By Itodo Samuel Anthony
The thousands of young people who took that final stand against police oppression at Lekki toll gate before soldiers descended on them remind me of the 300 Spartans that faced Xerxes’ horde. I watched the videos online, and I am haunted by their uncommon bravery in the face of the vilest evil. Young people, many of them way younger than me, screaming #ENDSARS, even with shaky voices betraying the horror they felt, while the mindless monsters kept shooting. They kept singing the national anthem, and for me, for once in several years, our anthem held some meaning.
I am haunted every night by their voices. I am haunted every 5 minutes that I catch a sober moment. And those voices tell me, I can never stop believing in the possibility of the Nigeria that they dreamed of, the Nigeria that they asked for, the Nigeria that some of them died for. I do not have the luxury now, to choose not to believe in that possibility, because I want their sacrifice to count for something…and total despair in that possibility is the ultimate verdict that they died for nothing…and they shouldn’t.
I watched every single video available, and disabled the feature I had on Facebook to keep me from seeing graphic images. I wanted to see everyone of those gory pictures, so that I will never forget.
Like the 300 Spartans who took that final stand, the voices of the many young people screaming in the face of the sheer horror they faced for demanding an end to oppression, say to us, “REMEMBER US!” And we should never forget.
We should never forget, going forward, how we deal with those who oppress us. Young people need to stop grovelling at the feet of those in power, because our inordinate respect empowers them. We need to make them ordinary.
Going forward, we should remind our oppressors of the dark night, Tuesday, 20.10.2020 every opportunity we get. We should remind them of our consciousness that power truly rests with the people, and using military might to squash opposition to oppression can only last so long.
Young people need to stop being electoral tools for these people who have clearly shown the only time we matter is during elections. We need to demystify their power. We can make them become truly irrelevant. There are millions of us and only a thousand of them.
The #EndSARS campaign has cost some lives, and perhaps brought some despair, but I am convinced it didn’t fail. This consciousness it birthed, in both the minds of the masses and our collective oppressors is a victory. The realization that united, we can do a whole lot as young people, is a victory. Our refusal to let the ethnic sentiments that typically marred us in the past, to count this time, after the Lekki massacre, is a victory.
The police won’t cease oppression overnight, in fact there will be pockets of vindictive attacks from them here and there in the aftermath of these protests, but even they know that it cannot be business as usual…because the people will no longer keep quite and endure their oppression. That’s a victory.
Let us always remember the sacrifices of our fallen brethren. We cannot go back to business as usual. because then, their deaths would have been for nothing. And they must not.
- Itodo Samuel Anthony is an award winning teacher, educator and petroleum engineer.