The EndSARS protest has received many descriptions from several media houses and writers. A broader narrative may help so that we do not end up attaching “bad names” to or around the protest just because “bad times” followed after it. I choose to see the EndSARS protest as a creative expression of the worth of self and assertion of (basic!) human rights, organized and executed responsibly by young Nigerians. When the dignity of human life is extoled in any society, no matter how small or obscured the society is, men all over the world are uplifted. Indeed, Nigeria is no small country and Mandela aptly pointed that “the world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect.”
The young and peaceful EndSARS protesters have brought some sense of pride to Nigeria. The young people are only asking for a better system and they are dying for that. But they are not dying for nothing, they are enthroning the dignity of human life in the consciousness of Nigerians. The protest, while it was peaceful was a great show, and indeed a celebration of humanity and not celebrities. Imagine such creative, responsible and peaceful way to say “enough is enough” to police brutality with focus on the unit, SARS.
How a nation treats her youth is what it becomes. If the Nigerian nation values her youth, she will be valued, and if this nation denigrates the youths, she will surely be denigrated. Many politicians who have been sworn to power and their appointees have lost all manner of responsibility for the growth of the country as they have shown that they do not know what to do with the creative energies in the youth.
This responsibility to grow the country was – during the beginning of the peaceful EndSARS protest – taken up by the prostitute, the boy and girl hawking in the streets, the pickpocket, the first class student, the agbero, the PhD holder, the jobless, the lawyer, the doctor, the “lazy Nigerian youths”, the Christian, the Muslim, and indeed people of various professions and classes. They were all peacefully protesting together until some people were “driven” into the streets with SUVs, “led and directed” to wreak havoc.
For once, people of different characters, creed, status, and profession came together as peaceful protesters in Nigeria, to assert the worth of their existence as human beings. Instead of destroying like the lives (those who were detained and killed unlawfully by SARS) they are trying to mourn were destroyed, they remained creative and entertaining; healing wrong with good. This gathering of different people played out like the circus show of P. T. Barnum as acted in the movie, the Greatest Showman. But the unique thing about this Nigerian “greatest show on earth” is that activism met entertainment in a novel way and I will like to really say that “this is the greatest show!”
Calling it a show does not denigrate the passion that possessed the protesters, and so let us note that it was a social revolution as well. The people wanted new social systems that will enable the dignity of human life to flourish. Gil Scot Heron would say: “the revolution will not be televised” that is, it will not be planned. “The revolution will be live”. Indeed, this social revolution in Nigeria, happened live! Federal and State Government should take empathic and creative actions so as not to let things get worse. John F. Kennedy helps us here with the following thought: “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. Indeed, after the suppression of the “greatest show” various Nigerian cities went ablaze. Sad.
However, no celebrity – especially the ones who have been aloof about issues of the wellbeing of people in the society – has a share in this celebration. We are all on a common ground, and as such, we should be busy repenting instead of trying to cover up. No “Excellency” here please, because we have given this title to those who have left the society in any situation but excellent. Nigeria does not need any political prophet at this moment, instead prophet Isaiah is the man for the job and this is what he would say to those allowing the killings of innocent Nigerians to keep going on: (Isaiah 4: 22-23) “you are doomed! Heroes of the wine bottle! Brave and fearless when it comes to mixing drinks! But for just a bribe, you let guilty men go free, and you prevent the innocent from getting justice.”
Instead of prophets who will attend the parties or “shows” of politicians and bless the mandates taken away from the people, my great friend Prophet Isaiah would instead say: (Isaiah 4: 8-10) ‘you are doomed! You buy more houses and fields to add to those you already have. Soon there will be nowhere for anyone else to live, and you alone will live in the land. I have heard the Lord Almighty say, “All these big, fine houses will be empty ruins. The grapevines growing on ten hectares of land will yield only eight liters of wine. A hundred and eighty liters of seed will produce only eighteen liters of corn.’ This is the lot of a people who do not value the creative energies and the life in youths, and who will instead allow it to keep being wasted.
I say to all those who believe that Nigerians deserve to live in peace and not to be killed for demanding justice for those killed by SARS and other units of the police force: “this is a fight wrought with the blood of unarmed and courageous persons, but it is a festival of our freedom.” According to Fredric Nietzsche, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” All those who died while protesting peacefully are the CELEBRITIES! They have paid with their own blood. We now have to become this struggle by being responsible and empathic; to believe it, live it, sing it and dance it. Soren Kierkegaard aptly pointed that “the self is only that which it is in the process of becoming.” Create yourself daily.
Pick up a minimalist musical instrument and sing or chant, stage your guerilla play in the streets or in your homes or in your compound. Keep the mind constantly and spontaneously creating else you may lose your mind. Instruct the society on the ideals of quality life through your creative outputs. Let the best of your natural creativity emerge. The Roman poet, Horace admonishes us here thus: “adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” Nigerians deserve a better life and we have made our voices clear on that, do not despair or destroy, instead create.
Do not mind those who try to paint the protest black. I insist that it is “the greatest show on earth”. What does it mean to you? Create a positive symbol of the protest experience, else everything may be lost and those unarmed youths who were shot dead would have died for nothing. If the creative spirit dies, then real death has occurred. Those of us who still live in our bodies should continue to create. The old symbols that kept us together as human persons in a nation have failed; create the new symbols. Create, do not fight; create do not destroy; create do not despair! Create now and live eternally!
In conclusion, the Opera, Les Miserables, about the French revolution has a scene just like the Lekki Toll Gate shooting and killing scene. Many were gunned down as they stood firm behind the barricade. They saw beyond that barricade, a glimpse of their freedom and they persevered. Their spirit transcended time and space. In the end, they all smiled, singing the song of victory. With smiles on our face and tears in our eyes let us chant this music from the Opera, Les Miserables: “Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men, it is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.”
- Gerald Eze Teaches At Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.