FalzTheBahdGuy and Runtown announced a couple days ago that they would be leading a peaceful protest for the #EndSars initiative. For those who don't know, "SARS" is an anti-robbery squad that is better known today for acts of extortion, torture, framing, blackmail and murder.
There was a bit of confusion because Falz had announced that the march would begin from 'the Lekki toll gate' - there are two. After finding a suitable place to park, we walked towards the Victoria Island tollgate, saw nobody, walked back to the car then spent about 20 minutes trying to find the marchers. Thankfully we were able to figure out that they were on Ozumba marching towards Marina from their instagram live broadcasts.
In typical Lagos fashion, there was traffic (most likely caused by the protest), so we knew there was no way we were going to catch up if we stayed in the car so we got down and started jogging. The midday sun didn't give a damn about our motives, but we didn't let that deter us, we kept it moving. People who were inside their vehicles were yelling, but weren't yelling because of the traffic, they were yelling in support of the protest! Their chants of "End Sars" and "Well done" invigorated us.
I have been struggling since yesterday to place the feeling but it was pride, pride to be part of a fight in a country that is designed to keep all fighters down - good thing they raised me with coconut head.
Anyway, we finally caught up with the protest at the police headquarters in Onikan. The energy was high, the people were angry. There was a lot of excitement, some people started climbing cars and acting wayward but they were soon calmed down by the calmer minds. We marched to the State House Lagos Liason office, chanting all the while then we were addressed by Falz and Runtown - we go again on Tuesday (13th), bigger!
It's apparent to me that Nigerians are finally waking up to the things we must do. We will never get the country we deserve unless we demand it! Now we only need to organise and conduct ourselves better so I have assembled some tips for before, during and after.
Before the protest
Do not go to a protest without knowing what it is you're fighting for.
Energy is very infectious in a protest - Once you see signs of people acting wayward or with violent tendencies, calm them down and give them no audience, it's peaceful until its not.
Go in groups - Meet up beforehand, stick together the entire time, and leave the protest together.
Make plans - Should the situation escalate, you and your group will need to have a plan of where to muster and regroup. A designated street corner will suffice.
DO NOT wear contact lenses in case of tear gas, it'll make it worse.
Bring a small backpack, drinking water, face mask/bandanna, a hat, snacks, sunglasses, good walking shoes, phone and portable power source, and some cash.
Protest organisers need to have dedicated people broadcasting their locations and updates on social media. People will give up if they don't know where to meet the crowd, and the bigger the crowd the better. They also need to plan and announce the marching route before the protest day.
During the protest
Study your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings and people.
Help those around you. Something as small as offering some water or holding a bag while they tie a shoe can go a long way. Remember energy is infectious and solidarity is a strong bond.
Be mindful of how you photograph people. You wouldn't want to take a viral photograph of someone showing their faces or tattoos that law enforcers can use to identify them with.
Do not run. You might incite a panic, hurt someone, or hurt yourself. Energy is infectious.
Be mindful that people can still be sexually assaulted by fellow protesters, and please raise an alarm if you feel unsafe or see any suspicious behavior.
After the protest, don't go home after the march and pat yourself on the back just yet. Follow up on all your social media platforms and find what more can be done by the local leaders for the cause.
There is a lot that one can do beyond marching with a group. Protesting is a spectrum and some people are able to go outside and hold a sign while others can lend their help on social media, buying food and water for the protesters, etc. Any help you can offer is a benefit to the cause.
P.S. Speaking against a cause that you have no interest in fighting for is counter-productive. You can stay silent if you want, but please don't get in the way of others trying to effect change.