Nigeria SARS protests - Struggle for meaningful change

Nigeria SARS protests - Struggle for meaningful change

The Nigeria SARS protests have dominated the news headlines during the last two weeks and have placed that country under the glare of the international spotlight. 

When I first saw the headline on The Daily ShowNigeria[n] End SARS Protests, my mind immediately went to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the deadly disease caused by one of the corona viruses that emerged in China in 2003.

SARS? Wasn’t the SARS outbreak controlled? Is there a SARS outbreak in Nigeria during the COVID-19 pandemic? These questions raced through my mind.

 However, as the story unfolded I realised my mistake. The SARS in the world's spotlight at this time is the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the Nigerian police force and is the source of the protests named Nigeria SARS protests. Apparently, over the years, SARS has expanded its role from foiling robberies to committing atrocities against targeted citizens of Nigeria.

These actions of SARS have triggered, initially, peaceful widespread demonstrations calling for the disbanding of SARS. But as we have seen elsewhere, the police and army dished out violence to them which beget more violence, leaving over sixty people dead - including members of the police force and army.

COVID-19 - the catalyst for the Nigeria SARS protests

Apart from the widespread illness that COVID-19 has wreaked on the world, I think it is the catalyst for the Nigeria SARS protests and for the other protests that have erupted in the world. There is a saying that "the devil finds work for idle hands". Since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the wide-scale loss of jobs in many countries and has disrupted the traditional routines of many people, they now have time to examine their lot in life and have realised that they deserve better than what their governments have made possible for them. 

The Nigerian government has agreed to disband SARS but this is a pyrrhic victory for the demonstrators. The government has seen it fit to create a “new” unit with a “new” name in the police force but with the same or some of the same members from the infamous SARS unit. This does not suggest that the will for real change exists among the powers that be in Nigeria.

As the saying goes, "the more things change the more they remain the same". 

Nigeria SARS protests - What next?

On observing the SARS protests in Nigeria, the following questions troubled me, the same questions that trouble me when I hear of the atrocities that police forces in my country, Jamaica, commit and those which security forces in other countries commit against citizens. I ask:

  • Does being a member of the security forces rob members of their humanity?

  • What could lead members of security forces to wittingly hurt other people?

  • Do they have wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, relatives and friends?

  • Do they treat these people the same as they treat the "strangers" that they ill-treat?

  • Are the security forces a magnet for people with psychopathic tendencies?

  • How can bad security forces be humanized?

The members of security forces seem to be drunk with power, the power in their guns and the power that is inherent in their jobs. They seem to serve and protect themselves and their masters and punish anyone who challenge their power. Power is a scarce resource and like all the other scarce resources, people literally and figuratively fight for it.

In countries where there is a lack of accountability demanded of the security forces, they flout the law because they know that there are no consequences for their actions. 

 Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States of America said:

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. — Abraham Lincoln.

The protesters in Nigeria are struggling for respect from the police but they are also taking the opportunity to stir their government into taking other actions to benefit the society as a whole, because they think that doing so is right. They aim to get a better deal from the government than the one that it has given them over the years. Kudos to them!

Conclusion 

2020 has turned out to be a year of reckoning for many governments around the world. But, are they hearing the cries of their people? They say they are but in response to the protests, they unleash more violence on the protesters. 

Nigeria may have ended SARS protests but the struggle continues. The protesters continue their protests by chipping away at one of the stones of injustice in their midst. How well they succeed will depend on the willingness of the government to champion their cause and institute meaningful change.

There is much in the news that may be used as writing prompts. The Nigeria SARS protests fill the bill for me at this time. You could write a poem using the events of what's happening in Nigeria as I did after watching the demonstrations in the USA. You may write a novel as Chinua Achebe did after observing the clash between traditional and colonial ways of life caused by colonial rule in Nigeria. Writing about events that explode in society provides a record for future generations but it also provides catharsis for the writer and even the reader, depending on how the story is told. Or, it may stir the revolutionary spirit. No writer knows exactly how his or her work will resonate with readers. The point is that the happenings in society provide much inspiration for writers.

Keep writing!

This is analysis of the SARS protests in Nigeria by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah  

 

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About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a teacher and author of three books. Her business is to write stories set in the place she knows best – Jamaica – while also helping writers to write their own stories. 

When you are ready to write your story and/or after you have written your story, make contact with her at writingwisdomtree@gmail.com for coaching and editing services, respectively. Check out her books here








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