I could decide to write about how the movement for a halt in police brutality started and is currently going and all the dramas within (well, technically that’s what this article is about) but ‘omoo’ my heart is literally at the seams right now.
Before I started this article, I decided I was going to attend at least one physical peaceful protest, so on Saturday the 17th of October 2020, after a long week of work, I made my way to the secretariat building at Alausa where hundreds of youths were occupying peacefully and with love, the ‘frontage’ of the government house gate and immediate environs.
On arrival my initial reaction was one of ‘disappointment’, as I couldn’t hear chants of ‘we nor go gree o, we no go gree, SARS must end’ as is with any typical Nigerian protest and indeed the usual varsity aluta, but instead, what greeted me was the calm, beautiful and energic way people gathered in small clusters to gist, dance, entertain and occupy, what a beautiful way to make your voice heard.
Hardly had I moved a camel’s walk when someone stopped to ask if I cared for a soft drink, ehnnn? You say? Here I was being offered a free drink by a total stranger who wasn’t obligated to do so, ha-ma-zing (in Barr Mike’s voice) At different venues, a section of protesters were always cleaning, another taking care of medical, others waiting on the next legal case to pounce on and several others, doing the lords work; feeding all who came. This is the Nigeria of my dreams. Maybe everyone felt this way too because I think we can all agree that the last weeks have shown us what a beauty Nigeria would be with the right mindset and leadership.
How did we get here?
2017 as we know it, was the year that saw the beginning of what is now a worldwide clamor to the end of extra judicious killings by the Nigerian police force’s special anti-robbery squad. The ‘then’ convener of the #EndSARS and #ReformpoliceNG movements, Segun Awosanya, popularly known as Sega link, started a sort of citizens vigilante alongside other well-meaning Nigerians with outspoken social media platforms, geared towards a transformation in policing and the release of innocent individuals unlawfully detained and extorted by the ‘men in black’.
The online clamor for the termination of this police unit, later metamorphosed into a peaceful protest in just a few cities in the country. Within the next two years, it became a ‘seasonal protest’ that always ended with an ‘audio’ reformation of the NPF. Recall the biblical parable on “putting old wine in a new bottle”? Yes, the very one that already gave us an insight as to what would happen when you try to rebrand what needs a complete overhaul, but hardly had they listened or learned as the special anti-robbery squad SARS was renamed to F-SARS; a letter and a hyphen worth of years of extra judicious killings.
Fast forward to now, 2020, the year that was promised came and almost immediately became a disastrous year for virtually everybody. With the novel coronavirus threatening to wipe humans off the surface of dear mother earth and every other ill news, one would think that the over-hyped 2020 had nothing in store for Nigeria, well not until the last few weeks.
One would agree that consequent to the actions of the last few weeks, there’ve been no truer words than that of renowned writer, Margaret Mead who once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The famous soro soke, now a lingua for the movement, meaning ‘speak up’, is an already existing western Nigerian phrase, that has quickly ‘chameleoned’ into a pan Nigerian phrase, spanning across ethnic and religious divides. The phrase’s popularity grew, when certain brands attempted to dilute the waters a little, by deviating from the actual conversation all in a bid to stay safe. Dare to say to them, Soro soke werey!
In a decentralized movement such as this and more so one with ‘reckless’ young people, one would be concerned about loads of factors that could quickly unearth the movement, from intentions, commitment, and even morality of all who participated. As expected, sketchy individuals did come with other intentions. A typical example would be a scenario from the lekki toll where three young men attempted to abscond with the possessions of other protesters, they were caught, rough handled with love, taken to the medics, served chilled energy boosters, and then handed over to the police.
Unlike every movement Nigeria has ever known, this had power belonging to everyone. No one person or group of individuals had the power to control how people came out to protest or what they did at protests, borrowing the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, it belonged to nobody and everybody.
From the streets of Twitter downtown Instagram and across, never has a movement gained such momentum from around the world, with engagement figures skyrocketing into billions, yes billions. From our very own celebrities and political giants to the likes of Twitter CEO uncle Jack, Kanye West, Cardi b, the pope, the archbishop of canterbury, Joe Biden, and nearly every celebrity and people of influence worldwide.
Worthy of note are the actions of musical sensation, Douglas Jack Agu (Runtown) and Folarin Falana (Falz), on the 8 of October 2020, that sort of kick-started the physical protests and gave a lot of Nigerians the ginger to make their voices heard outside of their domain and to you who came out to occupy and made your voice heard in a non-violent manner as well as you continue to soro soke online, you are the real MVP.
In the words of Samora of Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement A Luta continua; a vitória é certa, until next time, continue to soro soke in your little way.