Remembering 20/10/2020
(Perspective from one who just wants a better Nigeria)

 

When the End sars movement began online in October 2021 following growing agitations against poor policing and police brutality, which subsequently came to include discontent with poor governance, we didn’t know where it was headed. When it led to the protests on the streets, a lot of hope filled the air. We were on the verge of birthing an accountable and responsible government or so we felt. The organization and strategy wasn’t properly or spelt out but, the fact that Nigerians could all come together and unite regardless of tribe, religion, status or other differences and affiliations that typically divided us, painted a picture that the Nigeria of our dreams wasn’t only the element of our wild wet dreams: it simply lay on the other side of this united movement of passionate ‘better Nigeria’ hopefuls. Beautiful, glowing and beckoning us to realization.

The possibilities seemed endless. I dared to dream of an ultramodern Nigeria where I could live in my beautiful but not underdeveloped village. If I so wanted, I could simply take a speed train to work in the big city daily if I had to. I saw big cities, clean roads connecting everywhere and everything. Clean and efficient hospitals, large parks filled with happy families and happy smaller communities in what used to be called the “rural communities”. I had visions of Nigerian embassies full of applications from other countries and I even fantasized about citizens complaining about the boom of birth tourism inflow into “OUR” country.

I mean if we could love ourselves this much and be this united and organized for a cause that would better not just our individual lives, but the whole of us, the Nigerian dream wasn’t that far off. I remember an elderly couple who had come visiting us around that period, the wife said “this is just PDP trying to disrupt the peace for APC o”. Alarmed but trying my best to mask the feelings of exasperation, being misunderstood and just hating the disunity and divided nature of the direction of this discourse. I asked “Excuse me, mummy, have you been following the memorials in honour of the likes of Emmanuel Egbo an unarmed 15-year-old boy who was innocently playing outside with his friends but got killed by a police officer? How about Christian Onuigbo, Tina Ezekwe, Peter Ofurum and a long list of names that strike our hearts with the thoughts of dread and heartfelt prayers for better fates for all Nigerians living in Nigeria?” Her husband passionately responded “Dee, this country got worse under our watch and I think these young children are only doing what we should have done to make a better country for us all”. “Go, daddy!” I squealed In my heart. Did I need to say more again? I ‘jeje’ locked my armoury of arguments and restarted the conversation only this time, intending to educate and explain to her why the protests began and why this seemed to be the only avenue the youth felt necessary in getting attention on the issues that threatened the certainty of hope for their futures.

As I write this, 20/10/2020 comes back to me in a flash flood of painful memories. My sister ran into the room and said “let’s get onto Djay switch’s Instagram live. Everyone is saying to join in on Twitter.” I remember shortly after watching what I prayed was a bad dream hoping unto Djay Switch’s live stream and jumping from place to place, screaming Jesus! Jesus!! Jesus!!! non-stop, crying and asking God to make it go away.

We cried and prayed, and cried and prayed intermittently until we finally drifted off into troubled sleep in the early hours of the morning with tears on our faces. As soon as the sunlight hit my face, I woke up crying again. As a human, you feel broken looking at something like that but as a Nigerian human, that broadcast hit differently. It was a bad day to be on social media but staying off it wasn’t a way out just thinking can we ever really escape the reality of what Nigeria is? Lock yourself up in your utopia if you will or have the means to – but your very existence is still Nigerian. It is the constant liquid reality running in your veins and the persistent actuality that confronts you in the face every day. The next morning I had conversations with lots of loved ones checking in on everyone’s safety and sanity. Most of them and I believe a lot of Nigerians went through the same or worse trauma. We all need national therapy if ever there was a thing like that. A new level of our learned helplessness was unlocked that day.

The word “Japa” wasn’t born at that moment but it took on a whole new life and throne in our national lingo from that day on with everyone’s number one item on their to-do list: “leaving Naija”. The aftermath was a deluge of all kinds of explanations, assumptions and speculations to the live broadcast. From it being true or false to various versions of explanations from the government, to different individuals coming forth with horror stories of their experiences.

While I’ll try not to relieve the post-trauma drama that kept unfolding, it’s hard to ignore that 1 year later, here still lies the issues: Police brutality, Terrorism, Kidnapping, lack of Nepotism, Lack of social conscience, social loafing, and turning a blind eye to 2023. As we remember 20/10/2020, pray if you have faith, act if you are still alive, and don’t give up on the dream of a green sun Arising.

May the labour of our sung or unsung heroes past never be in vain true and we will live to see this golden Nigeria birthed.

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