On the night of the twentieth day of October 2020, citizens of Nigerians gathered draped in the national standard, singing their national anthem in glee with pride. All of this was cut short when the sound of bullets rang out. It was unexpected. No one would have wondered that citizens could’ve been gunned down in Lagos at the heart of Nigeria’s economy. But it did.
The first question we ought to ask ourselves was, how did this happen? When did peaceful protesters become a threat to those in power? Do chants and flags be rewarded by bullets and tear gas? But to understand why this happened, we need to find out why the people were on the site of the massacre that very night.
October 2020 saw widespread organic protests all around Nigeria over the brutality faced by young Nigerians at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It was as though young Nigerians had reached the climax of their patience for police brutality, so they exercised their constitutional freedom to protest. These protests were met with resistance from the police force with silence from the federal government, which controls the police. During the first few days of the protests, several casualties were immediately recorded in various states across the country. But these casualties didn’t deter the protesters still. They carried on with the demonstrations gathering support across the world. Nigeria had seen nothing such as this. Everything was grounded to a halt.
But the Nigerian government is not known to have a history of negotiating with peaceful protestors. Nigeria’s history is marred with stories of violence against civilians since the days of colonial rule, through military rule. The standard modus operandi was rulership by force. Democratic rule wasn’t any exception when most of the “reformed” democrats were from the military, including the current Nigerian president, who was a former military dictator.
Many Nigerians like myself wished that the government would at least have the dignity of respecting our wishes and listening to our pleas, but the Nigerian government reverted to the status quo by utilizing the old devil – it’s military. Thus, leading to the massacre of 20–10–2020.
The massacre wasn’t hidden. It happened under the watchful eyes of everyone around the globe. Streamed live via social media. But a few days later, the government and its supporters denied the use of weapons. They called those who witnessed the massacre liars and conspiracy theorists. What did we expect? Will a murderer come out to plead guilty?
Calls for reconciliation were made, and the government succumbed to the pressure by calling for statewide judicial oversight to look into the actions of the SARS. In Lagos, the judicial panel also looked into the actions of the military at the Lekki toll gate. Nigerians and Lagosians were hopeful. But in some states, including Lagos, the findings indicted former SARS officers and also the military for their actions in Lekki. The panel made recommendations, and they made the information public. Whereas in other states silence, even today. The victims and their families have heard nothing. The whole oversight was a sham, and justice has been elusive.
Today makes it two years since the events of that fateful night still no justice. The victims of SARS and the victims of the Lekki massacre, together with young Nigerians united in their grief, visited the scene of the massacre this year and the police force met them with violence. Their excuse was that they didn’t want the protests to be hijacked by violent entities. Such a convenient excuse.
Two years on, nothing has changed. Although the government says they have disbanded SARS, police brutality still exists. No lessons were learnt. These experiences still traumatise many young Nigerians.
Nigeria goes to the polls in less than four months to elect new leaders, and many Nigerians hope that sensitive leaders are elected. If the current leaders won’t learn any lessons from End SARS, maybe Nigerians should teach them a lesson by voting them out. I hope. But Nigerians are weird, they have a fetish for evil leaders.