By TokunboKujore - Impact Analyst, Founder of Afro Girls
All eyes are on Nigeria, and yet again, it’s not for our innovative talent or potential, but for a series of inhumane events orchestrated by leaders in the government. Over the last 13 days, the world has watched as Nigerians have protested to end police brutality and bad governance. If you ask Nigerians in the country and in the diaspora to describe Nigeria, they will tell you that the country is frustrating, but there is also beauty that will come to light one day. Nigerians will also tell you that Nigerians are Nigeria’s biggest problem, but there’s hope for a better country and people if Nigerians are willing to change their mindset about gender equality and dire issues, fully stand up for justice and challenge the status quo - but nobody wants to be a freedom fighter in this day and age. Last night, this changed. The funniest #EndSARS memes that accompanied the very real fight for justice turned into dead bodies and blood on Nigerian flags. Peaceful protesters and citizens in Lagos, who demanded basic human rights from the officials that they elected to serve and protect them, were murdered by said “protectors.”
I didn’t fully understand the outcry for justice when I was younger, but I’m old enough now to understand how the blatant disrespect of Nigerians by the institutions designed to “govern” its people, affects me as a Nigerian woman, Nigerians in Nigeria and the Diaspora and our future. Saying, ‘Is it not Nigeria' or ‘Na so we see am,’ is not enough anymore.
Call me optimistic, but I want to be proud of my green passport. I also want to see a fully functional and sustainable Nigeria flourish. For me, the current #EndSARS uprising and movement to end bad governance and police brutality is just the beginning of a number of of movements to come if those of us who are bravely fighting against bullies for justice through our work or on the frontlines stay focused.
As an impact analyst, girls education advocate and founder of an organization dedicated to girls in Africa and around the world, I always look at the trickle down effect of protests on education - as education directly affects government, leadership, healthcare, infrastructure, the economy, electricity, security, and so much more. I wrote a piece about the state of education in Nigeria just days before Independence Day and many of my thoughts and findings remain true. Nigerian children are learning in a broken education system due to leadership or lack thereof. Schools that want the best for their children are frustrated by the lack of support. I think about the girls who have never stepped foot in a classroom because of cultural and traditional norms promoted by leadership. I think about the 6.7% of the country’s budget that was disgracefully allocated to education out of the recommended 20% by UNESCO. I think about the pro-education policies that will never be passed. I think about the partnerships designed to assist learners being abused. I think about the squandered resources that could have helped so many children. I think about the 176 schoolgirls from Chibok who still missing, six years later.
The #EndSARS movement and the demands for justice in subsequent areas that I hope will successfully follow, is important to me now more than ever because people's lives are literally on the line and because the aforementioned, especially girls education, is directly impacted by the government. SARS became a problem out of poverty and greed fueled by leadership. If we are working to end poverty and the injustices created through it in the country, but our leaders are promoting poverty, what then can we do? Now is the time to decide what type of Nigeria we want, how we are going to be leaders in this movement and what we are going to do to hold ourselves accountable to execute our plans.
We Move: Peacefully and Purposefully
2020 has been quite the year for social reform. We’ve witnessed countries around the world fight for justice, but something about watching the videos from Nigeria hit a little too close to home, leaving many of us speechless, helpless and frustrated. It’s easy to lose hope when you witness or see the images and videos on social media of injustice - but we can’t.
This article is not another think piece to share more complaints about Nigeria, but instead hopefully a guide to share action steps that we, Nigerians everywhere and the global community can take to reimagine Nigeria and to build back better and stronger with transparency and accountability. Now is not the time to lose focus - relying on celebrities or outside bodies to save us. We have to save ourselves. Anyone else who wants to genuinely support, can. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic, but have been given the rare opportunity to rebuild and reimagine Nigeria. Let's not lose momentum and the opportunity for real reform. For now, I’m using my platform to share credible sources and voices towards a progressive nation. Here’s what we can do together, in and outside of the country:
Be mindful of what you share
Social media is one of the greatest tools that we have right now. I encourage everyone to equip themselves with the correct information and to share verifiable and correct information/resources. Misinformation, especially at a time like this, is dangerous. Share information from credible sources. Use your platform to encourage one another and to create accurate awareness if you are comfortable enough to do so. Please don’t share triggering content and if you have to, please share a disclaimer.
Take care of yourself
Along the lines of social media, scrolling through protests and various opinions can be daunting, even if you are in full support of fighting for justice. Please take care of your mental health and reach out to credible resources that can support you. She Writes Women is a a women-led movement of love hope and support that gives mental health a voice in Nigeria. Talk Space is also another resource to connect with a licensed therapist from the palm of your hand, and experience the most convenient, affordable way to improve your mental health. I encourage you to take a break from social media for an hour or so to alleviate the anxiety from constantly watching and participating in the protest online.
Your support can still help aid reform. Unfortunately, cold hearted people use this time to extort warm hearted citizens. Research where and to whom your money is going to. The End SARS Response Unit is a team of volunteers dedicated to connecting you with resources and information for End SARS protests nationwide.
Don’t be a distraction
Activism in the form that we see today is a fairly new space for Nigerians. With that said please don’t be a distraction. History is being made and the revolution is in the making. Silence can be an act of complicity, but don’t assume that people are not in support if they are not active on social media about everything that is going on. This is heavy. People need time to process what is happening. Please give them the space and the compassion to do so. If you don’t have anything to say or you don’t want to share tangible resources, then now is not the time for performative allyship. Kindly keep it to yourself. The case on ground is serious.
If you support the movement, think about what you trying to accomplish? What are the demands? What do you want? What steps can we take to get there? How are you going to be a part of the change that we want to see? Who can we trust to get us there? It's great that we are brave enough to speak up, but what I don’t want to see happen is the same thing that happened in protests and movements that proceeded this years movement, where nothing changes. As we reimagine Nigeria, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Each and every one of us play a part.
At the core of it all, Nigerians just wanted to be treated with respect. As I write, I am still getting alerts of continued violence and unrest on ground. We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we keep our eyes on the goal. Thank you to those of you who support justice for a fair and just society.
May we reach a peaceful and fair resolution soon; may the next breaking news about Nigeria be one of positivity and progress; may those who have lost their lives for a better Nigeria Rest In Peace; and may we #ReImagineNigeria and take the necessary steps to ensure that their lives were not lost in vein.