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#EndSARS protests in Nigeria: My thoughts

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Protester hold the Nigerian national flag where someone has written “Ends SARS Now” during a demonstration to protest against police brutality and scrapping of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos, on October 15, 2020. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

As with every concerned Nigerian, sleeping has not been the same since Friday, 9th of October, 2020. Why? Simply because, something profound took place in the land on Thursday, 8th of October, 2020. A shift if we’re to be honest with ourselves as Nigerians. And for the past nine days or more, the only entry in my diary has been this sentence: Nigeria on my mind.

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As I type on my keyboard (not even write with my pen), I know what made me get up at past 4 am today (Sunday, 18th of October, 2020). What made me get up to compose this? Well, like everyone else, I have been following the #EndSars peaceful protests with a crystal-clear mindset. There are several angles to the peaceful protests but I would make this particular piece concise and compact because of the urgency I felt when I woke up this morning. Writers know that it gets to a point when you’ve analysed a situation from several angles and the angles are playing out in reality like Nostradamus, the pen would just have to speak.

If anyone who has read The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma, he or she would understand what is going on with the #EndSars peaceful protesters and why there is so much organisation but no leader. It is like all the protesters have read the aforementioned book. What I have coined to be Simultaneous Discentralised Nano Coordinations. A concept of everyone is a leader. This is pretty much herculean for the older generations of Nigerians to understand.

But it is what it is. Has this being efficient in the scheme of things with current happenings? Super-efficient for Nigeria, Africa and the world to see. Nigeria’s renowned economist Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili some years ago, coined a phrase: Office Of The Citizen. Now, this concept is playing out for the world to see.

Speaking of the world. Another angle is the real-time nature of the peaceful protests. Realtime on digital platforms simply means live and direct. Realtime involves digital technology. That Nigeria is a major location where you would find some of the most brilliant and brightest brains in the tech eco-system is not even up for debate or review. During the protests, a breaking and major news filtered in about the acquisition of a Nigerian tech firm called Paystack being acquired by Stripe for two hundred million dollars. Now, you need to understand two things, Paystack is not an old generation Nigerian bank. It is just about five years old. A fintech related start up founded by young Nigerians who are in the Generation Z. Stay with me here.

Still on real-time, almost all updates (shootings, deaths, pictures, videos, speeches, events, plots, twists, deep state capture intrigues which globally are usually to be heard of and never seen but now seen) have happened in real-time. That means, even if you were not there, you got the information and update from several people on the ground who are with their smartphones. Now, Nigeria is a population of circa 200 million (officially but Nigerians would stay unofficially, it might be more than the official figure).

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Now, just think about this, how many millions of Nigerians have smartphones? How many millions of Nigerians who are Generation Millennium and Generation Z have smartphones? Even without knowing the actual figures (which are in the millions), you can understand the ramifications of the real-time content which the world is having access to not only free but in real-time. That is why, you can see an incident from several views because smartphone cameras were on the famous red dot recording. The implication of this is that it is super easy to verify any news or even official press release about any incident. The protests have turned some young people into digital investigators. They go through videos and images and point out similarities or discrepancies.

Another ramification of real-time is that, there is already a large amount of content to go through depending on your expertise (Nigerian, African or movement historian, deep state capture, lawyer, human rights expert, donor organisations, trade and aid partners et al). As the real-time content which have been staggering are still pouring in, you already know that these real-time contents are in some way going to be used as evidence. Don’t forget those already making visual and infographic documentaries.

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It is evidently clear that technology is a playground for most young people. And for the Generation Z, it is bread and butter and it is their tuff. A typical Nigerian Gen Z knows too much about technology and hardcore technology without necessary studying at the university. There are Gen Z techies who actually code for fun aside going to the university. Every member of older generations in Nigeria knows this, that, it is better to seek the expert opinion of a Gen Z before venturing into acquiring a gadget or software etc. Why so? It is their habitat.

The young generations especially the Gen Z really don’t hoard information especially tech information. They are fond of democratising tech information. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the rumour of an internet shutdown popped up, the techies shared information on how to stay online without data and internet.

Shock to some (maybe) but to others, it was not a shock. I would never forget the shock on my face the day some years ago, a techie who was lecturing during a course; informed the attendance how the techie survived several years earlier. What just happened with the #EndSars peaceful protests is that the tech information and tips which a lot of people don’t know about or know about but don’t know how to access and proceed; were democratised on a large scale and it was in real-time.

Still on technology and the peaceful protests, anyone one following would have noticed that people have been reading up on Nigeria’s history and digitally digging up articles, comments, quotable quotes, videos, pictures of almost everything related to the protests and previous SARS-related material. There is a saying by the Nigerian baby boomer generation which goes thus; Nigeria does not value and keep history. If you are of the Millennium Generation, you must had heard this statement.

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But here we are in the year 2020, the Gen Z don’t call it history, they have termed it receipts. They keep receipts (history) and don’t forget. So, much so, with regards #endsars, they are keeping receipts of everyone (vocal or silent) in the globe who has an affiliation with Nigeria. Accountability on another scale. This has never happened in Nigeria’s history. That is why, it is quite easy to see similarities and differences with previous events in Nigeria history.

That technology has played and is still playing an important role in the peaceful protests can not be watered down. The rapidity and fluidity with which the decentralised momentum is garnering is a pointer to the fact that 21st century skillset and knowledge are needed to engage a nemesis that has transmogrified into a hydra-headed minotaur. Globally, in virtually every profession including leadership, old analogue templates don’t work in this new digital age. It just has not worked in any part of the globe.

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Now, history can be researched online, for me as a writer who thinks before speaking, it is quite easy to see patterns. Like every concerned Nigerian, I have observed with a detached analytical mindset the #endsars peaceful protests and the responses and actions by the protesters and the Government. That it is the same strategy by Government being adopted to tackle an issue that has morphed into the digital age; is not rocket science. That you can predict the next move is simply because it is the same template used for four, five, six even seven decades. The digital age negates a lot of processes as we all know.

The best analogy for the current situation I can think of is a game of cards between two persons. One person has cards and has been getting all the aces. The other person has cards but no ace but was given an ace which he does not want to make use of yet. This means, you know what cards the latter would play and you know what cards are left. And you know any other thing aside the cards left is a distraction.

Distraction and playing were not what happened at various protest grounds on Friday, 15th October, 2020. Friday is Jummah and as I hoped for, the Muslim Faithfuls had their Jummah prayers at their grounds. In Nigeria’s socio, political and religious context, that speaks volumes that religious differences have never been the underlying and genuine problematic issues between the citizens and electorate.

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That young people of other religions watched over their Muslim brothers and sisters whilst they prayed. That symbolises a lot. But one that I would point to in this piece is that; the images and videos we all watched of the Jummah prayers, point to an immaculate fact that these young people spoke by their actions (without talking) before their Muslim leaders who have been silent. I leave you the reader to think about the spiritual implications of young Muslims praying on a Friday and young Christians praying on a Sunday at the various protest grounds.

Knowing fully well and going by countless stories that many have passed away and some have also died during the current protests. Biblically, the blood of the innocent people would be seeking justice. Historically, God always listens and responds to their pleas.

The spiritual, social and political symbolisms and implications of these images of young people praying at the Lekki Toll gate (which everyone knows racks in millions of Naira daily) in Lagos State on Friday and Sunday are not lost on anyone who understands Nigeria’s present political terrain. There is a shift. A seismic shift.

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