I was in Zanzibar, on a work leave when the protest that held Nigeria standstill happened. It was the #ENDSARS – a protest which was largely and primarily against police brutality – but which spiralled to all other things holding the Nigerian nation down.
It was the 20th of October 2020 precisely – and our flight had left for Nigeria from Zanzibar. We had a stop-over in Addis Ababa.
Just as we landed in Ethiopia, we received news that flights were grounded from entering Nigeria.
This was the second time I could clearly see a reflection of what I had watched in the movie ‘Sometimes in April’.
We had no transit visas and were stranded in a foreign land – with our own country evidently in ruins. It was a painful feeling. It was clear things had gone out of hand.
The airport hotel we were put in felt like some prison. Apparently, they too had received the news of what was happening in Nigeria – and they made sure to treat us in a way that was demeaning.
We were not let out of the hotel. They wouldn’t let us have the keys to our rooms. We slept that night, praying and hoping that the next day we would receive good news from Nigeria.
Some of us had started to make plans about taking a flight to neighbouring Ghana, after all, we had the ECOWAS passport.
Miraculously, the next morning, they allowed a few more flights into the country and we took the opportunity.
Ethiopian Airlines landed in Lagos in the late afternoon on the 21st of October amidst great tension.
There were soldiers everywhere. We were told not to leave the airport, but most people tried to get accommodation in the hotels around the International airport. They had to walk long distances to these hotels in Ajao.
No cab wanted to leave the airport premises – and those who eventually did charged outrageous prices.
As we walked out of the airport premises to find hotels nearby, the young men littered around, blocking the road, yelled at us and cursed us, that we were the mistresses to some of these politicians and are kept away from the chaotic scenes happening back in Nigeria.
They searched our bags and took some items. Soldiers were patrolling like it was Lebanon, the air was too tense and volatile. Eventually, I made it back home, safely.
Fast-forward – it’s 20th October 2021, and I am witnessing the memorial of the #ENDSARS. The feeling is still the same – hurt everywhere, and yet more oppression and injustice can still be seen and felt. It is as though we never picked up any lesson one year after.
As a Comms person, I try to look at these things with an industry eye and wondered why the Lagos state governor was not present at the #ENDSARS memorial.
I had an exchange with a friend heavily involved in political PR and he said something that struck me “Two weeks after the 2020 massacre, APC won the election in that same senatorial zone by like 10k votes. Do you know what 10k votes are?
You can mobilize 10k people. So, when I sit with politicians and tell them to care about young people, they can only scoff; because there is no consequence to ignoring them. Each time events like this happen, all politicians need to do is ignore their social media accounts for a while, send some other young people to disrupt the activities and the world is fine again.”
This, right here is my vexation with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB – all that power and influence and yet all they do in the SE is a Sit At Home? What happened to real influence over who wins elections in the SE?
What about teaming with the people to pick only the crop of leaders who are fit for the future we want to achieve? Nigerian youths have the numbers – and in all games, numbers are great leverage. Get out and get involved in politics.
The change we desire will not happen on social media. Let us start to strategically get more smart young people into the National Assembly. That is where true and long-lasting change happens.