The ongoing #EndSARS protests have now entered their second official week as the youth of Nigeria demand for the dissolution of the now-defunct unit Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), swift prosecution of all offending SARS officials, wider reforms on the police force, and compensation for all those who have been affected by the rogue unit’s extrajudicial killings, extortion, and inhumane torture.
While we’ve handled a myriad of spanners in the works that have been thrown at peaceful protesters including the deployment of armed thugs in Abuja and Lagos, unlawful use of force by police officers who shoot and teargas protesters, and even imposing mandated curfews after a swarm of prisoners have been released into regular society, the Nigerian people are still relentless in their resolve. The past few weeks have seen the rise of the Feminist Coalition, the newly formed group which has risen to the cause of sustaining the protests by crowdfunding the cost of legal, medical, and logistics for the ongoing peaceful demonstrations.
Nigerians seem more strengthened than ever before, and for many young people, this feels like a watershed moment in the country’s history where they demand the change that will be necessary. To highlight the many amazing strides being taken by Nigerians all over the globe, we are bringing you a shortlist of the key positive moments from the #EndSARS protests from over the weekend.
The Festival of Lights
Towards the end of the last working week, there were concerns that the spirit of the #EndSARS protests was being diluted, especially at the Lekki-Victoria Island tollgate site. With reports of copious amounts of alcohol being passed around and fumes from hydroponic buds filling the air, as well as alleged plans to turn the protest grounds into a club/concert on Friday night and a football viewing centre on Saturday, many feared that campaigners were “losing focus”.
— Sally Suleiman (@is_salsu) October 16, 2020
On Friday night, though, those fears were expelled. From around 7 pm, a candlelight vigil took place to commemorate the memories of those who have paid the ultimate price for police brutality. On the night, stories were shared, tears were shed, songs were jointly belted and beautiful mementoes for the dead were created. “I heard some stories and none of this has to be in vain, SARS needs to go”, a friend who was at the tollgate turned protest grounds told me over WhatsApp. Within hours, clips and images from the vigil began to circulate on social media, reminding us of the reason for this ongoing struggle and strengthening the resolve of many Nigerian youth.
The candlelight vigil was also observed at the Alausa protest grounds on Friday, seemingly following the same format. Over the weekend, more vigils held in Abuja, Ibadan, London and New York, inevitably reinforcing the sense of community that has been integral to these protests. To the souls of the departed, may their sacrifice never be forgotten, especially as they reset our focus on the end goal of eradicating police brutality.
— DJ BIG N (@deejaybign) October 17, 2020
The movement is decentralised.
A year ago or even a month ago, many of the millennials and Gen Zers in Nigeria could not have known that they would passionately rise to the clarion call and demand better from our government and law enforcement agencies, but here we are today sustaining a protest for over 10 days. The government has yet to aknowlege and fix the genuine concerns of her citizens, however, young Nigerians have shown that they won’t be letting their feet off the government’s necks any time soon. A genuine fear from the ongoing protests was how we were going sustain them, in the long run, seeing as government response has not been swift or favourable. But a group of young Nigerian women have risen to the task to fight for injustice through fundraising and social media organisation.
The Feminist Coalition is giving the government a run for their money and we couldn’t be more thrilled. In over a week, the newly formed group has been able to pool collective resources by crowdfunding for donations that would be necessary to sustain the protests. They have donated funds collated in Lagos to help protesters being wrongfully imprisoned in Oyo State or funded those that called for food, cleaning equipment and water for protesters across 25 states in the country. As the government continues to crack down violently on protesters, the demands of the Feminist Coalition and their demands have grown more lengthy with each passing moment. But despite the new pressures, the FC hasn’t rescinded on their promises to help the Nigerian youth, rather they have risen up and outsourced duties to a range of protesters willing to step up and take active roles in securing our new Nigeria.
In an effort to make the process run smoother, the Feminist Coalition now has a fully-functioning response unit that covers a different focus area from funds and mobilisation to medical aid support, loss and damages, legal aid support, and more. There are detailed forms where people can express their interest to volunteer or help out, forms for those who have reported a friend or family member missing, those who need free therapy sessions with a professional right down to those who are helping to fact-check false information circulating online around the protests. The best part yet is that not all of these were formed by members of the Feminist Coalition, services like the Post Protest Organised Care was set up by a group of women including Adedoyin Adeniji and Jola Adeboye, two women who sought to help protesters or survivors of SARS brutality to find post-protest therapy sessions and self-care packages.
It is important to note that the actions of private citizens in sustaining the protests hints is one that is to be immensely congratulated and welcomed. Any Nigerian citizen would tell you how difficult it is to donate funds to others when the state of the Nigerian economy is crippling by the hands of our government but young Nigerians and their allies have continued to show support and volunteer their services to the cause. In over a week, the Feminist Coalition has raised over 62,643,663.05 NGN which has been used to support 100 peaceful protests in 25 states. They have saved lives and compensated families of the deceased, they have provided security to protesters and fixed damages sustained from clashes with thugs and they continue to do so through the generosity of well-meaning people and concerned Nigerians who want their voices to be heard and their demands to be met. Even in the face of heavy push back from the government such as facing restrictions on their bank accounts and having to opt for bitcoin, the message remains the same, we are calling on the government to #EndSARS and we will not be intimidated because we are tired.
Noticeably missing from conversations around the ongoing #EndSARS protests are the efforts of the older generation, the boomers who have let years of failure, and silence go by without standing up for the advancement of the Nigerian society. To make it worse, traditional media and the terror that is parent’s Whatsapp has been circulating fake news that fuels anti-protesters propaganda to the wider Nigerian public.
But there has been some hope amidst the chaos, this weekend our mothers showed up to help the cause by organising a mother’s march in Surulere. They lent their voices despite some pushback from state governors over the weekend asking parents to advise ‘their wards’ against taking part in protests while the government work to take action to amend the steps.
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Fikky’s SARS anthem
Music has been a powerful tool for activating and energising protesters of the EndSARS movement. The aggressive energy of Davido’s latest hit song, “FEM” has allowed it to emerge as the song of the moment to soundtrack our collective frustration at the state of the country. However, there are no shortage of Nigerian songs that speak more directly to the police brutality at the heart of the EndSARS protest.
Serval generations of Nigerian artists, Fela, African China, Eedris Abdulkareem, Burna Boy, Falz, and others have been lamenting the unlawful state of affairs, and Fikky joined the ranks of those legends over the weekend, after a moving and riveting freestyle performance at a protest.
His lyrics vividly detailed how SARS officials profile young Nigerians and extort money from them and the young boy’s talented wordplay prompted Adey to reach out and offer to produce the song for free. Adey layered Fikky’s vocals over a groovy bear inspired by the trendy street-hop genre, Zanku. The beat also incorporates a brief sample of the national anthem at the start. Over the weekend, Adey shared the song with a lyric video made by Rasheed and he promised that the streaming profits will go to Fikky and his family.