For several decades, the Nigerian Youths have lived in fear under the brutal oppression of those saddled with the sole responsibility of protecting their lives and properties. While countless youth have lost their lives to Police brutality. The #EndSARS movement is said to have dated back to 2017.
The Origin of #EndSARS.
This hashtag was used by Nigerian Youths to share their story on violence and assault. Both of which were committed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). This movement regained consciousness on the 3rd of October 2020 following a video of SARS agents snatching the car of a young man and killing him in the process.
The video went viral on Twitter with the hashtag #EndSARS. Momentum gathered as more youths demanded an end to Police brutality. A situation which has been recurring for years. This later led to peaceful street protests occurring day and night. Consequently, it drew the attention of celebrities as well as other Nigerians in diaspora.
On Sunday 11th October 2020, just a few days into the protest, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) released a statement on Twitter announcing the disbandment of the so called killer unit SARS. This move was widely received and seen as a positive change and way forward for the country.
A possible reason why the protest continued.
However, the protests continued as the number of protesters on the street grew geometrically by the day. This continued in almost all nooks and cranny in most states of the country as well as major cities around the world.
Glory, a lady whom I interviewed on zoom expressed her reason for joining the protest. She stated that she joined after the annulment of the said SARS unit. This was because the government immediately replaced the SARS unit with a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.
She further explained that this was only a change of name and not a reform. In her own words:
“This isn’t the first time the government has announced the SARS unit disbanded. Or promised reformation of the Nigerian Police force. But no implementation has been done. Instead, the people experience more brutality and even murderous acts from the Police Force.
“This government is messing with the wrong generation. We are the ‘soro soke’ generation. We want to see actions before we leave the streets.”
‘Soro soke’ which has been one of the popular chants used during the protest means ‘Speak up’ or ‘Speak louder’. This dialect is the country’s Yoruba language. Figuratively, it means ‘do not be silent’.
The chant started when a governor came out to speak to #EndSARS protesters but was addressing them with a low tone. As a reaction, a certain angry youth shouted out “Soro soke! Werey!”. This means “Speak up! madman!”.
“This has become the #EndSARS protest battle cry. A chant of unification in the fight against police brutality and bad governance in Nigeria.” Wrote Motolani Alake a journalist for Nigeria’s Pulse Newspaper.
The #EndSARS protest Motives.
According to Ejechi Victor whom i interviewed had this to say as regards the true motives behind the protest:
“From the very first day the protest started we the Nigerian youths knew it was beyond #EndSARS or #EndPoliceBruatality. While that was the catalyst to the whole protest, End Bad Governance was/is our focus.”
There was some level of optimism among the Nigerian youths protesting. Their peaceful demonstrations might eventually translate into a blueprint for the call of a new Nigeria.
“With the attention and support that came with the #EndSARS protest, the protesters saw it as an avenue to just speak up against things they have always wanted to. What a golden opportunity for them and they took it.”
– Victory Oghenovo
To Izobe Maria another disgruntled youth, everything is encompassed in bad governance. A fight for a Nigeria with no corruption, where unemployment issues are tackled.
Where youths can plan their academic carrier without fear of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities). A Nigeria where the NPF is paid good salary and on time. Furthermore, a country where security is enhanced.
Peradventure, it is not clear to most of you yet, the #EndSARS movement is beyond a call to an end of police brutality or SARS. It is a euphemism for ‘end bad governance’ and calling out the ills of the so-called Nigerian leaders.
Leaders who use the power bestowed on them by the people to fill their pockets at the detriment of the masses. It is a movement against youth unemployment, corruption, nepotism, etc. To further buttress the clarity of the protest motives, take a look at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The unemployment rate as of the second quarter of 2020 had increased to 27.1, a vast part falls on the youths. Jobs are being sold, opportunities are being bought or brought by connection. To this end a Nigerian social and political activist Aisha Yusuf, cries out:
“We want a Nigerian Society where the child of Nobody can become Somebody without knowing Anybody.”
Nigeria is listed amongst countries with the highest numbers of school dropouts, with over 60 million illiterates. Yet, those youths that have taken up the challenge to see themselves through school are being frustrated. Especially, with industrial strike actions without taking into consideration the future of the youths affected.
The Health Sector lacks facilities from the central hospitals down to the school laboratory for medical students. The list can go on and on. Are all these not reason enough to ‘soro soke’ #EndSARS (Bad governance)?
Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Nigerian Youths?
“It is far from over. The government will hear from us in the coming days and years. Because my generation will never go back to sleep. We are the soro soke generation. A generation that has decided to take their future into their hands”. – Ejechi Victor
In all, the grounds achieved with nearly two weeks protest, leading to the disbandment of SARS. In addition, the reformation of NPF, gives a glimmer of hope. Hope that the youths have potentials to push for a New Nigeria.
These youths deserve some accolades for providing legal services, and private securities. Also, emergency helplines and interestingly setting up crowdfunding platforms.
This shows that the youths can do better in government than the aged leaders come the 2023 presidential election. With this in view, these youths have vowed not to rest until Nigeria can raise her head high as the Giant of Africa that she is.