The #EndSARS movement started on the Nigerian Twitter-sphere in 2017 by passionate comrades. The youths were tired of being profiled and treated with disdain by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad who are supposed to protect them from hardened criminals, but instead unleashed their brutality, and extorted a lot of money from them in the process. These officers of the law, engaged in extra-judicial killings of innocent youths, without any reasonable justification. Of course, the federal government promised to reform this squad, but sadly in 2020, the same narrative is still recurring, because, on the 3rd of October, a young man in Delta state, Nigeria was killed by SARS officers.
This action reignited the lukewarm flames that have been burning for a long time in the hearts of several youths. And on the 8th of October, Nigerians started the peaceful protests mostly championed by the millennials and Generation Z, against police brutality and other forms of injustice meted out on the citizens.
It is imperative to note the fact that both the male and female genders experience these degrading acts perpetrated by the SARS operatives, however, the male folks are mostly victimized. Since the inception of the protests; whose single aim was to execute an overhaul which will bring about a systemic change in every facet in Nigeria, women have actively participated. The role these great women have played in the #EndSARS movement can never be overemphasized. Throughout the protests, they have proven to be efficient by providing sufficient assistance.
One of the notable groups that was on the frontline of this movement, before the government canceled all protests is the “Feminist Coalition”. This is a group founded by fourteen young women in July 2020, with a mission to champion equality for women in Nigerian society with a core focus on education, financial freedom, and representation in public office. (feministcoalition2020)
This group raised the whopping sum of 147 million naira within the space of two weeks for the sustenance of the protests all over the country. A helpline center was created specifically for this cause, and through this, they were able to secure the bail of innocent protesters arrested by the police, cater to the medical bills of those who sustained injuries, and also provide the necessary support needed for the mental health of the traumatized victims. When the government blocked the official bank account, donations were being made. This phenomenal group started asking people to donate through Bitcoin to keep the flow of money running.
This group (Feminist Coalition) actively made use of various digital platforms to create the needed awareness all over the world. One of the noticeable feats is the official logo of the Feminist Coalition which was designed by Ife Aderinokun which signifies defiance against police brutality and other forms of oppression the citizens face daily. This logo soon became the voice for many Nigerian youths, as most of them displayed it proudly on their social media profiles.
Another formidable individual who has been instrumental to this cause and also refused to cower in silence in the face of oppression during the EndSARS movement is Aisha Yesufu; a human rights activist and co-convener of The Bring Back Our Girls movement. She led the protest in Abuja on the 10th of October, 2020, damning all consequences to make a difference. In her words on the microblogging platform; Twitter, she stated:
“I am okay. I refused to run. I walked with my fist high up and @PoliceNG were all shooting at me as I walked away. I came out of the fence they cowardly built around themselves and about four of them came at me at the junction throwing bottled water at me. One of them had pushed me and the raised hand might be what some saw as a slap. No, I wasn’t slapped and I refused to cower and I turned and gave them a piece of what I thought of their pathetic selves and if I am going to die, it would be with my fist high up and my mouth open”
A ground-breaking picture of hers was taken later that day at the protest ground, where she raised her right hand in resistance to every form of tyranny. The picture went viral on the Nigerian social media sphere, and was quickly named “The Nigerian Statue of Liberty”.
Feyikemi Abudu popularly known as FK Abudu, a podcaster and influencer also contributed to the movement without any shred of reservation. She worked tirelessly in partnership with the Feminist Coalition group by soliciting funds from the public for the EndSARS movement. She also worked alongside a team of lawyers like Modupe Odelepopularly known as “Mochievous” who happens to be a member of the Feminist Coalition, and other legal aides to necessitate the release of the detained protesters at no cost at all.
The script of the peaceful protest was however flipped on the 20th of October, 2020, when the Nigerian government decided to unleash mayhem on its citizens by deploying military men to the protest ground at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria. According to the (Rights Amnesty International), several people were killed and so many others were wounded. During this chaos, a woman stood her ground to show the world how Nigerian citizens were being massacred for exercising their fundamental human rights whilst fighting for survival. Her name is Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch). She went live on Instagram to stream the brutal killing of her comrades for the sake of posterity. However, the Nigerian government has strongly denied issuing the order for the innocent protesters to be killed by the military men. This only goes to show that the degree of the government’s failure is highly remarkable.
Subsequently, several death threats have been sent to the Disc Jockey, to silence her forever and wipe off any trace of evidence. But still, she stood her ground and kept granting interviews till she was finally given asylum in Canada, where she currently resides.
The success of the EndSARS movement was achievable because women showed their solidarity to the cause unflinchingly. Although most of them were sexually harassed at the protest grounds by these same men they were fighting for, this did not deter them to back down. This simply means that there is so much more the male and female folks can achieve together once “Patriarchy” is crushed fiercely. These courageous women did not dwell on how they have been badly treated in a highly patriarchal society like Nigeria in the past, instead, they embraced the fight, to push every form of oppression into oblivion. It will be a delightful development if men can also come out to show their support whenever women are at the receiving end.