By Chikezirim Nwoke
Young Nigerians are standing up against police brutality. They are demanding the disbandment of the infamous rogue police unit, SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), popular for targeting ordinary citizens.
Established in 1992 to respond to the growing insecurity in the country at the time, the unit has completely remade itself into a horrorSquad – extorting, torturing, blackmailing and killing innocent Nigerian youth wantonly.
What began as posts on Twitter has moved to the streets. Activists, celebrities, public figures, everyday citizens, mothers, and civil society organizations are marching in their numbers to police stations, government buildings, town squares, demanding an end to oppression, to impunity, to injustice, injury, reckless use of force and power, domination.
Ignored and suppressed voices are remerging. The many victims of SARS brutality are being resurrected in the gory stories hitting our screens: The guy who received a bullet on the chest for refusing to unlock his iPhone for SARS to search; the lady who was raped and killed while in detention for a framed crime; the numerous men and women that have been singled out and picked up for wearing certain hairstyles, clothes, jewelry, or for driving expensive cars.
The question on the lips of many Nigerians is this: how are we sure they will listen; could this actually lead to meaningful change? Echoing James Baldwin, “Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise”. A society progresses from within, by challenging and then remaking its systems. To enact sustainable change, power must be kept in check. The people must act as if it depends solely on them, because it does. SARS, and the government that backs it believe that they have a monopoly on trouble. How wrong they are!
If the concerns of the youth are not listened to yet again; If no sincere attempts are made towards reflecting on the issue at hand and, of course, charting a way forward; if the process to dismantle the criminal police unit – SARS is further delayed, the Nigerian government may just be creating fertile ground, not only for a breakdown of hegemony, but for the birth of a chaotic nation.
Chikezirim wrote from Ottawa Canada.