By Blessing C. Onyekachi
You stand like a statue at the mouth of your thatched-roof hut, gazing at the heaven as black clouds try to cover the serene blue sky. You’re wondering why “#EndSARS” and “#EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria” is trending on social media. You want to know why every tweet or post has a picture of a sea of vigorous but sad youths carrying poster boards and banners which bear the same phrase that people hashtag their posts with.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is the scourge of Nigeria which for too long we have been trying to cover our eyes from its vileness. As the name claims, SARS was established to help fight against robbery in Nigeria, but they chose to dance to a different tune. They turned our actions into crime, everything we were known to do even before their establishment became a means for them to extort money. They made it a crime to carry a laptop in a backpack and to own a modern car because they think every young man who owns it is a Yahoo boy. They made suspects out of young men with dreadlocked hair and tattoos. Apart from their guns, which emboldened them to end lives that they can’t create, they carry with them a Point of Sale (POS) machine in case their victims want to prove their innocence through payment. The fate of their victims is mostly death, and this is after they have robbed them of their cars, money, and valuable properties on a graveyard-like road where nobody would see them but God.
See your eyes? They have widened in shock, and now you remember your own grotesque story. You remember your rich uncle (probably the only rich man in the family). SARS raided his house one Sunday morning while his family was at church and murdered him in cold blood because he happened to own a luxurious hotel, a two-storey building, and a Ford Edge. Yes, you remember another case when your brother came home with a bullet hole in his upper arm because an errant police officer shot into a crowd of people at a local football match. You refuse to forget your neighbour who was stopped on his way to Lagos by SARS, his five hundred thousand nairas, which he wanted to start a business with, forcefully taken, and his eventual suicide.
Like you, my roommate has lost a dear cousin before. He was travelling to school when the Mobile Police (MOPOL) stopped his bus and saw him carrying a laptop backpack and deliberately shot him to death. The only crime he committed was that he asked if it’s a crime to carry a laptop in a backpack. My roommate thought he was the only one suffering after his cousin’s death, but I experienced a bigger share of the excruciating agony. I saw him in the curtains, in the sink, in the lavatory, in the books I read, and it tortured me into moving out so I could stop seeing him.
Now you know why the youths you see are protesting. They, too, have been bruised body-and-soul by the Nigerian Police. SARS and other Nigerian Police have also murdered their loved ones and friends, and so many have lost their money and properties because of them. I know you stand there thinking about what had so enraged them that they have to fill the streets of Nigeria singing “End SARS” and “End Police Brutality in Nigeria.”
I hope the father in the villa in Aso Rock hears them. He thinks the youth are demanding too much. They would ask for employment opportunities (and that’s why he called them ‘lazy youths’), and now they’re trying to bend him into submission. He forgets that he has family and generations to come, and when a soldier dies, the barracks will remain. He forgets that everyone, including his generations, will share in the status of Nigeria when he finishes his tenure. He forgets that Nigeria is for all Nigerians.
The father in Aso Rock’s villa thinks that every step taken by Nigerian citizens is to shake him. And why’d we shake him? After all, he came back into power after he was kicked out of power in 1985 and struggled in vain to become president in 2003, 2007, and 2011; and now he wonders how his next kick-out would be since all he has so far succeeded in doing is to cause hullabaloos.
If only he understood the burden we have been bearing. SARS is a cancer spreading rapidly over the body of a pregnant woman. It’s more than we could handle. Those hiding under SARS as Nigerian Police are cold-blooded killers. I wonder what the father in Aso Rock’s villa thought when he ordered the Inspector General of Police to announce the disbandment of SARS and its replacement with a Special Weapons and Tactics Unit. Perhaps he believes that we would be stupid, or rather “lazy”, enough not to see through his vaults of evils and know that he’s only changing the name of the unit. Of course, he successfully caused another, now fresh, ruckus after his silly trick. End SWAT, too. They’re the same men with bloody hands.
You don’t have to stand still anymore or gaze at the sky as though you lost your star in it. Today’s generation has proven to be a mighty lion waiting patiently to pounce, and now that the breeze has blown and everyone can see the truth, the end of police brutality must come. SARS and SWAT will be scraped off Nigeria, and a new Nigeria will be born.