What They Did Yesterday.
Warsan was right. I understand better now.
In case you have not heard, young people in Nigeria organized and held protests to End SARS- a police body that has brutalized citizens since the early nineties. They intimidate and rob young people just for having iPhones or cars. They take them to ATMs and make them withdraw everything they have before they let them go. The unlucky ones are taken to prison, beaten, pinned with crimes they did not commit or killed. This issue has been going on for so long. Every time people complain to the government, they set up a fake judicial panel that brings no result.
Well, this time, young people in Nigeria decided enough was enough. They held peaceful protests and looked after one another in a way that older Nigerians told us was impossible. Boys looked after women and Christians looked after Muslims. Nigerians in Diaspora raised funds to feed the protesters, give them medical aid and everything they needed to keep going. Young Lawyers across the country volunteered to help with Legal Aid because the police were arresting peaceful protesters. There is video evidence to counter every false charge against the protesters.
So, the government tried to stop this. They used the Central Bank and other financial Institutions to disable the funds sent to the protesters. So, we switched to bitcoin. Then the government started sending out hoodlums to disrupt the protests. They sent out hoodlums to attack the protesters. This tactic still did not work. All we wanted was for the government to End SARS. The government announced that it had indeed ended SARS, but we were sceptic because we had evidence of statements issued when this same government ended SARS in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and yet, SARS still exists. They tried to rebrand it as SWAT- with the same officers but under a different name. I am not kidding. The fact is that the government acknowledges that SARS is more than problematic. They know this. They do not want to do anything about it. So, the protests continued and, on 20th of October 2020, The President of Nigeria, some state governors, the police and military heads decided to do the unspeakable.
The killings happened across the nation, but we saw live video evidence from Lekki Toll Gate. Earlier in the day, some technicians went to the Toll Gate saying that they were sent by the government to remove the video surveillance cameras. That evening, the military personnel arrived and surrounded the protesters. The lights and billboards at the gate suddenly went off and then the protesters sat on the floor, waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem while the military personnel shot and killed them. Something in me died there with them. The Military shot at citizens. Unarmed citizens who were waving the national flag and singing the national anthem. The next day, the Military leaders denied it. At first, the governor denied everything. After a little international pressure, the governor admitted it. After the governor admitted this, the Military said it was the governor that invited them to come in. Recently, the military said that they shot at protesters, but they did not use real bullets. We are still recovering bodies from the river. People are still in hospitals recovering from bullet wounds.
The scariest thing, however, was when the President issued a statement saying that the fact that ‘he allowed’ protests in the country, should not be taken for weakness. This President, a former dictator who came under the guise of Democracy, thinks that the right to protest is his to give. During the chaos that ensued, the hoodlums who were sent by the government to disrupt the protests found COVID-19 palliatives meant for citizens, it warehouses. Of course, they looted it. Nigeria in the poverty capital of the world so, it is no surprise to me that those hoodlums took the palliatives. Some of the politicians who hoarded these palliatives said they wanted to share it to their constituents in their birthdays. Yes. They wanted to share palliatives as party packs. One of the politicians who hoarded palliatives went to the state assembly and called young people drug addicts. Meanwhile, she has done nothing for her constituents. During the protests, a politician was caught on video, shooting at unarmed protesters. Nothing has happened to him. Young people have named the police officers who have been terrorizing them for years, but nothing has happened. Instead, they are cracking down on innocent protesters. No wonder they kept asking for our leaders. We told them that we have none. We knew that they would use intimidation tactics. We knew that those leaders would not be safe. We knew that we wanted every protester regardless of their social standing to feel heard. We wanted to save our country from greedy, corrupt, uneducated politicians. Now the women of the Feminist Coalition, the body in Nigeria that coordinated funds have received threats and are scared for their lives. One of them has had her passport seized. The National Broadcasting commission fined the media stations who reported on the protest, for showing the country in a bad light
All we asked was for a better Nigeria. A better police force with better salaries, a better country where there is accountability for everyone. Now, these politicians are trying to censor social media. Yesterday, Northern governors met and discussed this. They did not deliberate Boko Haram, the terrorist group that operates mostly in the north, child marriage, child labour, murdering herdsmen, better education and healthcare, or even poverty. No. They want to censor social media.
Now France, my beloved France, is reeling from recent attacks from Islamic extremists and terrorists. Particularly after Erdogan fanned the flames and there is complete silence from the people who held rallies against President Macron for supporting free speech. I do not know about you, but I am tired of toeing the line. I believe that silence against extremists is complicity. I do not care. Yes, it was not a great cartoon, but do you mean to tell me that there is no other way to seek redress than to go on a beheading spree? In 2020, we still argue about the value of human life over a cartoon? It is insane. There are Muslims in detention camps in China, but no rallies have taken place. Not one word from Erdogan and his allies. No demonstrations against Islamic terrorists and extremists. But you are very quick to hold rallies and call France and Europe Islamophobic when they defend their values and their way of life. I am not even surprised by the radicals. I know where they stand. It is the silence from the moderates that kills me.
I am exhausted. I am truly living in a Warsan Shire poem and not a happy one. It hurts everywhere.