By Festus Iyora
Protests are never happy events in and of themselves. Essentially, protests emanate
from anger/disappointment/dissatisfaction/disenchantment. They are bold expressions
of outrage—a catalyst for change. If protests are not merry events, then writing about them isn’t expected to be fun either. It becomes even more difficult when the protests are personal to the writer, and in fact, unbearable when one realizes that ferocity and death seem to be inevitable accomplices of civil demonstrations in a supposed democratic state. As I sit to write this book review, I am reminded of the strides gained and the lives lost during the 2020 EndSARS protests in Nigeria. I am both provoked and consoled by this book, Ozugo: 16 Impressions of a popular youth protest produced by young Nigerians; many of whom were at the forefront of the protests themselves.
Life is unfair but, hope makes it more meaningful. As Nigerians, hope is an effective
drug we overdose on – to stay motivated and expectant.
It’s easier to hear Nigerians say “E go better”, meaning things will get better, than for
people to think about impossibilities. It’s rare. All our life, we’ve been conditioned to
believe, have faith and be hopeful. It’s deeply rooted in family and societal values. It’s
also enshrined in religion, which keeps us sane and celestial.
Generally, I consider myself an optimistic person, and I’m not too fond of pessimism,
avoiding people with such tendencies. However, a year ago, I became the same thing I
detest: I lost hope, not in myself or in religion; I lost hope in my country, Nigeria.
It’s tough to believe I’ve been stretched to this point of disbelief in Nigeria. My friend
Benedict, who teases me with my belief in the country, couldn’t believe it too. Over the
years, he has watched me argue with friends and acquaintances why project “good
Nigeria” is still a possibility in my lifetime.
Besides, while bad governance makes it difficult to believe that any good can come out
of Nigeria, its people and their sheer goodness keep the embers of hope aflame.
However, I started losing grip on the tiny thread of hope with recent political events and
how the people I once believed in are now accomplices to the government’s iniquity.
An example is the #ENDSARS movement. It was a demonstration not just against
police brutality but lousy governance, injustice and impunity. It’s saddening to admit that
some average Nigerians sabotaged the #EndSARS protest, and what started as a peaceful protest turned bloody overnight. It climaxed into a massacre. The government
sent its army to murder innocent citizens protesting. Dozens of dreams and families
were broken and shattered. It could have been me, too, as I was lucky to have exited
the venue before the rounds of shooting started.
And you want to know the worst?
The government and some inhumane citizens buoyed by political cash denied the
killings. According to them, there was no shooting, let alone killings, despite all the
forensic evidence available.
That was the month the last vestiges of hope in me died. With my fellow brothers and
sisters dead, it will be hard to be hopeful in a country that killed their dreams and could
kill yours, too – if you allow them.
A year later, in a show of hope and courage, Chikezirim Nwoke and Mathias Orhero
thought it necessary to collate different impressions and perspectives on the protest.
This book entitled Ozugo: 16 impressions of a popular youth protest has come to life to
describe, critique, bemoan, and even celebrate some of the issues connected to the
2020 Endsars protests against police brutality and bad governance in Nigeria.
Like every other work with many contributors, this book takes an ambivalent stand. Yet,
by reading it you will realize that while many of the writers seem to have lost hope in
Nigeria as a democratic nation-state, they are very optimistic about Nigerians,
especially the youths of the country. One year later, the authors and contributors of this
book have succeeded in reviving the events surrounding the protests. If, like me, you
have lost hope in Nigeria, this book will challenge your posture by giving you reasons to
My belief and resolve in Nigeria have been crushed, but here’s a memorial book to reflect on the events that shook the sleeping giant—Nigeria.
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