Jason's Jive November 2020 By Jason Inanga
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
How are you today? A slight change from the regular Jive this month. Recent events in my country of birth, Nigeria, have propelled me to add my voice to the agitation of the youth there. As I sit to write this, October 20, it has been about two weeks now that the youth have embarked on a protest there to end police brutality, majority of this has been at the hands of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. Due to the high level of crime and issues of public safety, there is a need for police activity on the streets, day, and night. Police checkpoints are normal, so for example, what could be a simple drive from Beltsville to Baltimore, on Route 1, could be a challenging drive, as there will be police checkpoints en route. You will have to show your license, vehicle registration and insurance. It is not unusual for this to be used as an avenue to extort money from you, to get your papers back in your hand. It is called settlement. Commercial bus drivers and taxi drivers must also ‘settle’ them before being allowed to pass. Hard to imagine right?
So, SARS has a legitimate role to play, in trying to curb crime as it happens. Again, due to the high crime rate, it is not unusual to be stopped, even as a pedestrian and at their request you must identify yourself. It is not like America where you can engage the Police about your rights. Over there, the fear of the Police is the beginning of real wisdom. To try and extort money from you, they look for something to pin you on…why do you have an apple watch? Do you have a receipt to provide proof of ownership? They want to see proof of ownership of any electronics you are carrying or they insist you unlock the gadget or cell phone for them to go through it to make sure you are not a fraudster (yahoo boy in local parlance). People have been shot, killed harassed for these reasons and more.
You get harassed by SARS because of the way you choose to dress or the tattoos on your body or the way you keep your hair. Sounds ridiculous but it is very real.
So recently there was another killing by SARS Officers, and the public response was what ended up as a peaceful protest with the hashtag #EndSARS. The youth decided to also add a few more demands – reform the police, improve their pay and living conditions in the barracks, hold offending officers accountable for their actions – a lot of extra-judicial killings.
I cannot attempt to address the myriad of issues that #EndSARS has led to. I just don’t have the space. What people like you and I can do is to keep some level of focus on what is happening in that country. It may not spiral into something similar to the Arab Spring, but any unrest or break down of law and order in Nigeria will have a domino effect not just in Africa, but globally.
The misrule of Nigeria since Independence in October 1960 and the unprecedented level of corruption has brought the chickens home to roost. As the Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti (a popular Musician and activist) said in one of his songs, Trouble Sleep, Yanga Go Wake Am. (Trouble has been awoken from its sleep by Yanga. Yanga is another term for ‘confusion.’) The youth of a troubled nation have woken up from their slumber and are demanding accountability, measurable action, and the laying of a foundation for a definite better tomorrow. We can only support from this end by making our voices heard and ensuring the international community asks for answers. The decay is deep: no medical facilities, schools and universities in despair, no roads, no water, no electricity, no food…etc.
Let me end with this: “The current base salary for all rank-and-file members of the U.S. House and Senate is $174,000 per year, plus benefits.”
A Nigerian Senator takes home close to $40, 000 monthly. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43516825 Try explaining this to an unemployed graduate? Explain this to hungry youth.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and share in this with me. My late father is Nigerian, my mother is from St. Kitts in the Caribbean. I spent half my life in Nigeria. In University I participated in my fair share of demonstrations against the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida. I chose to leave Nigeria in 1994. I had an option to leave and relocate to St. Kitts. Thousands of youths in Nigeria do not have that option. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Soro Soke! (Speak Up… in Yourba… the language spoken in Western Nigeria).