Written by Chinwekene Daniel Umeaka
“During the #EndSars protests, I was an online protester, I don’t think I have ever retweeted or tweeted in my life as much as I did during that period. I was proud to be a part of ‘change,’ but when 20/10/20 happened, the part of me that really believed in Nigeria died and I started to prep myself and my finances to leave Nigeria for good. I hope my ‘japa’ plans work out because even though I still want to support the movement, I’d rather do that where I am not constantly in fear for my life and that of my loved ones.” – ZED
EndSars, a youth movement in October 2020 birthed out of the citizens’ a growing hunger for justice from police brutality and an end to bad governance in Nigeria. It was a brief but substantial and well-needed dose of activism and solidarity in Nigeria.
October 8th, 2020 signalled the beginning of this nationwide movement that would significantly tell a story of the happenings in the country whether the people at the top like it or not.
From free legal and medical aid to environmental responsibility and a strong sense of involvement and goal-getting. it is evident that contrary to the government’s narrative of its Nigerian youth, young Nigerians are heartwarming, accommodating, lovely and goal-oriented.
These endearing qualities were glaring during the peaceful protests, even in the tragic happenings of October 20th, 2020, altruism remained the order of the day. Homeowners, shop owners, places of worship opened their doors to protesters fleeing to safety from the wicked, gruesome and aggressive shootings by the Nigerian Army.
The number of deaths and casualties were grossly unaccounted for, the number of people in police custody for exercising their right to freedom of speech was also unfortunately unrecorded. This means that a ton of people have been missing since the protests and their families are not sure if they are lost, in prison, or long dead.
Out of curiosity, I spoke to a young woman who was physically involved in the EndSars protests of October 2020. I asked if she thinks Nigeria got worse post protest and if the present reality leads her to believe that her effort was in vain? Here’s what she told me.
“Honestly, I was so pumped and excited to be a part of the protests, I felt a sense of hope being with young, like-minded individuals. I felt like it was going to work you know like we were going to make a change, the international community would see the Nigerian government for who they really are because I thought they hate international embarrassment but I was naively wrong. Nigeria’s white is dirtier post protest, from our economy to the decisions of the government and even to something as ridiculous as 24hour electricity, nothing is better. Irrespective, I still feel like I made an impact with my involvement.” – Big BEE
Personally, my opinions completely resonate with that of Big BEE. The unlawful killings, arrests and gaslighting by the Nigerian government have left a big dent on many Nigerians. Same suffering, different day. Nothing changed, things just seemed to keep going downhill from the time the protests were held.
The Nigerian government kept concocting ways to silence Nigerians. From the violence in the EndSars protests to banning the popular social media app, Twitter in May of 2021, it is evident that they so desperately feel the need to silence Nigerians on both physical and virtual spaces. Possible coincidence? I think not.
The unconstitutional shushing of Nigerians is directly linked to the government’s evasive unwillingness to tell her people who is responsible for ordering the shooting of peaceful protesters by members of the Nigerian Army at Lekki toll gate, Lagos, which began at approximately 6:50 pm on October, 20th, 2020. The toll gate lights were powered off and mobile networks within the area were ‘coincidentally’ bad. All these coincidences groomed the perfect mood for the horror that happened that night.
365 days later, it is another October 20th. No one has been held accountable for ordering the shootings. Neither the President, Muhammadu Buhari nor Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu have addressed this pressing matter. Rather, they choose to gaslight their citizens, saying that not many people were killed or the matter is above them. Ridiculous much?!
All they have to do is call out and reprimand who ordered the shootings but they choose to evade justice for some weird reason. Their behaviour is a perfect analogy why in DC comics, we never see Batman and Bruce Wayne together at the same place because both characters are the same person.
Seeing the grisly state of Nigeria, a concerned Nigerian might ask “Where do we go from here? What next? What is going to be of Nigeria?”
The only logical way to go is forward. We have spent decades going backwards, of which the last six years have just been a series of downward spiral events.
On an individual level, the average Nigerian with appropriate financial backing is most likely planning to leave the country but on a communal level, what can you and I do?
We have great power in our hands, the power to choose a government who loves and respects her citizens, the power to choose people who’ll make things right and fix the damage, all we have to do is register to vote and go out to vote, let us stand against political apathy, actively.
I remember reading a quote by Lance Armstrong that said “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually, it’ll subside and something else will take its place.” I believe he was talking from personal experience because I am uncertain of the quote’s generalizability. Pain isn’t always temporary, especially in the case of Nigerians in Nigeria, we are ruled by people who don’t care, we are treated like rags in our own land when you think you’re beginning to get the hang of it, you’re doused with another round of rubbish.
The amount of pain Nigerians have had to deal with in the aftermath of the EndSars protests have been piercing, consecutive and unending. The pain we feel when we remember our fallen brothers and sisters, the pain we feel when we have to constantly fight for survival just because we’re Nigerians living in Nigeria, the pain we feel when we are being cheated by our leaders.
We are so used to enduring and adjusting to whatever is thrown at us that we sometimes forget how to stand up for ourselves.
Dear Nigerians living in Nigeria, I’m sorry your country failed you, failed your brothers and sisters who have lost their lives due to your country’s negligence and wickedness.
You’re strong and wonderful and deserving of good things. I hope I speak for you and I when I say that I need someone to get me on the phone with Lance Armstrong so I can tell him that pain isn’t always temporary and might not subside after a while, it can sometimes take longer, just like the lingering pangs of 20/10/20 in the lives of Nigerians.
Chinwekene Daniel Umeaka is a young, dynamic and well-seasoned writer whose work is making the world a better place one sentence at a time. She’s also a psychology student at the University of Lagos, Nigeria who hopes to work with the mentally and physically challenged as a clinical health psychologist.
Chinwekene’s favorite mantra is “Always stay hydrated and moisturized.”