by Ayodele Ibiyemi
What started as a protest against Police brutality has now taken another turn. Days after the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), protesters have stayed resilient and people have made demands for decisive steps to be taken.
Protesting Nigerians do not look or act like they will back down from protesting and the Federal Government is still dragging its feet on certain demands. It is noteworthy that the president, Muhammadu Buhari, has only addressed the nation once since the protests began, and has not made any strong or empathetic statement that shows he is truly concerned about the protests.
The protests have now gone beyond the call to disband the deadline police unit, SARS, and is now a protest demanding for an end to bad governance, corruption, mismanagement and general oppression within the Nigerian polity. The protests which began as a middle-class protest on the internet is now a national phenomenon, as people from the lower class have now been co-opted.
The awareness that the success of the protests created spiralled into these lower-class communities and they can see how much power a collective of people can have. This has inspired them to react and adopt many popular culture taglines that have marked the protests.
In many corner streets, there are shouts of ‘Soro Soke Werey’, ‘Werey dey disguise’ demanding that people in power take decisive actions. The requests of these people are not limited to the disbandment of SARS, they are reacting to years of neglect, oppression and corruption.
There are reported cases of motorcycle riders protesting against arbitrary charges being collected by their union leaders, there are cases of bus drivers joining protests to force police officers from extorting them on the highway and there are other previously repressed concerns that are being brought to the fore in this period.
Nigerian Writer and Linguist, Kola Tubosun puts the trend in perspective when he cites the American example:
“The Civil Rights Movement started with not wanting to sit at the back of the bus or drink at different water fountains. Ended with the Voting Rights Act. Don’t let up. #EndSARS“.
The Civil Rights Movement started with not wanting to sit at the back of the bus or drink at different water fountains.
Ended with the Voting Rights Act.
Don't let up. #EndSARS
— Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún (@kolatubosun) October 19, 2020
It is possible that the current protests birth other protests, marking the beginning of a people-driven polity in Nigeria.