The Nigerian Government has done the unthinkable by ordering the execution of peaceful protesters in cold blood. The Presidency and the Lagos State Government, alongside the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army, have turned against the constitution. The essence of our democracy, the preservation of lives, and the rule of law are gradually fading away in the atmosphere of terror witnessed on the streets of Lekki and elsewhere across the nation. Nigeria is falling apart from within.
At this point, indeed, the resilience exhibited by protesters during the last few weeks in driving home their demands for justice and police reforms hit the heart of the Nigerian Government. That’s good. It is clear that what these oppressors fear the most is a united front, which refuses to back down or bow to pressure.
But the President, Muhammadu Buhari, would only hide behind the protection of state security services in Aso Rock rather than attend to the demand of the protesters. At the same time, his colleague in government goes on air to discredit the peaceful protest. In a ridiculous show of disregard for human lives, the President and his lieutenants watch as the youths who helped vote in the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2015 and 2019 are massacred on the streets. Nothing constitutes a failure in its gravest sense than for a government to resort to violent suppression of peaceful protest.
For the Nigerian youth, though, we must reiterate specific facts to ourselves.
First, we must remember that the most significant sociopolitical changes in the history of humanity were achieved on the back of uneasy revolutions. For instance, Americans fought the British on land and at sea to create the world’s most enduring democracy in the 1770s. Enslaved blacks in St. Domingue (Haiti) sacrificed their lives to take control of one of the cruelest European plantations in the 1790s. Around the same time, the French stood up to King Louis XVI and refused to succumb to his iron fist, bringing about the abolition of an absolute monarch for a constitutional monarchy. The Russian Revolution, which is arguably the most significant event of the 20th century, was mounted by workers who refused to give in to inhumane exploitation by powerful elites. (Although I disagree with the tactics and reforms brought to the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks who took over power at the end of the revolution in 1923.)
Throughout these revolutions, lives were lost, and rebelling civilians were labeled anarchists. But history remembers these revolutions as the most significant because of one thing: the agitators refused to back down amid brutal suppression by their oppressors. Nigerians must know that they, too, are on course to write their chapter in history.
Second, we have come too far to back down. We have never been this close to bringing about change in Nigeria. A reinforced effort to raise our voice peacefully is necessary. Our brothers and sisters who fell to the bullets of the oppressors, must not die in vain. When the human rights activist, Fela Kuti lamented about how Nigerians stood by while hundreds of soldiers attacked his Kalakuta residence in Lagos in February 1977, he was hopeful that the time would come when the people will unite against their oppressors. That time is already happening. But unlike Fela, who could not witness the change he cried for, this generation of defiant Nigerians will see that change manifest because they have refused to fight alone.
To the Nigerian Government, however, this brutal clampdown has shown that the purported call for negotiation or understanding with the protesters was not genuine all along. Nigerians have woken up, and they will not be intimidated. The demand for reforms will never stop; It is either a holistic reform in how policing is done or nothing. Also, the world is watching. Is the President not embarrassed to see how his countrymen are massacred only a few weeks after visiting Mali to promote peace and democracy? But the world would always know the truth, and history never forgets.
The massacre of October 20, 2020, has changed the course of our democracy. We will remember how blood flooded the streets while our leaders enjoy the comfort of their families. We will not forget the names of our fallen comrades. We will continue to fight for this democracy regardless of whatever bullet fly the air. Nothing can stop a change whose time is ripe and these sweat and blood shall never be in vain.
Ibrahim B. Anoba is a managing editor at African Liberty and a fellow of the Center for African Prosperity at the Atlas Network. He tweets via @Ibrahim_Anoba.