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Adanna Elechi: The Weaponization of Poverty & the #EndSARS Protests of 2020

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“Thursday is Thursday”

Runtown

This was all we needed to reach our boiling point and take to the streets finally. This tweet woke up the youth in every state in Nigeria, and, subsequently, in countries across all habitable continents in the world.

This was the beginning of our journey to freedom, our journey to bring hope to the hundreds of families who had lost members to the Nigerian Police Force’s irrational brutality, especially the SARS unit. It was justice for the Iloanyas of the country.

The protest was the best thing I had experienced as a citizen of Nigeria. For the first time in my life, I was proud to be called a Nigerian, especially a Nigerian youth. We, the Soro Soke, Phone Pressing, Indomie, and Coconut Head Generation, were united. The religious and tribal and political lines that used to divide us were non-existent. The constant bickering on social media about gender was on hold; the Patriarchy FC and Feminist Coven sheath their swords as we all focused on a common goal: #EndSARS.

Young people in different states came out in numbers almost every day, sharing food, playing games, praying, and even practicing yoga while still demanding our rights. In all the days people protested across the country, nobody ever complained that a phone got stolen or a car vandalized; people returned lost phones and other items found. We cleaned up the streets each day, celebrity or not.

Our protest yielded the devil’s gift: the SARS unit got scrapped and was replaced with SWAT. Same people, different names. The protest continued, and we were met with more police brutality for protesting against police brutality. Jimoh Isiaq and many others died. Why would you use live ammunition on unarmed protesters? The aim is clear: sacrifice a few and let the rest cower in fear.

We ignored them and protested even harder. We demanded justice for the numbers added to their long list of atrocities. This was when the government decided to play the oldest hand in their playbook. They unleashed their greatest weapon – poverty.

Institutionalized poverty is the greatest asset of the average Nigerian politician. They use it to win elections, fight their enemies, and, in this case, win protests. The government deployed hoodlums to infiltrate the protest, to cause havoc, and blame it on us. These hoodlums attacked protesters, killing a few and injuring many others (RIP Anthony Unuode). They destroyed cars and other properties belonging to peaceful protesters. This carnage happened in the full glare of police officers and other security operatives.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. According to eyewitness videos, these hoodlums were transported with police vehicles, state-owned official buses and, the most shocking, a government-owned SUV complete with a well-dressed security officer. More videos have surfaced showing them being directed on what to destroy and what not to destroy because they belonged to ‘baba.’

One of the hoodlums graciously granted a peaceful protester an interview (celebrity things). He said they got paid N1500 to disrupt the protest by damaging government and individual properties. He also said he had been a victim of the SARS unit, and he had just been released from prison, but he needed the money.

Inmates in different state prisons were freed to discredit the #EndSARS protest and justify what later became the #LekkiMassacre. Military men attacked the most peaceful and fun protesters in the country who occupied the Lekki toll gate. They sat on the ground holding up the Nigerian flag, singing the national anthem while the military shot at them. The Nigerian flag was stained with the blood of the innocent. A courageous young woman, DJ Switch, got the events of that day on her Instagram Live. Many of us watched in horror as she and a few others tried to remove a bullet from the lap of one of our patriots, before he eventually died. Scores died, and the streets of Twitter are currently littered with pictures of missing persons.

Nigerian youths did not deserve what happened on 20-10-20. We were only asking that we stop getting extorted if we are lucky, or killed if we are not, by the police. Did it have to deteriorate to people dying like flies and people losing their homes and businesses?

When you release a beast to solve a problem, you create even greater problems, because you can’t tell the beast when to stop. These hoodlums have gone on a destruction spree, looting supermarkets and other businesses across the states. They have set fire to countless buildings and places. The country is in a state of chaos, and we don’t even know when it will end. I am sure these hoodlums were there peacefully during the protests, until they decided to use the weapon of poverty to pit them against their mates who were equally fighting for them.

Still, on this poverty thing, these people withheld palliatives meant for the citizens during the pandemic. Several warehouses have been discovered with thousands of food items stashed – I guess they were saving it to distribute during elections. They starve people to the point where they can buy their votes with a few packs of Indomie that were meant for them in the first place. One lawmaker justified keeping the palliatives intended for his constituents because he wanted to share it on his birthday, as per birthday giveaway abi souvenirs. They call us the Indomie generation, whereas they are the ones storing cartons of Indomie. Shame!

This country will not get better until we go to the grassroots and educate our brothers and sisters on the need to stop dancing to the tune of these wicked people in power. If not, they will continue to use them to sabotage our efforts for a better Nigeria.

The #EndSARS protest has played a significant role in unraveling the damage poverty and bad governance can cause in any society. It has shone more light on the fact that we are sitting on a keg of gun powder. The poorer the citizens are, the more dangerous it is for everyone. Some people in government have experienced this as some of their houses got raided and even burnt.

Dear Nigerian youth, we have started a movement that has gained international recognition. We cannot back down now. We must continue to demand justice for our brothers and sisters who have fallen due to police brutality. We must continue to fight for those who died protesting and the many whose lives were cut short on 20-10-20 and the days that followed. We must demand the punishment of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity. Most importantly, we have to take the campaign to the grassroots. We have to sensitize and ensure that our brothers and sisters who were paid  N1500, an amount that cannot buy a bucket of rice, begin to see the light. Let them know these people may have stolen their future but they can get it back, if not for themselves, then for their children unborn.

To all the people still protesting internationally, thank you. To the international press who covered what happened, thank you. To the Feminist Coalition, thank you. To all the celebrities and people across the world who lent their voices to our struggle, we love and appreciate you. Na who support us we go watch their film and stream their music.

To the Nigerian youth, thank you! May we continue to soro soke and demand for what is truly ours.

#EndSARS #EndSWAT #Endpolicebrutality #ENDbadgovernanceinNigeria.

Adanna Elechi is an entrepreneur, writer, blogger and information enthusiast who believes in changing the world one post at a time. She is passionate about nutrition and wellness and blogs about it on nutricloset.com. Connect with her on all social platforms @adee_elechi

2 Comments

  1. George Abuah

    October 26, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    Babies for life.
    Nothing has been better said. Poverty is the greatest tool of an oppressor. Mana Chukwu ga akpor fa ncha oku.
    Education is and still remains the counter to weaponized Poverty. Thats why they want to keep you uneducated and even poorer, so they can buy your service for 1500.
    Otolo gba gbuo fa ncha.
    Nonsense and ingredients.
    Thank you for this piece.

    1
  2. Alex

    October 26, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    A good read. Thank you for sharing

    1

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