ENDSARS Protests – Black Tuesday
The night of October 20, 2020, will remain etched in my memory like a bad dream that never ends. Strangely, this bad dream kept me awake all night, waiting for the break of dawn (There’s something about light and hope). I remember shuffling between Instagram and Twitter to follow the events as they unfolded. I could hear gunshots and people screaming on someone’s Instagram Live. There were pictures on Twitter of wounded people, some a little too dark to see the horrors the camera tried to capture in low light. One picture stood out again and made the rounds – A Nigerian flag with blood stains – a metaphoric representation of our plight. I could hear the agony, frustration, fear, courage, and pain in their voices. I could hear people singing the national anthem as the gunshots joined the chorus of sounds at least once every minute.
What exactly happened?
The call to #ENDSARS (Put an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad – SARS – unit of the Nigerian Police FORCE) started as far back as 2017, as Nigerians shared the horrors of their ordeals with men of this police unit. Over the next three years, there had been a number of stories across the country, sometimes with video evidence that showed men of this unit assaulting young Nigerians with impunity. As Nigerians, our frustration grew with the fact that these men were not brought to book and many of the cases showed SARS had become a different SARS (From Special Anti-robbery Squad to Special Armed Robbery Squad). They robbed, assaulted, tortured, and killed innocent Nigerians with confidence, throwing their regular tagline – “I will just shoot you and nothing will happen“.
In October 20, 2020, the build up
After weeks of protests against police brutality, the Lagos State government had run out of ideas on how to appease the protesters without meeting their demands, so the government imposed a curfew to control the protests. For better context, this is Lagos in October 2020; First, there’s the never-ending traffic situation in Lagos and then we had a peculiar case, as Third Mainland Bridge (the major route between the Island and Mainland) was partly closed for repairs. In all fairness to the government, it had extended the curfew from 4 PM to 9 PM, so people could get home in time. They did this after ‘some people’ had failed to ‘control the protests’ with thugs and hoodlums. The protesters were defiant and realistically did not have enough time to get home if they chose to do so before the curfew began. All the same, protesters saw the curfew as a high-handed means of shutting them down without addressing their demands appropriately.
However, a group of soldiers sent by ‘forces beyond the Governor’s control’ arrived at the scene (Lekki tollgate) at about 6:45 PM and started shooting. A live witness (DJ Switch) counted at least 7 people who died at the tollgate while she was streaming live. Many others were wounded and some more people died (at last count, DJ Switch said about 15 people died at the tollgate).
Nigerian military men shot unarmed protesters who were waving the National flag and singing the National anthem! – Let that sink in properly.
The aftermath…total chaos. These peaceful protesters were using these PEACEFUL protest to vent their frustration and anger, so it is quite unlikely that they would be the same people who would burn down public offices and loot private shops across the state. It would seem the hoodlums and thugs who were paid to disperse the protesters (already armed with machetes and other dangerous things by their employers) turned around to loot and burn down offices, shops, destroy bank ATMs, etc.
Let’s dissect the attitude of the protesters to understand why it is very unlikely that they were behind the destruction and violence
– First, these protests were totally peaceful and organized – The protest grounds were like mini-carnivals with music, free food, healthcare, mental health support, sanitation, logistics, and one purpose – ENDSARS or SWAT (As the government tried to play a fast one on us).
– Next, the level of humanity, decency, transparency, and accountability in the fold was heartwarming. For once, I was beaming with pride at my Nigerian identity. Who would have thought Nigerians had it in them to be open and transparent (Thanks Feminist Coalition). We reached out to people in need and served each other beyond self (The story of Jane is a perfect example).
– United in purpose – During these protests, Nigerians did not talk about tribe, religion, or any of the intangible things that other generations hold on to at the expense of our national consciousness. It was all for one, one for all.
How could these people turn unruly all of a sudden? These same people that sat and tried to shield themselves with the honour and integrity of our national symbols – The flag, coat of arms and anthem – CANNOT be the ones carrying machetes and clubs to tear down the same people they risked their lives for. The ones who have a history of using thugs (to break up protests and disrupt elections) must be the ones doing their regular bidding.
One week later and we are still waiting for the answer to one question from October 20, 2020 – Who gave the order? Our leaders owe us this and the transparent prosecution of those invovled.
In other news, as a young Nigerian, please get your voter’s card and make sure you don’t sell your future out to these greedy people again!
Together, in 2023 we can change things for good. Hope is our only currency and change is the only product we want!
A lot of pictures to keep this life-changing event in our memories for as long as possible. October 20, 2020 – We say NEVER AGAIN!!!