Kim and Rachel take a deep dive into the protests in Senegal, explaining everything you need to know about what’s happening and what it means. They also talk about the recent death of Tanzanian president, John Magufuli.
And in lieu of a guest, we feature our student essay competition winner, Hammed Kayode Alabi! Hammed is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh studying Africa and international development. He reads for us his winning essay, called “#EndSARS Movement We Will Remember.”
Listen to the episode below!
MSc Student in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh
#EndSARS Movement “We Will Remember”
It’s imperative to historicize revolution because history has its ways of repeating itself. Young people drove the Nationalist struggles in the 1950s to gain freedom (Uhuru) and Independence of Colonial States. People like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere stood in lines to make this happen. The struggle started from advocating against poor pay, poor jobs from the colonial government. From there, it rose to a movement for independence. #EndSARS (special anti-robbery squad) started similarly. It began from young people speaking up against police brutality to demanding for good governance, quality education, healthcare etc. SARS is a unique, independent division of the Nigerian Police Force who is supposedly responsible for protecting the citizens; however, their roles changed from protecting the citizens to embarrassing and harassing young people going with their day to day living. So many young people have lost their lives in the process, and some ended up in prison for crimes they did not commit. Some have been injured and became disabled along the line. SARS has made so many family members cry. I have had my fair share too, not as bad as many others but I was stopped because I was wearing a jean and a hoodie. And I was brought to a corner for a lot of questions. At a point, my phone was seized, and they were going through my chats. This has been the way many young Nigerians have to deal with the brutal force called SARS. However, we got tired of hiding, searching, and many young people took to Twitter to speak up, calling the government to end the unit. From millions of tweets to filling the street, young people stood in lines, spent countless nights and chanting and singing for freedom. These characterized our time in October. Although I could not join as I was studying in the UK, I lent my voice online and showed solidarity by joining the protest in Scotland.
There is more beyond the #EndSARS movement. Young people are not only brutalized by the police force but are also marginalized from participating in governance. However, they did what a generation could not do. They spoke up. They were tired of keeping quiet. Yes, our parents had kept quiet enough but we can’t. The chant #sorosoke, meaning speaks up became popular and revealed so many ways how people have been repressed not to demand their right. During these moments of protest, young people did what the government would spend nights of planning and billions doing. They raised funds leveraging technology and fed protesters who are majorly young people. They organized, they mobilized, they looked out for each other. There were barely cases of a robbery at the protest ground. These are young people over the years who have been denied political leadership. I hope we can learn from this and see how young people are putting their lives on the line to replicate democracy. I hope we start to think that one size doesn’t fit it all and as much as the older generation desires leadership, the younger ones have the skills to push the economy forward and orchestrate a new Nigeria.
During this period there were good news, one of them was an international company Stripe acquiring Paystack, a company created by two Nigerians in a 200 million dollar deal. Again, I hope we can learn and see how we are breaking into international markets and liberating the economy. I hope we understand the need for this knowledge in politics, education, and other space. That, I don’t have to be 70 to lead ministries and organize. I hope we understand that poverty isn’t just a name, but it’s deeply rooted in politics, poor economics, and an unfavourable atmosphere to do and run businesses. That, it’s just the economy being in the hands of the few. However, the euphoria and energy that came with the #EndSARS began to diminish. Thugs were sent to protest grounds, peaceful protesters were attacked, and in many cases, peaceful protesters were blamed for many of these atrocities, in the name of ending the protest. Young people did not deter; they continued to speak, mobilize and protect themselves until the nights of 20/10/2020 when they were massacred by the Nigerian Army as reported by different news agencies. In [Nic] Cheeseman’s book Democracy in Africa, every repressive government is always faced with the options to choose to reform or to repress based on what they hope to gain or lose. And conceding to reform means young people would continue to demand change which may hinder them. So they choose repression. Although they may have chosen repression, it will be on record that young people spoke up and demanded what is right. It will be on record that some gave up their lives for freedom, and we will continue to remember them. We will not forget #EndSARS movement. Yes! We will remember.
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