In case you’re still living under a rock, let me inform you that young Nigerians have been protesting against police brutality.
The protests were triggered on October 3 when a police officer gunned down a seemingly innocent person in Delta. Days after the needless tragedy, thousands of Nigerians stormed the streets, blocked major highways, and called on the government to dismantle the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit that had degenerated into an agent of robbery, bribery, illegal arrests, extortion and extra-judicial killings.
Odd enough, governments in Lagos, Ogun and elsewhere had on September 30 banned mass gatherings after some activists announced they would protest against bad governance on October 1, Nigeria’s Independence Day.
No one saw EndSARS coming. There was no announcement by any official group. There was no fixed date for mass action. There was no central leadership. But there is technology.
And there are young Nigerians who had just have to endure sanctimonious ridicule from “serious” people for their obsession with reality TV show BBNaija. Well, the derided “Indomie generation” finally left their noodles at home, grabbed the Nigerian government by the balls and don’t seem interested in letting go till there is real change.
They have Muhammadu Buhari’s mumu button now. God help the President if he fails to given them what they want.
The amazing thing about the EndSARS protests is not even that they are organic and decentralised but that are aggressively fuelled by technology, something the current political class — an order filled with ridiculously archaic mindsets that have no business leading a state in the 21st century — does not understand.
The future of Nigeria is speaking. Dear Mr President, listen.— Rotimi Akinola (@akinolarj) October 12, 2020
No wonder they make electronic voting seem beyond the reach of science. They also turned NCDC helpline response time to alien tech, the ramifications of which no earthly mind could fathom. Well, look at what next gen is doing with EndSARS helpline.
The current political order is so old that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had to print out EndSARS tweets so that President Buhari could then read them (well maybe).
I’m not making this up and it’s driving people nuts.
Unfortunately for Osinbajo and his boss, the generation that now has these old cargoes by the jugular also has a grasp of technology and is wielding it to great effect. And here are some of the ways they’ve so far exploited that.
Wire the money
After the protests exploded, decentralised campaigners started using normal banking platforms to raise funds for those holding the government accountable on the streets. They also used payment platform Flutterwave. When the government moved to ban these, the protesters laughed and switched to cryptocurrency. I don’t envy anyone, including the cyberwar wagers in the Nigerian Army, tasked with the duty of blocking the chain of those donations.
Facebook is evil, Twitter is for witches, blah, blah, bleeeeeh. Sorry. EndSARS demonstrators are, with the help os social media, sharing happenings in realtime. They are able to use social media, especially Twitter, to bypass the media blockade set by mainstream news organisations who initially refused to cover the protests. Now, everyone is talking about EndSARS and the cowardly and corrupt journalists and editors who are still drunk on government and corporate brown envelopes have no choice but the cover the demonstrations. Online social platforms are also being used to distribute internet data to an army of online protesters.
Anonymous, a group of activist hackers known for breaking into the online assets of repressive regimes, joined EndSARS. They took over the Twitter account of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and posted pro-protest content. NBC is notorious for muzzling traditional broadcasters. I’m not saying they deserved the hack. I’m just saying what I said. Anonymous also attacked the websites of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). When I told some next-gen dude this was tending towards cyber terrorism, he shrugged and replied that no well cared anymore.
Protesters adopted the #EndSARS hashtag which is now trending worldwide. Athletes and celebrities from around the world tweeted in support and with the hashtag. But when Twitter CEO himself used the trend which now has a dedicated emoji, the internet practically broke. There are fears the government may have to shut down the internet to quell the protests. But there are also fears that doing so could energise the reserve bench — a larger army of youth who are yet to take to the streets. Once those ones enter the fray, it’s game over for the current political order. They could by doing so, trigger a revolution, if that isn’t already afoot.
Internet and smartphone penetration
The Nigeria Communication Comission (NCC) said the number of internet users in Nigeria increased by 14 percent year-on-year in May 2020. The total active internet subscriptions in the country stood at over 141 million for that month. That’s a huge number for a country of 200 million people. The exact number of smartphone users in Nigeria is hard to come by. But Statista put it at between 20 to 45 million. A huge number of this figure come from the youth. Their smart phones is one of the reasons SARS was harassing them. These tools have now been turned into a weapon against police brutality and the government that failed to address it.
It’s not that the government hasn’t tried to respond to the protesters in tech. To their credit, the government did organise an Instagram live chat between police spokesperson Frank Mba and singer Naira Marley (that didn’t go so well, did it?)
They also tried an online forum with selected entertainers and advocates. But the move failed when those invited declined the invitation and urged the government to simply listen to the people.
Generally speaking, EndSARS protests have exposed a shocking technological lacuna between the leaders and the led. And this could birth the rise of a political leadership worthy of leading the next generation.
But let’s face it, the generation that said “off the mic” is not fit to lead the one that insists that everyone must “s’ọ̀rọ̀ sókè!”