The protest started peacefully in Nigeria as youths took to the street to talk about the social injustice especially the police system in the country as the hashtag #EndSARS went viral in the country.
Meanwhile as the protest progressed, things became more brutal as the country’s soldiers were deployed to the street leading to a serious standoff which led to lots of youths losing their lives during the protest.
The cause of the protest is due to the unit in the Nigerian police force called the Special Anti Robbery Squad or SARS which is tasked to handle robbery and other high-profile criminals cases but the under-funded unit had become a serious enemy of the people which instead of doing their jobs, would take to the street to molest young people. in the country.
This created a serious fear in the heart of everyone in the country which made the unit a really dreadful unit in the country. What prompted the ongoing #EndSARS protest is due to a recent video that surfaced online in Delta state which the government disproved to being doctored
This claim enraged the youths which caused the protest which included thousands of youths who took to the street for about two weeks now demanding the government put an end to the SARS unit.
Meanwhile the Inspector General of the Police force in Nigeria in a press conference then stated that the unit had been scrubbed but then recreated a newer unit called SWAT or Special Weapons and Tactics which the youths also rejected stating this was an attempt to merely rename the unit rather than reforming it and bringing the corrupt police officers accused of maltreating youths to book.
But the protest is in fact beyond SARS as youths wants the government to cut unnecessary government spending whereby politicians earn exorbitant salaries and allowances considering the fact that the country’s 40% of its citizen lives in poverty.
In a country of more than 200 million people majority of which are people under the age of 24 who barely have formal employment with little to no opportunity for good education.
According to the country’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo who warned back in 2017 that “we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder” when it comes to the young.
The government didn’t take the youths serious
While the protest was on-going, the citizens requested that the country’s president Mohammadu Buhari to address the issue formally in a press release as well as tending to the request of the youths but the 77 years old president who was a former military head of state in the country back in the 80s didn’t take the youths serious enough.
In a conversation between activist and writer Gimba Kakanda and BBC, he explained that “the #EndSARS protests were initially perceived as another of the youths’ episodic mischief-making that would fizzle out if left unaddressed,” he said.
“This mind-set of the political class, almost overly condescending, was the reason for its slow response to this unprecedented movement and left them all on the edge.”
The initial curfew pronounced by the Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tuesday 20th due to reports about attacks on government properties as well as chaos due to the protest as defied by the protest which led to the disturbing news about the use of lethal force by the military at the Lekki tollgate which is the heart of the protest in Lagos, Nigeria.
Even though the government had continued to disregard this claims stating that there were no military personnel at the scene, videos surfaced online which was made by a popular disk-jockey DJ Switch who was at the scene during the mayhem which she alleged claimed 15 lives while she also showed bullets and shells removed from the scene after the soldiers had left.
She in fact mentioned the name of a military general who goes by Brigadier-General Francis O. Omata who was alleged to being the one that ordered the shooting that led to numerous youths being injured while many killed in the attack which had earned the Nigerian government a bad reputation worldwide especially from Nigerians overseas.
While there is a ugly side of the story there was definitely the good part of it when it first started which includes activists establishing helpline that could be used in case of emergencies as ell as providing legal services to those that needs them. They even set up a radio station.
These were financed through crowdfunding and were cited as examples of how Nigeria could be better if it were not for the politicians who often seem more interested in what they can personally gain, rather than how they can improve the country.
The request of the youths in the country wasn’t taken serious enough which is what led to the havoc that the country is currently dealing with whereby the protest continue while the country’s government has continued to earn bad names.
While there had been lives lost in the protest, there had been innumerable cases of businesses being looted as some of the protesters invaded both private and public properties and vandalized goods worth millions.
The motivation for such action is due to reports about the COVID-19 palliatives being stock-piled rather than being distributed to the citizens who were badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic which required the government to shut down business operations in the country for almost 2 months at the beginning of the pandemic in the country.
Abject poverty in the country is a serious epidemic
Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in the world and the number in Africa but one of the poorest as well as the living standard of majority of its citizens is below the poverty level.
The country which earned its independence since 1960 still struggle with stable electricity, good water supply and infrastructures. The country’s health sector is among the worst and the education system is horrible.
A trip to Nigerian government schools and you’ll be surprised to see children being taught under trees rather than classrooms and you see them with tattered clothing and walking barefooted.
This and many more were the requests of the younger generation in the country which never seemed to get any serious attention from the government.
“The government has realised that it can no longer take such outrage for granted as it has done before,” Said Mr Kakanda.
But it continued to make missteps in trying to quell the mood.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the nation on Thursday evening “missed the point by a wide margin”, according to blogger and columnist Japheth Omojuwa.
Mr Buhari called for an end to the protests and the beginning of a dialogue, but “he will be remembered for threatening Nigerians just because they asked their government to commit to justice”.
Even though since the country’s government had decided to use lethal force against its citizen in order to demoralize the #EndSARS campaign, the youths seems not to be relenting.
This tumultuous fortnight and particularly the shooting of protesters in Lagos on 20 October will be remembered in Nigeria for a long time.
Seeing the impact of the large number of youths in the country showed that the government have to take needs o the younger generations in the country serious enough.