(Journey To A Great Revolution)
When the Boeing 737 l boarded from Johannesburg enroute Kigali roared in to land at the Murtala Muhammed lnternational Airport Lagos on the 18th of October, the peaceful EndSars protests in Nigeria organised by Nigerian youths with no centralised leadership and sustained with funding from citizens and the lnternarional community was already in full swing.
This was a protest like no other in the sense that the Nigerian youths, with solidarity from the massive diaspora launched a vibrant vociferous social media campaign sensitisiing the world about the unending police brutality, murder, unlawful arrests, detentions and extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, rape, illegal road blocks, extortions, mock executions and the profiling of young male Nigerians using exotic cars, laptops or phones.
And the response was great. For example as reported by the Guardian "Donations soared after Twitter chief executive, Jack Dorsey, posted a tweet encouraging his nearly 5 million followers to contribute. A group raised more than 73m naira (£145,000), which was used to hire private security guards, pay for private ambulances and cover the legal bills of demonstrators arrested across Nigeria '.
The wave of protests swept through the Nigerian states from Ughelli in Delta, to gatherings at the Ekwueme Square in Awka, to Onitsha, Umahia, to protests at Olaiya junction in Osogbo, Port Harcourt, to gatherings at the Edo State House of Assembly and the Museum grounds king's Square Benin City, Jos Plateau, and reverberated in far flung corners of the world like in Waterloo Ontario, Stuggart, Dublin, protests at the Nigerian High Commission Thai Square London, Moston Manchester, Southfield in Michigan and demonstrations at the Nigerian Consulate General New York amongst others.
As l departed the airport in ikeja to Ajah area of Lagos where l was to stay, protests were still going on in several parts of Lagos crippling economic activities, and causing gridlock in several parts, invariably a journey which shouldn't take more than an hour took over 6hrs for me to get to my destination as the Lekki tollgate which l should have taken was completely taken over by protesters who had converged there to hold a candlelight session for the various victims of SARS/police killings.
One thing clear was that the protests had morphed from police brutality to protests against failed leadership, misgovernance, high corruption in government, insecurity and killings nationwide, renewed calls for restructuring, and myriad other ills bedeviling the Nigerian State.
Therefore the dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) as earlier announced by the lnspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu on the 11th of October following much public outcry was only viewed with scorn as protesters quickly pointed to the fact that similar bans had been announced several times in the past, they pointed to the 2016 Amnesty international report indicting SARS as responsible for human rights abuses and cruelty against citizens in their custody. And they remembered that in 2017 they had held peaceful protests nationwide to spread awareness of SARS brutality and unlawful activities.
Furthermore they remembered that in 2017, 10,195 people had signed a petition calling for a total disbandment of SARS unit. This petition was submitted to Nigeria's National Assembly with no visible outcome. The protesters, not believing and trusting the establishment carried on with their protests.
All this while, there had been a damning silence by Nigeria's President Muhamadu Buhari, and not a few people were critical of his abrasive style and failure to address Nigerians.
And by the time the busy Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu announced a state wide curfew beginning from 4pm on the 20th of October, and with protesters adorned in Nigeria's green white green flag, singing solidarity songs and sitting put at Lekki toll past curfew time, the stage was set for a possible confrontation.
Still not many expected, not even in a failing state like Nigeria what was to follow, in what is now infamously known as the "The Lekki Tollgate massacre".
Though there have been denials, claims and counter claims, there seems to be enough evidence to suggest the presence of soldiers at the toll gate and the shooting of young protesters. Infact Amnesty lnternational claims that at least 12 peaceful protesters were killed by the Nigerian Army and the police in Lekki and Alausa on the 20th.
We at Nigerian lives matter unequivocally condemn the shooting of peaceful protesters, a situation that inflamed an already volatile situation and led to mass looting, targeting of police officers, arson and general breakdown of law and order in many parts of the country. We are appalled by the continued disregard for Nigerian lives and the general deterioration of their condition.
Furthermore we note that the address to the Nation by President Buhari on the evening of October 22nd, two days after the shooting following worlwide condemnation only glaringly magnified the complete disconnect between long suffering Nigerians and their representatives across board!
As the Authorities conduct investigations we also call for an lndependent enquiry to look forensically into the alleged killings, with a view to unearthing the facts, and recommending prosecutions. People have to be accountable.
We call on the indomitable Nigerian youth, often derided as lazy by the clueless and selfish leaders, your time has come, and you have shown grit and resilience and frankly as long as our positive energies are harnessed there will be a brighter future!
No doubt, your harrowing cries and gallant calls which fell on deaf ears has awoken the man in many! There should be none amongst our youth, of voting age, who should say he doesnt have a PVC.
Finally, looking at the heap of ills currently ravaging this country, we come to the inescapable conclusion that if there will be a prosperous, fair and equitable Nigeria, it is one that is restructured structurally.
So that as poet Odia Ofeimun put it, we do not continue to "totter between nothings"
Our heartfelt sympathies to all families who loved loved ones.
Prince Debo Adesina (Founder/President Nigerian Lives Matter)