Wizkid, Davido, Falz and others step up in protest for the #EndSARS movement leading to the disbandment of the notorious federal police group SARS (Special Anti Robbery Squad).by Christian Askin ,October 14, 2020
Protests across Nigeria and abroad sparked after video footage of the SARS police force pulled two men out of a hotel and onto the street in Lagos, shooting one of them. The act was one among a long series of brutality complaints against the federal police group; Amnesty has documented more than 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial execution between January 2017 and May this year alone.
The hashtag #EndSARS began trending on Twitter in Nigeria and abroad as people took to the streets in frustration and rage at the unlawful and violent acts of the state. The people were not alone as some of the biggest figures in Nigerian music joined the fray to speak truth to power.
Why have artists taken a central role in this wave of activism?
For one, the youth have been specifically targeted, and in a country where more than 60% of the population is aged under 24, the generational divide is potent. In a police unit that is known for shaking down young Nigerians with “flashy” appearance or non-conformative lifestyles, there is a strong sense that the force is contentious to a generation of digital natives, freelancers and youth who don’t fit into the traditional perceptions of success. Local reports indicate random police searches, brutality, and shake downs are a commonplace.
In a comment made on African Independent Television, Vandefan Tersugh, former SARS commander said,“I have seen you with a car, and now I have assessed your age, and I know in Nigeria how difficult it is for someone who is 20, 30 to start having a car worth N7 million. I cannot, as a policeman, see you there and assume something is not wrong with the way you are with the car.”
In other cases, it’s even more personal. Nigerian singer Oxlade, who made waves with his debut EP Oxygene earlier this year, saw his manager Ojahbee, dragged, beaten, and arrested for participating in a protest. There were also alleged attempts to pin Ojahbee with false murder charges following his arrest. When Ojahbee’s mother came to demand his release, she was attacked by police.