Rinu Oduala, one of the organisers of the #EndSARS protests, whose account has been frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria, has spoken out, wondering whether she no longer has a right to protest or speak out.
In a message meant for President Muhammadu Buhari and other political leaders of the country, the Lagos State University chemistry student asked what has changed between the repression her parents suffered under military rule, and what she is suffering now, in a democracy.
“I am part of a generation of Nigerians who have lived most of their adult lives under ‘democratic’ rule and yet, I woke up today feeling there is no difference between the Nigeria I grew up in, and the Nigeria my parents grew up in”, the 22 year-old wrote on Twitter.
And in one tweet, she debunked accusations that the protest was intended to cause havoc in the society.
To underscore her point, she quoted President Buhari, when he said: “Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country”.
“Are you saying Baba is telling lies?”, she asked the critics of #EndSARS and reiterated that the protest was peaceful and legitimate.
#EndSARS was not the first time, Rinu will get entangled in public affairs.
She was the convener of Operation Sanitise movement during the heat of the pandemic, sharing hand sanitizers to Nigerians.
She also joined the protest against rape, after the murder of UNIBEN student, Uwavera Omozuwa and Tina Ezekwe.
Read her thought provoking submission, she titled: All I have is my VOICE
I am part of a generation of Nigerians who have lived most of their adult lives under ‘democratic’ rule and yet, I woke up today feeling there is no difference between the Nigeria I grew up in, and the Nigeria my parents grew up in.
The sacrifices of the democrats who bravely stood on the June 12 mandate to bring our democracy to life seem to be in vain. Ironically, many of them are serving in this government and ruling party.
Everywhere I turn, I am told that I should be ‘grateful’ for a democracy that lives were lost, I should be thankful that I have a voice and I can speak up for myself and my peers.
But how can I be grateful when young men and women disappear every day, some killed recklessly without cause, while others get scarred for life—physically, emotionally, or both?
When we began to protest, it was because young Nigerians decided to speak up.
We spoke up – not because we wanted to overthrow the government, the only agenda was getting the @PoliceNG to stop killing us. We did not carry arms, or incite any insurrection.
Our only confidence was the peaceful protests enshrined in Section 40 of our 1999 Constitution.
At every point, we maintained calm and educated our followers – reiterating throughout the protests that we were not there to fight the government but to ask for change and to follow through to make sure that change was effected.
We believed that somehow we would be spared from the systemic violence and breakdown of social order, the direct result of the government’s actions.
Unfortunately we were mistaken.
I was nominated to receive donations to the EndSARS cause by Nigerians at home and abroad who felt helpless to personally protest but believed they could make a difference through financial sacrifices.
Such was the passion of average Nigerians to contribute how best they can to the #EndSARS cause, and sent in what they could sacrifice towards the cause.
Some people even donated ₦500, which I strongly believe meant a lot to them, as it could have been all they could spare towards the cause.
To have their motives behind their sacrificial efforts questioned is disheartening.
The funds in question here also includes some of my personal hard earned money of over N200,000 naira.
These funds were earmarked for disbursement towards the medical bills of injured protesters.
Amongst other demands, we called for a probe into the killings and torture of people and the government agreed to setting up judicial panels.
To assure young people of the independence and fairness of the panel, also looking at the integrity & reputation of the panelists on the @LagosSarsPanel, after nominations, I took up the role as a youth representative at the detriment of my education, personal life and family.
I did this to make PEACE. I did to ensure our young people understood that the only way to create a better and safer Nigeria is to do things lawfully. Why am I still being targeted for lending the government my good will?
I am not a part of Nigeria’s political or business elite—I have no relatives in government or family members with enough wealth to sway powerful individuals. I am just an ordinary young Nigerian.
I study, selling hoodies and other clothing to pay my school fees. I also do the odd bit of freelancing, taking on some brand influencing work to ensure my family doesn’t suffer.
Somehow, however, my existence threatens my government, the fact that I have a voice is enough for them to try to silence me.
In the Nigeria I am voicing out for, it wouldn’t matter that I am a child of nobody coming from the average Nigerian home. The Nigeria I am voicing out for is one that prioritizes every voice, protects every inalienable right, even mine.
I decided to use the only currency I have, my voice to speak up against extrajudicial killings, torture, extortion and unjust harassment that is still happening in a democratic nation in the 21st century!
The government also agreed that reform is inevitable and promised us they were going to listen, however they have refused to honor their promises while they continue to deny the lives lost and also target the same people who spoke up.
I am not afraid—I am only disappointed that this country will treat us this way. We are the soul of this nation and no nation exists without her people.
Nigeria is all I have, and I have a right to demand that it works for all of us, not just those with influence, wealth, or a government position.
In a country that people have been voiceless for a long time, people holding the government accountable is being seen as too much?
How can we ensure that this sort of thing will encourage people to build a new Nigeria?
A Nigeria that will be filled with accountable government officials, where all forms of oppressions and injustice is a thing of the past.
Rinu #EndSARSFireWater pistol
How do you expect me as a part of the future of this country to still believe in a country who thinks they can through CBN freeze my account for no just cause?
This is not fair. But we will make it fair. Otherwise, there is no future for my generation & the generations to come.
Lest you forget, #EndSARS !