I don’t even know where to start so I’ll just start writing and ranting because it’s all too much. The words are swirling around not understanding or knowing what to do with themselves. About a week ago I heard about “#EndSARS” protests by youths in some cities in Nigeria, Lagos having the most. My siblings shared some photos and videos in our WhatsApp group. I had no idea what “SARS” meant or was about. I sometimes have my head in a bubble and avoid the news, frankly especially “Naija” news because a lot of times I just go “WHAT NOW”? Then I take to the internet…..social media to be precise.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was a branch of the Nigeria Police Force under the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID). The Police Department was founded in 1992. The squad was created as a facemask wearing police unit that performs undercover operations against crimes associated with armed robbery, car snatching, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and crimes associated with firearms. SARS had been accused of several human rights violations, failure to socially distance, illegal “stop and searches”, illegal arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, sexual harassment of women and brutalizing many young Nigerians. Source: Wikipedia
The protests were against police brutality, organised and led by youths. I hear extorting youths using iPhones, driving fancy cars or wearing fancy clothes is popular. Nigerian Police on its own, extort (bribery) and harass (for bribes) its citizens on a daily basis so I can’t begin to imagine what a “special unit”. ANY and EVERYONE who has lived or been to Nigeria has a police encounter to tell. I’ll tell mine in a bit.
The protests were in their second week, maybe longer, it had now spread across Lagos. Yesterday there were reports that busloads of thugs had been sent “by authorities” so mayhem had now entered, and anarchy was just a door knock away. I saw videos of the busloads. I was telling my siblings of the #blacklivesmatter protests and how that started getting hijacked.
So today, 20th of October 2020, 10.20.20 (US version) or 20.10.20 (UK version), a wonderful numerological alignment, the unthinkable happened in Lagos. I shall summarise. You can use the hashtags below to learn more.
The youths were gathered at Lekki toll gate on Lagos Island as they have been doing, come rain or shine, peacefully protesting when soldiers from the Nigerian Army started arriving on the scene. Then, CCTV cameras were disconnected, then the streetlights were turned off and the area was plunged into darkness, the protesters were singing (the national anthem I think) at this point, then the soldiers starting shooting into the crowd, killing the young men and women!
I WATCHED. THIS. HAPPEN.
I called a friend in Nigeria who lives in the Lekki area, she was distraught of course. Stray bullets flew into people’s homes. She also told me neighbouring hospitals dispatched ambulances and they were turned back. Who does that?!!!!
ARE. YOU. FOR. REAL?!
So. Young people, university grads and undergrads, peacefully protesting police brutality were shot at. Ok…..
The cover photo on this blog is of the Nigerian flag carried by protesters, stained with their blood. It has been making the rounds on social media. I remember the Tiananmen Square massacre; I was in Nigeria at the time. What kind of Government sends army tanks to shoot into a crowd of protesting students?? Oh…..
Before today’s #lekkimassacre, as the protests were shaping, I’d been checking the international news. Nigerians in Nigeria thinking they’d make the news. I knew it wouldn’t. Why is no one saying anything? No one knows where Nigeria is until it’s time to sample Afro beat music or wear Ankara head wraps or a colourful ethnic print dress. Nigeria has its problems, that pesky email, yes, yes, this is not about that now.
Here are some pictures from the protests also making the rounds. Young, strong, brave people seeking a better country, a better future for others before themselves. I do not own the rights to any of the images used.
Nigeria is the largest oil and gas producer in Africa, with 4 major refineries but only the country only refines a fraction of its oil and IMPORTS oil. Somebody is making big bucks here and it’s not we the people! One rich Nigerian can pay to fix those refineries. And there are MANY rich Nigerians.
There is NO JUSTIFICATION for this HORRIFIC act that took place this evening. Whatever side of the fence you’re on. Even if you are high. I have big words but I just can’t…..
My last two visits to Nigeria were traumatic. On the account that I went for my Dad’s funeral (2011) and mum’s funeral (2017). I went to University in East Nigeria, that was trauma for me a Lagosian, but it turned into real trauma, when my male professor supervisor started acting “funny” and my Dad had to show up to intervene.
My police encounter story. For my Dad’s funeral, we had to travel from Lagos to his hometown in Delta State, 6 hours away. We were stopped by the police 7 times in one hour! I know because I counted and I was about to LOSE IT at the fourth stop. They stopped the coffin and demanded bribes to let us through. THEY STOPPED MY FATHER’S COFFIN ON THE ROAD. My cousin said, Titi don’t speak because if they hear your voice they’ll know you’re not “from here” and it’ll just be worse ie they’ll hear your British accent and extort us even more. This a non-toll road for context. Police just mount roadblocks willy-nilly and demand money and if you dare drive through, they WILL shoot.
I was always accused of being “too British” while I was in Nigeria. Questioning morals, refusing to conform. Why are abc dem doing that? Surely xyz can’t do that? WHY? WHY???!!! I honestly knew I’d be banging my head on the wall if I lived there. But people do, and they thrive. We are all different. I have family there so I have vested interest. So I stick my head in a bubble when it all gets too much. There are some things people just have to turn a blind eye to just for national peace. But a generation said ENOUGH OF THAT.
Nigeria is not all bad, I know, but I’m running out of Nigerian happy thoughts, I really am. Last weekend I ate puff-puff and plantain chips. The week before that my cousin sent me a bottle of peanuts from Nigeria. Those are my only happy thoughts to be honest.
I rant and wail and gnash of teeth. And I write.
For the people that died today
For the struggle
- For freedom
- For justice
- For equality
- For redemption
- For the revolution
- For change
- For peace
- For joy
- For the future
- For life
- For country
- For Nigeria
2020, come and be going pliss.
What a day.