By Taiwo Okanlawon
Years after the #EndSARS hashtag first went viral online, young Nigerians have taken their demands into the streets to protest police brutality in the country — starting with the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the force that was responsible for many atrocities including harassments, killings among others.
For two weeks, Nigeria witnessed an incredible outpouring of support and sharing of common ground by young Nigerians across, with #EndSARS protests having been held in more than 30 Nigerian cities.
The #EndSARS movement drew global and local support while the subsequent violence and deaths garnered condemnation.
The protests gained global support and became the biggest movement for change of young people in Nigeria’s history. This was made possible after celebrities in the country joined to create awareness about the injustice Nigerians face in the hands of officers charged with protecting them.
Although the protesters have said the protest was a leaderless one, the movement became massive after controversial singer Naira Marley who first suggested a date backed down and Nigerian singer and activist Folarin Falana also known as Falz joined his counterpart, Douglas Jack Agu, better known as Runtown led a large number of Nigerians to protest in Lagos.
Celebrities like Wizkid, Davido, Don Jazzy, Burna boy, Adekunle Gold, Simi, Paul of PSquare, Toke Makinwa, and a host of others decided to join the protest to send a message to the government saying our Lives Matter, and they need to put an end to police brutality in the country.
These are the top ten celebrities who were at the forefront of the movement in no particular order.
Leading the protest alongside Runtown, was rapper, lawyer and activist, Falz. Both musicians counselled the protesters not to be violent as they engaged security operatives who attempted to disrupt the protest.
In an Instagram live chat before the protest, Falz, son of human rights activist, Femi Falana, said, “No backing down. We move. The police are already there, waiting for us but we are not here to cause trouble. It is a peaceful protest. Coming through.”
“Our message is clear. Today was very peaceful & the authorities know what to do in order to keep the peace,” Falz said.
Since then, Falz has been seen as the leader of the movement, granting interviews to international media outlets amid threats to life.
On the 4th of October, Nigerian singer Douglas Jack Agu, better known as Runtown led a large number of Nigerians to protest in Lagos.
“Thursday is Thursday,” Runtown had tweeted on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, when a fellow musician Naira Maley cancelled a planned protest after rapport with a police chief.
The ‘Mad Over You’ singer remained resolute, determined to go ahead with the protest he had promised to lead against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
3. Burna boy
Afro-fusion star Burna Boy on 21 October led a demonstration at the Nigeria High Commission in London against police brutality in his home country.
The African Giant who also sponsored billboards to promote the movement was first silent about the movement, stating that it was due to his mother’s health.
Burna boy led his protest after the widely documented shootings of peaceful protesters by state security personnel in the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos.
Addressing the rally, Burna Boy said the protests had been largely peaceful, a statement that raises questions about the harsh crackdown on protesters. He charged young people in Nigeria to remain focused on their demands for police and governance reforms.
“We are the new generation, relentless and tireless. If this change must come, we must be ready not to lose focus and go the long haul,” he said.
“As Nigerians who have decided that enough is enough to bad government, police impunity and general uselessness, we protested against this escalating violence from SARS, primarily peacefully. Protests were peaceful for almost two weeks. With no political backing, no ulterior motives, no clear leader, the youth of my country came together in different states of Nigeria to protest peacefully, investing their skills, time and money and bracing all odds just to say that we’ve had enough.”
Burna Boy added that “#EndSARS is no longer enough,” before leading the demonstrators on a chant of “no justice, no peace.”
Popular singer, David Adeleke aka Davido also moved from online campaign to join the nationwide protest in Abuja. He was teargassed along with peaceful protesters.
The protesters led by Davido marched towards the Force Headquarters in Louis Edet house.
Afropop singer, Ayodeji Balogun otherwise known as Wizkid, who was in London when the protest broke out first said Nigeria’s problems are enormous which is why the protesters did not back down, adding that other problems like erratic power supply, poverty, and insecurity are challenges Nigerians are tired of.
During a recently-held interview with American media executive, Kojo Ebro, Wizkid said, “It’s just disheartening that in 2020 we are still having this conversation. What we want is protection from the police. We want the police to protect the people.
“We have more pressing issues affecting Nigeria, there’s no 24 hours electricity as I speak to you, people use generators, people cannot afford generations. They got to sleep in darkness. There’s no 24 hours of electricity, there are bad roads and the government is quiet. It just hurts!”
The music star had earlier basted President Buhari for ignoring Nigerian youths; “Donald Trump is not your business! Old man! Police/Sarz still killing Nigerian youth on a daily! Do something! Nothing concern u for America! Face your country!!” he tweeted.
The Afrobeats star didn’t end there. He went on to address the Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and reminded him of his promise to always look out for young people.
“Mr Governor! I met with you December 2019! You expressed how proud you are of the entertainment industry and all we do. Pls do something let’s be proud of you too abeg ! #Endsars!!”.
6. Don Jazzy
Nigerian record producer, Michael Collins Ajereh, better known as Don Jazzy who has been active in the fight against police brutality also took a further step after joining the mass protest on the street.
Don Jazzy had earlier revealed that he is unable to be a part of the movement due to health reasons.
7. Mr Macaroni
Popular Instagram sensation Mr Macaroni, also led many comedians and other celebrities to front the all-night #EndSARSProtest at the Lagos State Government House in Alausa, on Thursday 8th, 2020.
In a video, Mr Macaroni was seen demanding the presence of the Lagos State governor or his deputy from the state’s CSO. In the absence of the governor or the deputy, he demanded the presence of the state’s Speaker.
The Instagram sensation who was also joined by other protesters while addressing the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, said that the government works for the people and if the people want a job done, the government must do it without delay.
8. Tiwa Savage
“I don’t really think I have a choice, it’s something I have to do because everybody is affected by this,” Popular Nigerian singer, Tiwa Savage, said during the protest,
Tiwa later took extra steps to get the protest noticed on a global scale using her social media platform, appealing to American music icon Beyonce to lend her voice to the ongoing #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.
Savage, in an Instagram live session, spoke about the state of the nation and the ongoing agitation for an end to police brutality. “Nigeria is bad,” she stated.
9a. Adekunle Gold
Adekunle Gold is one of many Nigerian artists voicing their support for the #EndSARS movement. Many of Gold’s tweets in the Oct. 9-15 tracking week referenced #EndSARS, with the singer one of the Nigerian music industry’s most vocal supporters of the movement.
One of his tweets earned over 50,000 retweets and over 50,000 favorites. “NO ONE CAN INTIMIDATE THIS PHONE PRESSING GENERATION!”
Nigerian female artist, Simisola also known as Simi who recently gave birth did not hit the street but was vocal on Twitter, condemning the bad governance of the leaders and their sluggishness in terminating the SARS on their harassment of innocent citizens.
The singer in one of her tweets disclosed that “wickedness that will make a leader see his or her people suffering like this and still sleep at night.’”
She asked the leaders to‘ get the fuck” if they cannot do the job they got into office for.
Simi, also took to Twitter again and wrote; “All these inconsequential distractions are annoying me. Focus ffs. EndSars #SARSMUSTEND #ReformThePoliceNG”.
10. Banky W
Popular singer cum politician, Olubankole Wellington aka Banky W who also hit the street to join his colleagues said the message became clearer with the help of social media. In an interview with Arise TV, Banky W expressed satisfaction that “social media have been an incredibly powerful tool and if anybody can remember.
Banky W, also noted that the ongoing nationwide protest against police brutality “is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
According to him, there have been a lot of things that have got people agitated, angry, and frustrated, which he said makes the #EndSARS protest deeper than what people may be thinking.