When the seething pot that was Nigeria finally boiled over, I wonder if it came as a shock to anyone. It seemed to me that people had been pushed to the wall, and there was no other way to go but forward - people were hungry to evoke change no matter the cost.
By Temilola Ojo-ijelekhai
It seemed to me that people had been pushed to the wall, and there was no other way to go but forward - people were hungry to evoke change no matter the cost.
The events of 2020, the bullets, the blood-shed and the mass protests across the country, where young and old joined forces, came after years of people trying to remain cordial with the government.
But the issues in my country, the tension between police and the very citizens they should be protecting all started many years ago.
It started with the times when your vehicle could be flagged for the flimsiest of reasons, and you wouldn't be allowed to move until you had paid your dues.
It began with the times when personal items such as watches and phones could be seized for absolutely no
reason, and you wouldn't be allowed to have them back unless, of course, you paid up.
The boiling over originated from the times when trigger happy men in uniform could empty their weapons in the bodies of innocent road users without compunction.
I had, as a child, lived a quiet secluded life, partly because of my introverted personality, and my overprotective parents. I was never really allowed the freedom to roam the city as I pleased but who could blame them?
I wasn't much inclined to politics, never liked to read the papers or watch the news, though both my parents enjoyed discussing such things.
I wouldn't say I had an idealized view of Nigeria, but I discovered that things were so much worse than I had ever thought.
Now at the age of 23 - I am beginning to see it all.
Over the course of the Endsars protests, the stories came out. There were the humorous ones, like a report I heard first read of a man who stopped to urinate by the side of the road.
Apparently, the police found him, seized his vehicle keys and refused to let him leave until he handed them his phone, which they then used to call his wife to tell her they found him with a sex worker.
And then there were the not-so-humorous.
A particularly horrible tale I heard was of a man whose son was arrested. A ransom was demanded for his release, and the old man sold off all he had and even borrowed to make up the deficit.
But then, when he had payed, he was reportedly taken to a river filled with bloated corpses and told to search for his son.
Against the injustice, Nigerians countrywide and even beyond gathered to protest, united for one common purpose. It was peaceful, at least from my end, though I heard that there were riots in a few other places.
Our demands were simple. Just disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
I often wonder, even now after almost a year, what would have happened had we been given
even one sympathetic ear.
If we had even one of the top politicians in the country come on air to speak with
us, to reason with us, to hear our demands.
But for days, weeks even, we heard nothing. Online, offline, on air, nothing.
Until the responses came, and we heard, not the voice of a human, but the sound of gunshots.
The people left the streets and went back to crying out online. Twitter and I guess social media in general has become a form of Safe Haven for those looking for a platform to share their voices.
Then the Twitter ban happened, and to my knowledge, failed spectacularly. Nigerians have always been particularly dexterous at finding their way around restrictions.
As we studied Civil Disobedience in my Philosophy of Law class, the happenings of October 2020 deeply resonated in my mind.
A serious, persistent violation of the basic principles of justice over a considerable period was one of the conditions that justified Civil Disobediene, an element most Nigerians had experienced either first hand or vicariously.
The SARS was renamed and rebranded, a tribunal was set up, although we have heard no feedback till date and life goes on.
And Nigerians smile, because we remain some of the happiest people on earth.