The editorial board of Y!/YNaija.com has chosen Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya as the editor’s pick for the YNaija 2018 Person of the year.
Awosanya was chosen from a shortlist that included Herbert Wigwe, CEO and director of Access Bank and Samson Itodo, chair of YIAGA and proponent of the Not Too Young to Run Bill, passed into office in 2018.
The editorial board acknowledges that Segalink’s impact was felt across all six geopolitical zones of the country, with families and communities being positively impacted either directly or indirectly by the activist’s tireless charge for a sanitized police force. Segalink was able to project a pseudo-omniscience thanks to the power of social media, crowdfunded survivor stories and international attention.
The sheer volume of work that Segalink managed to personally achieve since he took on the #ENDSARS movement was also a strong consideration for his selection as person of the year. In a year when many non-profit organization were unmasked as corrupt or even outright harmful to the disenfranchised communities they profess to help, Segalink’s presence was personally felt in thousands of police brutality, corruption and injustice cases, and with the exception of his controversial statements regarding the 57 suspected LGBT men who were arrested in a police raid, Awosanya has treated everyone with respect and acknowledged their humanity, even when he could have chosen not to. That personal impact is something the other shortlisted persons haven’t quite managed in 2018.
Awosanya has, in his own way, changed the course of Nigerian history and inspired millions of young Nigerians to stand up to injustice and corruption; it is a laudable feat, worthy of recognition with the Person of the year title. Here is a summary of his achievements in 2018.
Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya
Segun Awosanya didn’t start the fight to end police corruption and brutality in Nigeria, but he is determined to end it. Awosanya is many things, a digital consultant for many of the country’s leading Non-governmental organisations on point-to-point radio links, the CEO of Aliens Media, a tech-driven consultancy operating out of Lagos and an in-demand public speaker, but it is his work as an advocate for young Nigerians that has put him on this list.
Few people know that Awosanya’s first foray into activism was actually targeted at the Nigerian Financial Industries and the corruption that was happening unaddressed in their interactions with their customers. As early as 2015 Awosanya railed against the bogus dues and fees customers were forced to pay without an explanation or justification. But the more pressing issue of police brutality, violence against youth and pervasive corruption would soon come to occupy all his free time. Though the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squads had existed and terrorised Nigerians since the early 90s, they were at best a minor nuisance, tolerated for the peace they brought to the country. Their human rights abuses were written off as a trade-off for the armed robbers and kidnappers they kept off our streets.
That was at least, till 2015 when the SARS squads turned their attention away from armed robbers to young Nigerian men. Their precedents were believable at first; Nigeria was long infamous for being the fraud capital of the world, and as the world got increasingly digital, the barriers to attempting fraud dropped significantly, luring boys and girls, younger than ever into the glittery world of advance fee fraud. Following the passing of the 2014 Same Sex Act and the 2015 Cybercrime Act, SARS and Cybercrime Units across the country began to target young men specifically, arbitrarily stopping and harassing them, invading their privacy in the name of seeking evidence against them. Beatings and extortions followed, and by late 2016, young men across the country lived in perpetual terror.
Moved by the pleas of young men across the country, Segalink began a crusade to pour popular support towards ending or reforming the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, citing its illegitimacy according to Nigerian law and exposing the government’s indifference to the violence and extortion. In 2018, things came to a head when Segalink compiled a database of survivor stories, drawing the attention of international press and shaming the government into action. The government publicly announced it was reforming SARS and the Nigerian Police as a whole and recently reviewed the organisation’s salary structure to incentivise more officers to stay on the straight and narrow path.
There have been some missteps such as Segalink’s refusal to acknowledge the humanity of LGBT victims of the extortion, the very reason the ENDSARS movement began in the first place, but his impact in the last year is undeniable. He brought an entire government to task and his name strikes fear into the hearts of corrupt policemen across the country.