The humble beginning on Twitter
Three days after Nigeria clocked 60, I found myself sitting on a tattered mat at an unusual corner in the room. I had just finished the daily struggle, and as usual, my house was enveloped in darkness due to the epileptic power supply in the nation. To while away time before consuming two wraps of moimoi I bought, my eyes gazed randomly while surfing the internet. Strangely, the breeze of information seems different. Just after swimming out of an article by Omole Adegboyega on “the optimistic future of Nigeria,” my eyes landed on one of the trending news on Twitter. The hashtag #EndSARS caught my attention, and barely a few days later, what seems to be an online agitation against various horrendous actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) escalated to a nationwide protest. In the twinkling of an eye, crowds began to gather in major cities in Nigeria to demand complete abolition of the nefarious SARS who have been perpetrating the evil they were created to curtail.
SARS to SWAT: Nigerians refused to give in to disguise from the government
The decision of the Inspector General of Police to announce a mere re-naming of SARS to SWAT made Nigerians fume at the debasing style of governance by people in power. Do these people think that the shattered education sector will make us gullible entities? Definitely, No! In fact, the fight gradually slipped from just combating against SARS to objecting the maladministration of leaders, and progressively metamorphosed into a united call for a ‘new Nigeria’ which we all desire. With the economic condition of the assumed giant of Africa becoming unfavourable day-by-day, it was the best time for Nigerians to extend their grievances, and seek justice in the face of unfriendly high cost of living. The peaceful protest lingered for days and was sustained by the unique unification of determined citizens. Amazingly, disparities in tribes, religion, ethnicity, and all, were put aside to express our dissatisfaction with the unit exploiting and threatening lives of citizens they were created to protect. Interestingly, I was not left out in this call for justice as I excitingly joined the struggle with all enthusiasm and passion.
The gloomy Tuesday – the day a new colour was added to the Nigerian Flag
As the protest gained ground in major cities in Nigeria, certainly, “20th October, 2020,” will never be forgotten in the book of history. It was the day a new colour was added to our national flag – deep crimson red, by some soldiers under the order of forces beyond the control of Lagos State number one citizen. Not being intimidated by sporadic shootings, the peaceful protesters who assembled at Lekki tollgate vociferating against Police Brutality kept singing our national anthem. Even though the massacre punctuated a diplomatic protest that has lived for about two weeks, nevertheless, that day birthed a new revolution we have all been waiting for. Politicians started to nurse fear within their hearts not to take any wrong step in this season. Also, police officers and other security men halted the barbaric act of collecting illicit money from innocent citizens that are working tirelessly to survive. For the first time in my two decades treading roads in Nigeria, I did not see men in uniform collecting funds unlawfully. All thanks to this generation of youths that voiced out en masse at the atrocious deeds perpetrated by people vested with power.
Protest hijack – a political tool that has been exposed
Sadly, many people erroneously claimed that the peaceful protest was hijacked by some bad eggs widely referred to as hoodlums. However, truth be told, this is just a play of words to make Nigerians back out on an undiluted drive for a better nation via the instrumentality of protest. During elections, the politicians that call these set of people, hoodlums, label them as political thugs to achieve their politically–motivated goals, and afterwards, dump them on the street to till the ground and get beaten by suffering. Since the youth have started the engine for a revamp running of the democratic system in Nigeria, we are hopeful that sooner or later, the gap between the rich and poor will be shortened, and we will all look back to 20th October, 2020 – as a day that birthed an uneasy but crucial re-independence of Nigeria.
The waking up of politicians to be conscious of their role
Few days into the protest, there was already the awakening of recurrent negotiations to resolve a 7-month old industrial strike embarked by university lecturers. Why do our leaders need an external push to do the needful? Nigeria’s democratic system has sadly turned into a guaranteed avenue for people with debauched motives to make empty promises, and at the end of one or two tenures, run away with embezzled funds. No need to panic anymore, we have been delivered from that when Nigerians marched to the street to voice out against the atrocious SARS – which invariably led to the reformation of even the minds of politicians in power. Interestingly, the Oba of Lagos was also made to know that he is declining in his responsibility as the people of Lagos defiled the respect they have for him. He was made to pay for his failed leadership. The king and his cohorts will also turn a new leaf after the unforeseen transfer of aggression on his palace.
Reinforcing ‘leaders – populace’ relationship
Undoubtedly, Nigerians have communicated vehemently that the leaders they vote into power should not only get interested in their welfare during campaigns but across all the days of their stay in office. Leaders are meant to harken to the demands of the masses, and not just fuel family interest. Indisputably, the governor of Oyo State – Seyi Makinde, demonstrated what true leadership entails by nursing the interest of his people during the protest period. Periodically, he addressed citizens of Oyo state and took pro-active towards ensuring that their demands are met. Surely, our undiluted potent fusion of protest on social media and across the streets breathed confidence into Nigerians that their voice can contribute to the rebuilding of politicians’ mindset.
Conclusion – Light at the end of the tunnel
For several decades, Nigeria has been ruled by relatively aged ones. This has, however, added salt to the wound being sustained for several years. While the challenges facing our nation keep multiplying at the hands of these venerable leaders, corruption has also taken Nigeria into the mud. Youths who are tired of being maltreated, are ready to take the bull by the horns to ensure that the nation is no more mockingly addressed as ‘absurdity of abundance’ despite the profuse resources in the land. In all, the feat attained in approximately two weeks of protest which led to the disbandment of SARS, and to a visible extent, the reformation of the Nigerian police force has given us a vital assurance that we have the potential to push for positive change. Commendations should be showered on the youths for creating helplines that could respond to emergencies, provide legal services, and amazingly set up fundraising mediums, among many mind-blowing inventions within a short period. This is a clear indication that the problems of Nigeria can be eliminated if things are well orchestrated and since this has been revealed, we will not rest till Nigeria becomes great.
 BBC News (2020), “End SARS protests: People ‘shot dead’ in Lagos, Nigeria.” Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54624611
 Eunice Obaah (2020), “EndSARS: Mob Attacks Palace of Oba of Lagos; Vandalizes Property Among Others.” Retrieved from https://ab-tc.com/mob-attack-palace-of-oba-of-lagos-vandalizes-property-among-others/
 Evelyn Usman (2020), “Men in military fatigues shooting at #EndSARS protesters in Lekki.” Retrieved from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/10/just-inshooting-as-govt-imposes-curfew-in-lagos/
 Ugonnia Ozibo (2020), “#EndSARS: Nigerian firms, Start-ups donate millions in support of protests.” Retrieved from https://nairametrics.com/2020/10/12/endsars-nigerian-firms-start-ups-donate-millions-in-support-of-protests/
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via email@example.com