Hong Kong. Namibia. United States. Libya. Chile. Belarus. Nigeria.
These countries mentioned above are just a fraction of countries where young people have come out to protest in the year 2020.
Two days after Nigeria celebrated her 60th independence, a video of a young man thrown out of a moving vehicle by officers working with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) made the rounds and sparked off what is now the 14th day of #EndSARS protests across the country.
This protest by the Nigerian youth against police brutality fits into the same narrative as the George Floyd protests in the US which also happened this year. However, police brutality is not the only thing that young people are protesting against. In Namibia, there are ongoing protests against the sexual abuse, rape and killing of women. In Thailand, the protest is for a reform in governance.
Now, the reason for pointing these out is to highlight the fact that young people are more connected to one another’s experiences. More than ever before. Through social media, we are witnessing the birth of global citizens who are interconnected and are able to use their voices to bring awareness to issues that affect them across borders. For example, people who are not Nigerians have lent their voice to the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria; notably: Jack, CEO of Twitter and Tremaine Neverson, known as Trey Songz. International news media have also helped to bring attention to the demands of the Nigerian youth.
Protests have clearly had an effect in some situations the world over. That is why more young people are using protests as a way to air their demands and grievances while demanding change. In Quebec in 2012, student protesters’ demands were met. In 2019, Lebanese Prime Minister announced his resignation after protests. Some times, not all of the protesters’ demands are met, but protests have been shown to achieve some level of change.
For the Nigerian case, many people are seen to be wondering where protests lead up to, what the desired change is, or if protests work at all. The truth is that protests work, and they help to accomplish things. The truth, however, is that they may not work in the timeframe that people expect. Sometimes, what protests do is that they reawaken society and this can be seen to have long-term effects. For example, many Nigerian youths have taken to social media to appeal to others to use their voting power in 2023, when the next presidential candidate will be elected.
Protests show that people are displeased and even though authorities might seemingly ignore demands at the start, protests speak. Protests communicate the need for accountability and show that people have come together to make demands of their government with one voice.
At a time when those in power failed to speak up, young people in Nigeria held their ground calling for SARS to be disbanded and for total police reforms, including better salaries for those in the police force and psychological evaluation before anyone is recruited into the force. It goes without saying that anyone who can handle a gun and who is in charge of protecting citizens’ lives should be in a state of proper mental health.
It is undeniable that young people in Nigeria have carried these #EndSARS protests on their backs. It is a pointer to the fact that this new generation wants better. Together, they have organised their movements and cared for one another.
One thing to note is that contrary to what many people may believe, in the sense that young people are trying to cause a ruckus, what we want is actually better governance and better systems. Young people understand that systems can work and that officials are in power to serve. Young people are not demanding freebies to be handed over to them. Young people are asking for the chance to live in a fair and just society. The #EndSARS protests are still unfolding, and many of us do not how long it will take. Presumably, it will take as long as it takes the government to meet the demands of the young people. Many of us believe, though, that this was a moment of reawakening for the Nigerian youth and that it will be the start of a gradual change in Nigeria’s governance structure.