Following numerous events of violence from the Nigerian police unit known as SARS, Nigerian citizens came together in 2020 to stage peaceful protests across the country. The protests were largely successful but after two weeks, they came to an abrupt halt.
On October 20th 2020, the Nigerian military shot into a crowd of unarmed Nigerians as they sang the National anthem at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos. It was a massive tragedy that saw the deaths of many, many Nigerians.
The protests had been a source of hope for a lot of people and watching the brutal murders of so many Nigerians killed something in a lot of us. Since then, Nigerians have dedicated today to remembering the heroes who lost their lives fighting for something they believed in.
On social media, Nigerians are celebrating the lives of those lost, condemning police brutality or simply just mourning. The tollgate massacre was monumental and it did a lot to destroy our confidence but it is essential that we continue to immortalize the protests. Even though the killings ruined our plans, for a brief moment we believed in something that was bigger than all of us combined.
Last year, a memorial was organized in honour of all the victims of the protests and this year is no different. Citizens organized a peaceful walk on the Lekki tollgate and hundreds of people attended. The Nigerian artist, Falz led the memorial walk.
Since 2020, he has remained committed to the cause and his zeal has acted as motivation for thousands of other Nigerians. The comedian, Macaroni has also continued to demand justice for all the lives we lost.
Videos posted on social media show hundreds of Nigerians singing, chanting and some youths carried dummy caskets to represent the lives lost. Those caskets represent the women, children, journalists and so many others who have been murdered by the Nigerian police—even before the #ENDSARS protests happened.
Today, the Nigerian government has disappointed us once again and it seems that their acts of violence know no end. Despite it being a peaceful demonstration, there have been numerous reports of the police attacking citizens with tear gas.
Nigerian police have always been power drunk and it is exactly what brought us here. Despite that, there has remained no change in their actions. The lack of remorse and empathy that they have continued to exhibit is exactly why the 2023 elections are widely anticipated.
Some have said that the Nigerian government cannot be held accountable for the actions of a few rogue policemen but if so, why then are they in office? They have shown that they are incapable of putting a stop to police brutality and today, during a memorial for an attack they orchestrated, they have been unable to stop the police from attacking us.
It almost feels like they are taunting us.
Their reasons for doing this and trying to disperse the peaceful demonstration is unclear but the Nigerian government has never been known for their reasoning. For as long as we can remember, they have continued to trample all over our democratic rights; as if they were not put to maintain those same rights.
In 2020, when the tollgate massacre happened, they denied it ever happening; despite the fact that we all watched it happen on Instagram live. They invented lies and half-truths and have continued to sidestep accountability.
Today, on the anniversary of the event, none of the elected government officials have acknowledged it. The President has a reputation for ignoring our concerns and demands and today, he was no different. But ignoring and denying its existence does not change the fact that in 2020, the Nigerian government ordered the murder of many Nigerians.
Most of the aspiring presidential candidates have also ignored the anniversary which is very disappointing. The 2023 elections are important and heavily anticipated by Nigerians. We are looking to elect government officials who have our best interests at heart and since we have already spent 8 years with a silent government, we are not looking to spend more.
If aspiring candidates cannot acknowledge the anniversary of a tragedy that means so much to Nigerians then we cannot trust them to be decisive when they need to be. It is important that we remain bold enough to demand justice.
We are looking for people who are willing to serve the people, who will not mince words and who will not issue orders to murder their citizens. We need people we can hold accountable because that is what democracy is.