Over the past few weeks , an array of paradigm shifting occurrences in Nigeria attracted the attention of both national and international eyes. The #ENDSARS movement, a revolutionary call to action, for the Nigerian government to hold power drunk law enforcing officials accountable. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), originally established to reduce surging crime rates in Nigeria, metamorphosed into a persecution of the Nigerian youth. In that, appearances of individuality such as locs, piercings,tattoos, iphones and other non-conformist forms of expression, were heavily scrutinized as accessories of criminality. This policing of character slowly graduated from bullying and harrassment to the cold-blooded murder of young Nigerians , for the crime of looking different or well-off amidst the Nigerian climate where ‘sufferhead’ is the order of the day. A ‘how dare you’, if you will, by government officials who are rumoured to earn about £120 ( a month). A battle between two oppressed groups, while those in federal positions of government in the country roll in mint cash as pass time activities.
As Nigerian youths took to the streets , incentivising the protests with food and drinks, drawing out their peers with laughter and knowledge; the anger of some in the older generation began to fester. Their social windows of facebook and whatsapp became littered with ‘disrespect’, respect being supposedly synonymous with democracy according to them. The whatsapp messages of threats and warnings imploring the stop of the protest with no results ensued.
Many reflections bursting at the seams, from the garments of culture and respect weighing on the shoulders of youths revealed that this repression of expressions by policing the dressing and characters of young people is not new. Infact , most accounts in detail cited Nigerian parents as the first actors of social conformism in Nigeria. Where, if you so much as step outside the Nigerian norm of appearance you are given hell for it. In some cases , you are diagnosed with spiritual possession and therefore in need of a church service deliverance , in others you have conspired to disgrace your family and must be reported to the extended family members for discipline. While this is not the case with all Nigerian families, a majority of youths have been bullied by family members on their forms of expression.
In most cases, the young recipients of these experiences were expected to be tight lipped on the basis of ‘respect’ as family members disrespectfully assassinated their personalities. The #ENDSARS movement with the slogan ‘soro soke’ which means to ‘speak up’ in yoruba , a language among over 250 in Nigeria, inspires the repressed and oppressed youths to no longer accept mediocrity. The veils of pretense by media personalities and ‘influencers’ were ousted , rejected and recognised for their one-sidedness. The cloak of culture and respect hovering over supposed democratically elected government was equally snatched off to reveal that their ‘disguise’ is no longer active. Lastly, the prolonged deceit by a good number of individuals from the older generation met its match with regards to vim.
Although , the efforts of the youths were thwarted at the #Lekkimassacre by the Nigerian army, and many lost their lives, leaving those who are alive to ache and question the Nigerian reality with each breath. Though the living are currently emotionally and mentally exhausted with the state of the country and the despicable displays of the government, it is important to recuperate and then keep going until results are achieved. Like an abusive home, the federal and state level government officials will keep rolling out tactics , both those they used on generations before and new ones they’ve discovered. For those who have never been emotionally , physically or mentally abused by parents, romantic partners or friends, this can be really jarring,but such are the methods of manipulators and skilled gaslighters.
The tactics used so far during the endsars movement include denial, superficial engagement, save face/damage control promises, disregard, violence, then gaslight and the cycle continues. In an abusive Nigerian home when you want to address issues pertaining to parental functionality, which may have hurt you in the past or is currently having negative effects on you, you are first met with denial. In this instance , like the Nigerian government, there is little to no recollection of this terrible treatment you speak of. Then the next stage, if you dont back down after denial, is superficial engagement . ‘Come my dear lets sort out this situation’ as carefully orchestrated by several government official in the past few weeks (see Sanwo-Olu’s antics in pretending to protest). This is aimed at making you feel like they understand and maybe willing to help, and this is where most give in. Unless you have thorough understanding of empathy it’s easy to let go at this stage.
The next stage is the save face or damage control, for those who don’t give in at the previous stage , seeing that no positive outcomes have come out from this , to protect reputation damage control begins. Here, recipients of this abuse are most likely involving outside attention , this is a kryptonite of abusers, shame. They go above and beyond to prevent this and so if the recipient has already begun sharing the reality with outsiders which in this scenario includes involving international eyes, then damage control begins. As such the whatsapp messages , warnings , caution on the inside from Nigerian parents began. While the government tried to pretend it was doing it’s best. It’s a tactic of scolding inside and smiling outside. The damange control technique also involves promises, that abusers do not intend to keep, and would deny if asked about.
The next stage is the reality of many at the Lekki toll gate on the 20th of October 2020, where army officials were allegedly ordered to ‘do something’ about unarmed citizens exercising their human rights. In abusive homes , violence comes in many ways but the purpose is lasting damage , a reminder of why you dare not step out of line again. Why you dare not ask for human decency, and according to this large scale abusive administration why you dare not ask to live.
The last stage is what we see now , government officials gaslighting the public, first with the denial of deaths, then with the denial of level of tragedy. To the very recent inspector gadget methods employed by Babatunde Fashola & co. Where a clearly planted camera is ‘discovered’ as evidence to help in determining what happened that day. A day many Nigerians watched on media platforms , unfold LIVE. Its the denial of reality that really aggravates recipients of these abusive tactics. ‘You were beaten ? by who ? when?’ asked the parent who whooped the humanity out of their child.
To the youths and other age groups who are for the betterment of Nigeria, we must keep adjusting strategy, adjusting our lens of truth, because now that we are awake a lot more would be impossible to ignore.