, Yemi Alade and many other Nollywood actors lent their voices to demand that the Inspector-General of Police prevail on men and officers of the NPF.
Also, Burna Boy, Peter Okoye, Ruggedman, Rudeboy, Segalink, Aisha Yesufu, Omoyele Sowore, Banky W, FK Abudu and many other social media influencers were not left out in the course of joining the protests both online and offline to the point that the Twitter CEO had to create an emoji for the campaign, a move which further encouraged the protests online.
The EndSARS turned out to be a massive youth movement, though it was agreed that there was no need to have a leader for the campaign, still, different measures were put in place to ensure proper coordination of the protests in different cities and states across the country before the feminist coalition was given the responsibility to coordinate the raising and disbursement of funds for the protests.
Though, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, October 22 addressed the Nation and advised the protesters to embrace dialogue instead of keeping up with the nationwide protests which were reportedly hijacked by hoodlums after some days it has started. However, it is important to point out five lessons from the EndSARS protests.
1. THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA: No gainsaying the fact that the social media, the Twitter, in particular, allowed the protesters to come together to speak in one voice as regards what they want the government to do, it was on Twitter they announced their #5for5 demands.
They demanded that arrested protesters should be released without further delay, Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families, setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, psychological evaluation and retraining of all SARS officers before their redeployment and increment of police salary.
In line with their demands, some state government had set up a judicial panel to investigate some SARS operatives, who were accused of engaging in police brutality and harassment while President Buhari also announced the increment of police salary during the Thursday, October 22 nationwide broadcast.
2.THE POWER IN UNITY: More than ever before, the Nigerian youths spoke in one voice and they were united in their demands for a reformed police force in the country. Their unity gave birth to how the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu announced the immediate dissolution of the SARS unit in the police force on Sunday, October 11, 2020.
The protesters did not allow religion or tribe to divide them as they all trooped out in different cities and states to protest police brutality, extortion and harassment. At a point, some protesters who are Christians had to watch over their Muslim counterparts who had to pray in the course of the protest.
3. SUPPORT FROM NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA: Beyond the coming together of Nigerians in different states in the country, many Nigerians in Diaspora also lent their voices to demand that the Nigerian Police Force be reformed. There were reports about how many of the diasporans trooped out to stage protests in different countries around the world in solidarity with their brother and sisters in Nigeria.
This is an indication that many Nigerian in Diaspora are not happy with the different happenings in the country and won’t hesitate to join hands in ensuring that the wrongs are corrected an indication that they are willing to contribute their quota to the development of Nigeria not minding their locations.
4. COMMITMENT AND PASSION: The EnSARS protests allowed many Nigerians to show their commitment towards ensuring that things can work well and better in Nigeria. Many of the protesters were not bothered about intimidations as they were moving from street to street to make their points so that the government could listen and work on their demands.
The few days of protests showed that many young Nigerians are passionate about the project of a New Nigeria that will allow its citizens to live their dreams and work towwards the development of the nation.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: One of the things that many Nigerians complain about on the part of the government is the lack of Accountability and the level of corruption among officeholders in the country, but, it was a different scenario on the part of Feminist coalition, a group, who coordinated the Money donated and spent during the protests. Many people commended the group for their level of accountability and how they coordinated the funds donated in the course of the campaign.
According to a statement released by the group on Friday, October 23, the sum of 60, 403, 235.00 were disbursed out of the total sum of 147, 855,788.28 that was received within fourteen days, while they announced the sum of 87, 452, 553. 28 as the total sum left as they further gave a breakdown of how the remaining fund will be shared to cater to those who will need it.
However, I hope the Nigerian youths and everyone who believes in their vision of a New Nigeria could sustain the tempo of leveraging on the power of social media, the strength in their unity, their commitment, support from Diasporans and Accountability to keep pushing for a better Nigeria that everyone can be proud of in the nearest future.
R.I.P To those who lost their lives during the EndSARS protests, hopefully, the government would compensate their families and also prosecute those responsible for their deaths.