How Davido’s FEM became the sounds of the #EndSARS revolution

As a young Nigerian, the fear you feel when you see policemen is a very familiar one, and it could be because you know you’re about to be extorted, or that they’re holding a massive gun whilst probably drunk and/or high which you can tell from their slurred speech. Music has always backed these fears and frustrations we have towards the Nigerian police and government, from songs like Eedris Abdul Karim’s “Jaga Jaga” to Pretty Boy D-O’s “Chop Elbow”. Back in 2001, the opening line of Trybesmen’s 2001 track, “Plenty Nonsense”Oh I don tire for police, dem wahala no dey cease for road like this them fit stop like 10 motorists’, delves right into the issue we are still fighting today in 2020: police brutality.

For the past 6 days, young Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest the fucked up system which has enabled SARS and generally the Nigerian Police Force to wreak havoc on the youth for as long as we’ve all lived, and even though it hasn’t been directly linked to the ongoing revolution, Nigerian youth have been calling to #EndSars through music for decades. In African China’s 2006 hit, “Mr President”, he said ‘everyday for thief one day for owner‘, and today, we’ve claimed that day.

It’s been a week since the youth of Nigeria swarmed in thousands across the nation, protesting the inhumane treatment they suffer at the hands of SARS operatives who are notoriously known for extrajudicial killings and blatant extortions of many Nigerians. In a week, we’ve reported a lot of the happenings around the nation from police responding to peaceful protests against police brutality with more police brutality , feminists organisations leading the charge and supporting injured and detained protesters to the government’s shocking response.

But even in the face of all these distressing moments in the past week, there have been slivers of entertainment and renewed hope as young Nigerians share a sense of camaraderie and unity despite the discord that the government wishes to fuel. There’s something about the Nigerian psyche and the way it perpetually finds reasons to be happy and cheerful in any given situation, a feat the whole world recognised back in 2011. As someone who has been at the different protest locations in the past week, I was able to witness firsthand the energy and anger on the streets but beyond this, the dedication to stand as a unit and face decades of corruption and ineptitude head-on quickly translated in the most creative ways.

Music has been integral to the #EndSARS protests and it has been there every step of the way to soundtrack the feelings of young Nigerians either by strengthening, soothing, or rousing them to further action. At the protest grounds, you typically hear legends like Fela Kuti and Eedris Abdulkareem being played, as their politically-charged messages translate to a modern audience who largely still face many of the issues that they sang about back then. Interestingly, a song that has been catching on recently is Davido’s latest single “FEM“, the amped-up comeback anthem that he recently released as an alleged diss song to Burna Boy.

The energetic single is frequently played at these peaceful protests at intervals when the protester’s chants have died down and even though Davido didn’t have a revolution in mind when he was making the song, the digs that he takes at the African Giant lend themselves easily to the current social movement. It’s unabashedly a protest anthem, as Davido’s words encompass the feeling that many young Nigerians currently feel for their government officials. So, it follows that when the Governor Sanwo-Olu visited protest grounds in his state, he was silenced by the impatient crowd of protesters who were not impressed by the empty promises that the governor was regurgitating to them. “Small boy you don dey talk too much, FEM” they chanted in unison in response to Sanwo-Olu’s assurance that he would take their demands to the President in Abuja.

“FEM” represents some of the current thoughts many young Nigerians harbour to this current government. It’s an affront to everything they stand for, and if you listen closely, it spans from questions on profiling (“why dem don dey para for me”) to brutal killings (“I dey live my life, man dey turn am to shoot on sight”) and even to the government’s all talk no action approach (“e be like you don dey talk to much”).

Whatever the case, the #EndSARS protests is technically a young movement and was bound to pick up a few trends of its own, from music to memes and even phrases like ‘soro soke’ (speak up) and Buhari has been a bad boy. In these tumultuous times, it’s important to find ways to take a break from the news cycle and look after yourself, you can find some tips here.

 

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ICYMI: The nation is united in our fight to #EndSARS

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