In an organic way, it began as a peaceful protest against the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force; a demand for an end to brutalisation, extortion and killing of mostly young people. But within days, it metamorphosed into a call to end bad governance and impunity within the country’s economic and socio-political system. 

The peaceful protests which was held in various states, the federal capital territory (FCT), and by Nigerians in other countries made up for its lack of [perceived] anointed national leader or committee with the echoing voices of everyone who has had a run-in (directly or indirectly) with SARS operatives. 

Nigerian youths’ Sọ̀rọ̀ Sókè movement via #EndSARS has over thirty million tweets on Twitter only, trended worldwide on same platform for days, drawing attention to police brutality, organised crime within the security agency and maladministration within Nigeria’s polity till it was finally disrupted on October 20 when the Nigerian Army and Police shot protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos.

Despite disruption of the peaceful protest, #EndSARS movement will continue to be remembered for its practical lessons on what a politically democratic and impartial administrative Nigerian system should reflect.

1. Unity

The most obvious strategy and lesson that the #EndSARS movement put forward is UNITY. Nigerians, especially youths across all social standing used their voices, craft and platforms to amplify the atrocities of SARS, called for an end to police brutality and yearned for institutional reforms. 

The bane of Nigeria’s socio-political society, religion and ethnic difference were set aside while everyone pressed on the federal government and lawmakers to prioritise reforms. 

#EndSARS used its united front to prevail on not anointing any leader or steering committee. In all, it showed that there was formidable strength in unity as it put the grievances of the movement on the international map, propelling the government to swing into action. 

2. Good Governance

During the peaceful protests across the country, top-notch coordination among volunteer groups, especially Feminist Coalition made the movement mirror a functioning society. Coordination of the Legal Aid Network championed by Citizen Gavel, Modupe Odele and Adetola Onayemi led to swift release of over fifty protesters arrested by the Police and framed up on bogus charges. 

The protest banked on technology to achieve feats such as: setting up helplines for Medical emergencies, Legal aid issues, Food and supplies, Mental health emergencies championed by Feminist Coalition; Provision of private security to protect protesters from hoodlums disrupting the movement across the country and; Making medical ambulances and workers available at every protest ground and; Provision of daily meals and refreshments to protesters across the country and cleaning up afterwards. 

These are recipes of good governance and a working nation which the #EndSARS demonstrated in abundance. 

3. Transparency and Accountability

In the face of obvious corruption and mismanagement within Nigerian institutions and sectors, the Feminist Coalition became a beckon of hope, sharing daily financial reports on its website and Twitter handle to show transparency and accountability. 

Also, coordinators of the Alausa #EndSARS protests, Olorunrinu Oduala and Debo Adebayo displayed accountability with daily financial updates through their personal handles. These acts are lessons that can be imbibed within Nigerian political and administrative systems to forest all financial misappropriation and excessive spending. 

4. Respect for Rule of Law

Despite protesters being brutalised, arrested, detained, killed, the #EndSARS youths showed good examples by not taking laws into their hands or fanning the embers of civil unrest, though lives were lost across the country. A case in point, when hoodlums disrupted these protesters and these youths overpowered the unruly touts, they were handed over to the police. 

There is no evidence to show that peaceful protesters were the ones involved in alleged jailbreaks and riots. Rather, there is evidence of Nigerian Government’s culpability in rights violations and clamp down on protesting  youths. 

5. Human empathy 

The #EndSARS protesters displayed deep human empathy, with money donations, gifting data and volunteering their services or expertise, when needed. 

Everyone at the protest grounds became their brother’s keepers, barring social and economic class, not forgetting the candle night session held on October 16 at protest locations across the country in honour of people killed by SARS Operatives. 

This show of good faith and empathy is what the youths yearn for, to be given the benefit of doubt by the government and police, not profiled due to their physical appearance and material wealth.

Without doubt, the Nigerian Youth protests and activities against police brutality and bad governance in its entirety was a beta version of the popular adage, ‘Be the change you wish to see or yearn for,’ within our political and administrative system. 

This article conveys the views of the author and not necessarily that of Ominira Initiative.

About the author

Olakunle Mohammed

Olakunle explores the interlink of public policy, development, education and being Nigerian. He tweets @Olakunile