On my last visit to Nigeria I stayed at my uncle’s house in Ikeja, Lagos. Well… I say house… his place is more like a mansion, gotta make sure your GPS is on so you don’t get lost on your way round. As big as it is though, it always feels a bit incomplete. You’ve got a mini bar with no alcohol, a swimming pool with no water, a dog cage with no dog lol. I’ve never seen such a tentative house in all my life. Anyways, I remember my uncle driving me to the airport for my flight back to the U.K. and over and over he kept warning me not to be coerced into giving people money. Lagos airport is notoriously a frenzy, you’d think you’re in a casino with all the hustle and bustle but despite that, I was surprised by my uncle’s insistence so decided to take note. And just like clockwork, the moment I stepped out of the car I was greeted by uniformed men with guns longer than the MP’s expense bills asking for money. This became a common theme whilst navigating through the airport, guys with big guns questioning my mere existence and eluding to a monetary exchange to speed up proceedings. Luckily for me I’m stubborn as hell so decided to be equally as painful.
But what’s my concern aye, I’m not exactly based in Nigeria so these concerns are few and far between… only problem is that others aren’t so fortunate. And that’s where the Nigerian ‘Special Anti-Robbery Squad’ step in (or ‘SARS’ for short). SARS were founded in 1992 and put in place to combat crimes associated with robbery and firearms. But somewhere along the line SARS adopted a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mentality because they in fact became the group linked with the killings, torture and other illegal activities. They’re seen to be profiling the youth of Nigeria and those with nice cars or expressive clothes feeling the brunt of their harassment. Young Nigerians have campaigned over the last couple years to ‘End SARS’ but despite constant promises of reform, SARS are still running rampant. This latest episode however was incited after a video emerged showing a SARS officer killing a man and driving off in his vehicle. This is JoeOriadeBlogs, there’s no ‘allegedly’ around here. This sparked a number of Nigerians and allies across the globe to protest against the violence and disband SARS for good.
As a Nigerian brought up outside of the country, I almost feel detached from these problems. Some of the accounts I’ve seen on social media from Nigerians describing their experiences with SARS have been absolutely horrific. I’ve been wrapped up in my own little bubble for so long that I even created a false narrative of the typical Nigerian experience. When you’re not consistently exposed to the issues being faced you don’t appreciate them as much. But the outcry from the Lekki Tollgate Massacre a couple days ago really hit home. Blood being shed because citizens are campaigning for their freedom is a fate I never hope to be accustomed to. Being exposed to one too many violent images over the last few weeks is a trend I hope doesn’t continue. Staying on the Lagos Island during a three-week visit can really desensitise you from the f*ckeries and exploitation’s which many people call reality.
Nigeria is a proud nation, we even tried to claim Ross Barkley when we found out he had Nigerian heritage. But as well as a proud nation we’re no longer a submissive one. Instead of relying on the pastors to pray for change, thousands have taken to the streets to demand for it whilst others have used social media to spread awareness. Someone needs to take some of these celebrity’s social media accounts away from them though before they start embarrassing themselves. From when this one celeb confused the Nigeria flag with the Niger flag I knew this was a battle not for the faint-hearted. And whilst she was getting roasted in her comments section it really made me deep the power of the internet. Scandals like these have been widespread in Nigeria but as a result of Twitter and Facebook etc, we’re in a position to evidence these wrongdoings and hold people accountable. My heart is heavy right now, being black in 2020 has been an extreme sport. Dear Nigerians, your efforts will not be in vain, enough is enough.