Nigeria

Shedding the Toga of ‘Lazy Nigerian Youths’

Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that for an unplanned protest, the organisational strategy of the #EndSARS protesters ranging from logistics to funding, emotional support and legal representation, helped shed the toga of ‘Lazy Nigerian Youths’

“Is this the birth of a New Nigeria? Can our youths sustain this show of accountability and organisational strategy?” Those were some of the burning questions that emanated from the two-week long #EndSARS protest against police brutality and bad governance. The reason for those questions was because of the top notch organisation of the youth, even though the protest was not pre-planned.

Birth of Soro Soke Generation

Soro Soke is a Yoruba language which means “Speak Louder”. It was mostly used among Nigerian youths on social media to speak up about police brutality and bad governance. Suffice to say the slang has come to stay as they have been outspoken against the ills in the society.

Resilience

The protest was streamlined as peaceful but the process wasn’t. When the police and military were not shooting live bullets, tear gas or water at protesters, thugs were allegedly hired to disrupt the peaceful gathering.

While so many were harassed, injured and brutalised by security operatives, some also died while some were arrested and even charged to court for murder.

Despite this, the resilience of the protesters merely doubled. With each hurdle, they crossed it with grace and soldiered on. Even with the curfew in some states, those protesters have taken solace in the power of the social media.

Power of Social Media

The power of social media was one of the major factors that gave the protest a boost. With the way the protest has been sustained both online and offline, it was bound to make impressions on data analytics.

One of the core strengths of the protests was the seamless transition between online and offline campaigns. Those who could not protest physically used the social media to pass across the message while those who could, shared content for the online warriors to use.

With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Whatsapp being the spring board of these campaigns, the #EndSARS repeatedly trended worldwide at number one spot on Twitter. Also, the #EndSARS hashtag has had over 10 billion impressions.

Despite the flaks it received for being a gateway that has sustained the protests, Twitter has shown unequivocal support to the cause. They recently launched an emoji in support of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria. The emoji is a raised fist designed in the colours of the Nigerian flag; green, white and green. In a tweet, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Twitter, Jack Dorsey used the #EndSARS hashtag with the new emoji.

Although Instagram and Facebook were once accused of flagging the hashtag, they later issued a statement, apologising that it was a computer glitch.

No Recognised Leadership

Perhaps one factor that sustained the protests was the fact that there was seemingly no structure, yet it worked perfectly. None of those at the forefront of championing the cause are leaders of the protests, which has made it quite difficult for the government to penetrate their flanks. But many people have argued that the no leadership structure became an albatross after the government made some concessions and the protesters refused to meet them halfway.

Amplified Voices of Influencers, Celebrities, Activists

More than ever, the amplified voices of influencers, celebrities and activists were loud; from the ones that started off the protests, to those that braved the elements to camp out, to those who defied threats and veiled messages to stand firm, these crop of influencers, celebrities and activists, too numerous to mention all, have written their names in the sands of time.

For the entertainers in the music industry, some of those that stood out include Falz, Davido, DJ Switch, Burnaboy, Wizkid, Tems, Runtown, Small Doctor, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Peruzzi, Phyno, Flavour, Oxlade and Banky Wellington.

Also Mercy Eke, Mike Edwards, Tacha Akide, Erica Nlewedin, Prince Enwerem, Kidd Waya, Dorathy Bachor, and other Big Brother Naija former housemates also showed up bearing food and drinks.

On Twitter and Instagram- influencers, lawyers and social advocates like
@mrmacaronii @SavvyRinu @Mochievous @NotJustSalmanPR @NotJustSalmanPR @TheWaleAgbede @SomtoSocial , Abdul Akeem, @FKAbudu, @TemiOanu, @LadiOgunseye, @MrOdanz, @Omojuwa, @Segalink, @DipoAwojide, @AuntyLizzzy, @OlotuEmmanuel, @AprokoDoctor, @zinux17, @AbiruWahab, @occasion_mafia, @badmanteas, @meggiebangz
@grayoflagos, and @darestlesspen, stood the test of time.

Others include @Pablo_Escobress, @MERMAH_, @Timmydennyd, @djkufre, @IamOratorsam, @iamzaddymanny, @Sweet_Dayor, @arremmu
@Kola99481037, @ChristianahAba1, @TheDemolaExpoze, @AsiwajuLerry, @MaziIbe_ @TheLazyCheff @OtunbaCoff @OgbeniDipo @DrTSquare @therealdaddymo1 @UgwunnaEjikem @UnclePamilerin and @AuntyAda, @Fat Belly Nelly, @Pastor Ola, Ife of
Dairy of a Naija Girl, Nelly Agbogu of Naija Brand Chic and Tomike Adeoye, the favourite Tv girl.

Also Charles Enojie, Funke Akindele, Omotolani Ekeinde, Genevieve Nnaji, Omoni Oboli, Chioma Chukwuka, Ufuoma McDermott, Kate Henshaw, Uche Jombo, Yul Edochie and a pocket full of other actors supported the movement.

Funding and Accountability

In this regard, it seemed to have been centralised, albeit, not be design. From
the funds raised under the Convener of OperationSanitize, Savvy Rinu to that of the Feminist Coalition, a group of young Nigerian feminists formed in July 2020 with a mission to champion equality for women in Nigerian society with a core focus on education, financial freedom and representation in public office, has raised millions in support of the campaign.

The members include Damilola Odufuwa, Odunayo Eweniyi, Layo Ogunbanwo, Ozzy Etomi, Ire Aderinokun, Fakhrriyyah Hashim, Oluwaseun Osowobi, Jola Ayeye, Laila Johnson-Salami, Karo Omu, Obiageli Alintah, Tito Ovia, Kiki Mordi and FK Abudu.
To coordinate funds for the logistics of the protests, the Feminist Coalition raised a total of ₦147,855,788.28 (including donations in USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, GHS, KES, and BTC) and disbursed ₦60,403,235.00 with a balance of ₦87,452,553.28.

Updating Nigerians about the rest of the funds, they said it would go towards funding medical emergencies, legal aid for wrongfully detained citizens, and relief for victims of police brutality and families of the deceased, a “memorial for the fallen” and mental health support.

The accountability was also thrilling as it cut across board except for a few cases when people couldn’t defend the money dispensed to them. Also, Nigerian youths surprisingly turning down offers of a second round of food so it would go round to others.

Logistics

Although they seemed to be in different camps, one thing that stood out was the coordination from each group. From providing free charging points to feeding, releasing arrested protesters, gifting data, transportation and even healthcare, the logistics and organisation were topnotch.

Unified against Sexual Abuse

Unlike what was obtainable in large crowds, the protesters looked out for the female among them to prevent cases of sexual harassment and abuse. In one case when a male protester tried to molest a young girl, the men gathered together and beat him up.

Continuously on different social media platforms, they kept harping on the need for men to respect the females, with stern warning to tackle the perpetrator. In the long run, it seemed to have worked as no further case of abuse seems to have been recorded.

Safety

To ensure everyone was safe at the protest grounds, different safety tips circulated, especially on what to do if tear gas was sprayed, gunshot injury was recorded, cases of dehydration and so on.

Healthcare

The protesters went a step further to provide healthcare at each of the protest grounds. There were volunteer doctors as well as donated ambulances and medical supplies. Nigerians were also quick to donate money for medical supplies.

Also, given the numerous times injuries were recorded with some quite severe enough to receive blood transfusion, it became imperative for a drive to donate blood.

Championed by LifeBankCares-led Temie Giwa-Tubosun, the group called for blood donation for injured victims of police brutality during the protests.

Sanitation

The youths again outdid themselves as they ensured the protest grounds were also cleaned up and the garbage disposed off after each day. Whether in Lagos or Abuja, the story was same. The protesters put aside their class and did the dirty work.

Fixing Damages

The youths also took it upon themselves to repair the damages earlier caused by hoodlums. In Abuja, some hoodlums set on cars stuck in traffic and destroyed about 10 of them. Viral videos showed the distraught car owners quite perplexed by the situation.

In an unexpected show of unity, several pledges began to come in towards fixing the damaged cars. At the end, the organisers of the protest ensured those affected had their cars fixed.

For the damaged phones as a result of the stampede, one of those that pledged to repair them was a mobile phone dealer, Dabz Global Gadgets, at 80 per cent discount, adding that repairs from N5,000 and below will be done free of charge.

Empathy for Hoodlums

The protesters practiced a rare kind of empathy for same hoodlums that tried to disrupt the movement. On several occasions, the hoodlums attacked them at the protest grounds and each time, the protesters banded together and repelled them.

Those that they caught were first treated by medical volunteers and fed with food before they were handed over to the police.

Returned Properties

At the protest grounds, countless stories abound of people’s lost properties that were returned. According to many, this is the birth of a new Nigeria where everything good is possible

Emotional Support

Meanwhile, asides the medical treatments given by doctors across the state, some psychologists also joined the loop by offering free therapy.

According to Emotions Doctor, the free therapy was for those that have been traumatised in any way during the protest. Other groups like the Mentally Aware were also on board in assuaging they emotional and psychological needs of protesters.

Legal Representation

At least 600 lawyers were drafted to provide free legal services to Nigerians under detention for protesting against brutality and extra-judicial killings. Already, they have built an efficient legal aid/support structure operating in 36 states and they have been achieving results in this regard even with the protest no longer on the streets in some states.

Private Security

After some thugs attacked the protesters in Alausa, the coordinators of the protest quickly organised private security to safeguard lives and properties.

In Abuja, some of the protesters saved the day with their pit bulls and bull dogs. When the thugs returned the second day to attack them, the fearsome sight of the dogs made them to retreat.

Helpline

To ensure a coordinated protest nationwide devoid of hitches, the protesters created a helpline on 01 700 1755. According to FK Abudu, one of the organisers, the call sign one was for medical, two for legal, three for food and supplies, four, five and six for mental health emergencies and seven for security. Credit for this was given to @EbyAkhigbe and @funmioyatogun.

Support Unit

To provide resource and information support for the protesters, the End SARS Response was created. Under this wing was the Protest Mobilisation Support Form where requests for funds to support protest resources (including food, printing placards, transportation and other mobilisation needs) are handled. Although their job was not to raise funds or collect donations, they connected protesters across the nation to the resources available.

They also had the medical wing which connected those in need of the medical supplies to the resource centre. The response team also had the legal aid support wing and even the volunteer response.

Candlelight Service

Another beautiful, yet somber moment was the candle light service held last two Fridays in honour of all those innocent persons who have been killed by the police. At the different locations where the candlelight event held, prayers were said after which the demonstrators sang the National Anthem in respect of the country before they began to reel out the names of the deceased.

For those at the candlelight, it had gone beyond ceremony and clamour for disbandment of SARS, but to also bring justice for those who have suffered injustice at the hands of the police.

Clean Up after Widespread Looting by Vandals

Across the nation where widespread looting and vandalism took place, the youths and even some elderly persons took up the task to clean up voluntarily. From Lagos Island to Mainland and even some others states, the clean-up was carried out before the state appointed agency stepped in.

Although the physical protest might have been restricted in some states because of the imposition of curfew, the lessons inherent in the protest abound- the youths are not lazy after all as they were once described by the Nigerian president.

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