To recount the #EndSars experiences in a single blogpost is an impossible feat. Life was an oxymoron during the protests – a tale of bitter-sweet experiences where Nigerian youths, myself included, either took to the streets, their bank accounts, or prayer rooms to take a stance against cruel leadership. Some did all three. That was the sweet. But can you imagine young, vibrant, and talented souls killed for expressing their pain and asking for their rights? Take talent or uniqueness out of the picture; can you imagine humans like you and me killing other humans like themselves? Can you imagine the vileness embedded in a country so much that it denies the death of its own citizens? I could go on and on, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a pause from reading and google “end sars.”
as a Nigerian in the diaspora, this was my headspace for almost 14 consecutive days. I said to the people around me, “I didn’t know I cared for Nigeria so much.” Now, leadership ineptitude is not a surprise. For the most part, every Nigerian can point to incompetence in leadership, or so we thought. On the flip side, the events of these past weeks made me rethink what we have always referred to as incompetent leadership: is it incompetence or wickedness? People murdered in broad daylight for no just cause? COVID-19 Palliatives stacked up in warehouses since April only to be discovered by citizens in October? Lack of accountability? Threats to citizens in and outside the country? An official address that dampened the spirit of almost the entire nation? These don’t sound like incompetence to me. So, for the most part, as I followed the trends online and realized I really couldn’t do anything but pray and lend my voice, a big part of myself felt helpless, and helplessness is not pretty.
I used to think empathy was easy for everyone until the protests happened. And in a mostly debilitating society, the least asset I think anyone should have is empathy. The case for one Nigerian is not the case for every Nigerian, but the case for one Nigerian is the case for most Nigerians. That calls for empathy. To think that we had and still have an outpour of posts upon posts and speech upon speech from various well-known personalities describing the events during and after the protests as nothing but child’s play is alarming. The people’s pain has been ridiculed on national tv; the quest to take the power of social media away from the users has been more important than addressing the victimization of citizens; previously non-existent families are now being created as elected representatives refer to youths as children and demand respect…and the list goes on.
now is a good time to chip in a recent conversation I had with one of my friends. He had put up an Instagram Story about the untrustworthiness of those in governance and how newly elected officials play the same game as soon as they’re in power. That post took me back to a quote from a book I partly read in 2018 titled Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. In it, Freire says,
And I followed this up with these thoughts: It takes a radically different type of orientation, lifestyle, and values for the oppressed to not become the oppressor. That’s why the rot is deep…deeper than we think.
I partially agree with the school of thought that writer’s block is not a thing. People have churned out articles, books, and podcasts on how to kick this block where it hurts. Nevertheless, sometimes, kicking is not the first thing on your mind. You really just want things to flow without kicking anything. Coupled with other responsibilities that had stolen writing time from me, writing wasn’t the first thing on my mind, so I think I had a fair dose of writer’s block. On October 11, I wrote and shared a poem on Instagram and Twitter in wake of the #endsars protests. The next thing I wrote after that was another poem two days ago, and I knew I was ready. So, here I am…writing again…it feels good!!
This poem was also featured on the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation website, and you can find it here.
war rooms and hope
1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say;
2 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
3 Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
6 Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.Psalm 124 KJV
The protests included prayer walks. People labored in the place of prayer, souls were saved on protest grounds, and healings were wrought too. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! It was all so beautiful. Personally, I prayed too. I joined a prayer group online and prayed in my own space too. Every iota of hope I carry is rooted in the place of prayer, and I have to thank God for that.
Following the curfew in Lagos, a few reports have been released about new encounters with SARS on the streets. It’s quite disheartening, but at the same time, people have not just moved on. Following the protests and some of the events, there has been an interesting turn of events. Warehouses were discovered, investigations and interviews are underway in some locations, and if you ask me what the next step is, I really do not know. However, I know prayers don’t go unanswered, and this time, something amazing has been birthed. Years of rot will not be overturned within two weeks of protests. More people are paying attention to the constitution, to history, to governance, and it does look like there’s a way forward, even if that way is yet to be clear.
Whatever you do, keep hope alive.
Also, Welcome to November! God is winning unseen battles, charting unpaved roads, and working behind the scenes for your joy this month in Jesus name.
With Overflowing Love,
NB: To avoid copyright infringement, I have not used any images from the protests in this post.