I would have to start way back for it all to add up.
So, I was lucky to be born in a household where having chauffeurs and helps were a main stay. While that lasted, I never had an experience of what life was till about three years ago when things came crumbling down. I then became like any other regular Nigerian. Taking public transportation and having to interact more with my cohorts.
Within this same space of time I founded two startups. This means, I was always on the move trying to secure funding here and there, and doing so had me traversing the Nigerian terrain by road trying to get things to happen. While doing so, I can’t count how many times I was assaulted by police officers for no just reason but also with the staggering fact that it was all illegal. I would be told things like:
“Your shoes are nice and expensive”., “You’re a suspect.” Your watch looks expensive, you’re a suspect. “Your wallet is huge and looks expensive, you’re a suspect.” And the list goes on and on….
At some point I started packing my travel bags in a way that would make it easier for me after they had ransacked my bags and also started giving drivers my valuables before journeys were embarked upon.
When I finally found myself settling in Lagos, I’ve avoided being on the move a lot because of police brutality and harassment. While that was okay for a while, Fast forward to a week ago when I watched on social media Police officers shoot a young man dead and made off with his SUV. It was like something out of those crazy episodes on criminal minds or the blacklist where normally such acts are perpetuated by psychopaths and individuals wanted by the law.
Now imagine seeing people who are meant to protect life taking it without repercussions and having it go on so long that it became part of life for Nigerians. It’s funny being part of the upper middle class and still your life is treated as an abandoned rag.
Imagine living a life where you’re not sure of getting home when you leave the front door daily. When driving you go out of your way to avoid roads where police officers are stationed. Not because you are a criminal or your car papers have expired but because you’re trying to escape the police.
Today I was at the Lekki Protests at the LCC toll booths not far from my home. When I was there, I was trying to explain to some people complaining about us shutting down their route home why we had to do so. I told them that; imagine having an issue and not being able to tell your parents not because you don’t want to but because they would worsen it and possibly kill you. Some people spat and called such an abomination. So, I said that’s exactly what it is dealing with the Nigerian police.
How can I be running from those who are meant to protect my life because I know that they would rather take my life? How does that sound okay to any sane person?? We will continue to protest, not because we want to or that we have nothing better to do, but because we are trying to save our own lives and also making sure that the future generation wouldn’t have to experience the horrors we have seen.
We should not be profiled because we have unconventional hair styles, tattoos, dress well, drive nice cars and use good gadgets which we worked hard for. We shouldn’t be extorted, brutalized, tortured and killed. No one should be. It is against the law according to the UN charter which Nigeria is a signatory to. To commit such acts during war, talk much more about on its citizens at home, is against the law in any country on earth. The blood of the innocents spilled cries out for vengeance!!!
Can you hear it?
Its deafening. I can’t stand it and that’s why I’m proud to protest against SARS and police brutality. While I was in a mart to get a drink on my way home, I tried to explain all this to a fellow dude that was asked by the lady at the checkout till why he hadn’t gone for the protests. And he gave his flimsy reasons why he didn’t. I told him that the summary of what I had to say is that he better joins the protest that to wish one day years from now after a horrifying experience that he had done so when he had the chance.
Even with all this I came to a startling revelation tonight as I made my way home listening to “Lost” by Coldplay. The current administration especially the president lacks the sheer willpower and courage to do what needs to be done. That is basically not just ending SARS but reforming the Nigerian Police and that is gut wrenching. The truth they say is a bitter pill to swallow.
May the souls of all those who have died at the hands of the Nigerian police find peace in Valhalla. This is my story!