After the Tollgate Massacre, What’s next?

The people’s protests to the Nigerian government to put an infinite end to the brutal, extortionist, and vilely murderous police sect, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), have been responded to in a manner that has sent chills down the spines of its citizens. The picture of the kind of leadership they run is clear now, and it is not at par with what the people had envisaged.

The Nationwide insistently peaceful protests carried on successfully, and for the first time in the history of protests in Nigeria, they were patriotic in their demands, and with a united voice. Their pains, fears, and stories of their dead and their missing family/friends were shared, and it was the uniting force that fueled them on. On the 18th October 2020, a candlelit memorial on behalf of the lives lost to the senseless brutality, or who had gone missing by the members of the SARS was organized, and it was an emotional night all over Nigeria. That night, a benign feeling of calm and consolation was restored to Nigerians worldwide.

ALSO READ:   Join The Conversation #EndSars.

Disaster struck on Tuesday, 20th October 2020, at about 7 pm, when the security cameras were uninstalled, and the lights around the locations cut off, leaving the protesters sitting and kneeling in pitch darkness, hoisting their Nigerian flags as they repeatedly sang the national anthem in hoarse voices heavy with fear and exhaustion. The members of the military swooned in with the agility of men prepared for war and fired live rounds, not into the air, but aimed at the screaming crowd. The total fatality is unclear to this day as the military was said to have taken some of the bodies, while some were taken to hospitals for treatments. The president’s long-awaited speech came days after the fracas, and in his 12 minutes of written speech, he failed to address the massacre at the Tollgate. This was followed by denial of the presence of the military at the tollgate, and an act of ignorance by the leaders on who gave the order. Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerberg watered down the picture and video evidence of the unrest by labeling them fake news.

ALSO READ:   Join The Conversation #EndSars.

Nigerians have resorted to jokes and memes on social media to humour themselves to ease the agitation, fear, and worry they feel as they await what happens next. There are tweets from other African countries, like Congo urging Nigerians not to back down on their fight to end the police brutality as their protest has encouraged them to speak up against theirs and there had been improvements in the past weeks. But the reality is members of the SARS group are out in the streets causing more damages and leaving scores of victims, implying that the government is adamantly refusing to end the unit for reasons best known to them. This gross negligence leaves us in a precarious situation in need of urgent solutions. What do we do?

Offline influencing is a technique we could employ to reach a wider part of Nigerians who are not on or positively utilizing the internet/social media space, therefore, are oblivious of the implications of this protest and what we stand to gain or lose. There is a need for discussion on all levels, family discussions, compound discussions, group discussions where issues like this will be tackled for better understanding. Twitter is another social medium where one can actively be updated on, and join trending local to global conversations, and while at it, learn to contribute meaningfully without excessive use of foul language or hate speeches.  Inclusivity would also go a long way to prove a united front, there is a need to embrace unconventional, internationally recognized groups, like the LGBTQ+, feminists, and others, and learn that segregation sustained by the people in power before us has done more harm than good to our society. As Nigerians clamour for reform, not only of the police unit but also the government, there is a need for us to rid ourselves of mediocre mindsets to embrace equality. There is a need to sensitize and involve everybody in this struggle, as it is the only way a country like Nigeria having different ethnicities and ideologies can work together as a country.

Jephtha is an altéist with a flair for lifestyle and everything literature. His ambient affinity for everything unorthodox fuels his writing.

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