#EndSARS anniversary: Journalist narrates close shave with death
The first anniversary of #EndSARS protest, a youth-driven anti-police brutality demonstration, was a nostalgic remembrance for Isaac Jimoh Ayodele, a photojournalist with The Nation Newspapers, who escaped death by a whisker while covering the historic event.
Narrating his near-death experience in a statement yesterday, Ayodele said the wrong identity almost led to his death during the protest, which metamorphosed from social media campaigns into street demonstrations on October 20, 2020.
In the statement titled: “My experience during the #EndSARS Protest”, the photojournalist said prompt response to call of duty nearly claimed his life in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
He said: “About noon, I heard an unusual gunshot when the youths were about to take on Makinde Police Station, in Mafoluku-Oshodi, Lagos. I ran towards the scene with the intention of capturing unusual scenes with my camera lens without knowing that I would later be captured.
“Having taken some shots at the scene, I took my leave. Just about 10 metres away, while sending my news, some of the crowd came and accused me that I was in their midst as a spy for the government. They demanded the phone thinking that I was a policeman. In a twinkle of an eye, the aggressive ones, ostensibly under influence of substances, charged at me. They said I must be either police or a military intelligence officer and demanded my identity card.
According to him, while thinking of a very mild and unprovocative response, a sliding tackle hit his ankle accompanied with punches and slaps, and he instantly kissed the floor.
By then Ayodele said he was speaking both in English and Yoruba languages declaring his innocence that he was a journalist (Oniroyin ni mi) repeatedly.
“Bewildered, I heard someone requesting for a pure water bottle be given to him with matches. When the content in the bottle splashed on my face, I discovered it was petrol. The ‘water’ was to be sprayed on me.
“Seeing that death was imminent, I pleaded that I was not a member of any of the armed forces but just a journalist reporting through video and still pictures.
“A small group of the mob, who demanded my Identity card (ID), hurriedly glanced through my ID and they chorused that they should leave me. One of them ordered that I should run away from them but screamed, ole ole (thief), which I knew could worsen my predicament. Hence, I chose to disobey the order to run, but began to move in fits and starts,” he said.
In the ensuing melee, the embattled journalist said he overheard someone who said: “When he put on a black cap with Nigeria coats of arms like the Police, why would the boys not think of wasting him sharp, sharp.’
“Thanks to the Almighty God, who softened the mob’s heart and prevented them from wasting me.
“Later in my privacy, I took a close look at the insignia on my cap. I realised it could truly make me be seen as a member of the Nigerian Police Force.
“The consequence of mistaken identity between Esau and Jacob is still with mankind over 6,000 years ago. Mistaken identity would have cost David the kingship of Israel, if not for divine intervention.
“Why not thank almighty God on my behalf that one year after, I am alive to recount the Lord’s saving grace to survive that near-death experience.”