THIS DOESN’T BITE THE DUST!

The vibration of my phone was the first thing I heard from that eerie moment when you are just waking up but not quite awake when the reality of the previous day’s tragedy hasn’t hit you yet. It was easy to guess who might be calling me at that time since I have no boyfriend. My mum’s daily calls had become almost hourly since hoodlums and thugs started taking over the streets and attacking people. I was immediately reminded of the tragedy that was cast when she told me she heard that soldiers would be deployed to the streets and it would be difficult to move around. “I don’t want you to go to the main road to withdraw at the ATM machine” she said referring to St Finbarrs road where the First Choice and Nation’s Pride Institution is situated. I totally understood, I understood because I remembered Oke.

Twitter has been everything to me. My entertainment in times of boredom, my media to keep me informed of what is happening, the place where I get opportunities about different things. Twitter is that place where young people have felt a sense of belonging, where you can debate with someone far away whom you’ve never met. It cuts across social class and strata. It cuts across the homogenous nature of Nigeria and it informs you to understand issues from the perspective of other people. You just realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. I believe that we had been preparing as young people to protest and be bold and resilient we just didn’t know. We had enough practice talking about the different kinds of oppression we suffered from parents, school system, patriarchy, religion etc. I used to feel I was too addicted to the app, It’s almost the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up and can spend hours scrolling through looking for nothing but something. You keep scrolling because you never know if the next tweet will be what you need, maybe a business opportunity, an educational opportunity, an article or information that would make your life better.

So when the #EndSars movement began — more like started again, I was following it from the get go, didn’t quite know what to make of it until I realized that the protest had been continuing for three days, it resonated with me not because I have any encounter with Sars but because I could understand that we needed to put our money where our mouth is and that’s exactly what we were doing. I was impressed that we kept it going and I was willing to join. So twitter became the place where we got information about the protest. There are several things that impressed me about the protest that didn’t particularly give me hope that we would get the change we desired but the fact that we were bold enough to ask for change was just enough.

Then things changed, the government started resisting the protest, it was beginning to make them uncomfortable because it had gone on for far too long than they expected and it was growing bigger and becoming better organized. Hoodlums or the people Nigeria had neglected for so long started taking advantage of the situation.

On the 20th of October 2020, the government announced a curfew and I was scared, I was afraid because it felt like we were being defeated, I was afraid because I knew that they were looking for licit ways to catch scape goats. And for the first time in my adult life, I saw the greatest injustice the Nigeria government had ever committed against its own people. The movement had been personal to me from the start and so these people who were shot are my brothers and sisters. I had never felt more connected to a bunch of strangers. They were the bravest people on earth. They knew it was too dangerous and they stayed on because this impunity had gone on for too long.

Twitter became a place I dreaded. Because every time I leave the app and came back, things got worse. There was no win. Usually if you go off twitter this moment sad at some news you saw, when next you come back, something funny and pleasant would welcome you. But not this time, I kept being disappointed. Not that it is the first massacre the Nigerian government had committed against its own people because now I know and I am sorry that I ignored, I am sorry that it was never my concern or headache, people have cried, have been defeated by the nation. People who dared to ask for what is constitutionally theirs, people who dared dissent. Dissent is not welcomed in the Nigerian polity. We must all succumb to the oppression and keep mute while suffering.

As I tossed and turn on the bed while taking my mother’s call, wondering if the moist I feel is the monthly visitor who had been giving me uncomfortable signals and that morning not an exception, I remembered Oke’s tweet, the one before he prophesied his misfortune — “Man, I have never felt this oppressed in my life. I really thought we had a good shot this one time”. That was exactly how I felt this morning, defeated, hopeless and with a urge to just leave everything behind and ‘japa’. My mum was worried that I shouldn’t go to beyond my street to withdraw at the ATM and I knew she was right because Oke was sitting right in front of his house when he was murdered. I knew it was too dangerous to even wander farther than your doormat. Oke didn’t have to wander to be killed, his dreams were cut short just sitting in front of his house by the failure of our system.

What do you mean that I fucked this up’ the lines from Simi and Adekunle Gold’s song ‘Bites the Dust’ that had been ringing in my head for days as it was the only company I had in my desolate apartment which also resonated with how I felt about the movement. Are you saying that we somehow managed to mess this unity, momentum, collective courage and resilience up?

I have never been bereaved at least of close family and people I am fond and I often wondered if I was only a stone-hearted person. I wondered what it felt like for people who have been bereaved, I certainly know it would be painful but the level of pain and grief is one I am not privy to. I knew it won’t last forever but I didn’t know it would be for my brothers and sisters whom I have never met but their bravery was touching. I didn’t know it would be for my comrades in the fight to better Nigeria. I wonder what their family and friends must be feeling right now if I can wake up and feel a dark cloud hang over me, tears rolling down my eyes and the feeling of defeat not too far off. Regardless of how I feel however, the win is in the long haul and if we keep our heads down, this wouldn’t bite the dust.

Anything “wey” I see, I write #ZuleihaXpressions