It’s a year already and the echoes of the #EndSARS protests that rocked Nigeria are still reverberating around the country. In October 2020, Nigerian youths took to the streets to protest against police brutality and the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) unit.
The youths also demanded better governance from the government.
What started as a regular protest, in no time, morphed into a national demonstration embraced by many youths in different states.
During the protest, friendships were forged, alliances made, and even some “enemies” ditched their hatred for one other and decided to work together.
For about two weeks, the youths, in their thousands, converged on different places on a daily basis to press home their demands. But the protest took a turn for the worse at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, on October 20, when soldiers were drafted to disperse protesters.
While the movement lasted, the female folk took the reins of leadership by fuelling the #EndSARS protest in different ways — ranging from being at the forefront of the protest to providing legal services to protesters who were arrested, to supplying medical services and feeding people.
Meet some of the women who made the #EndSARS protest a success:
Oduola, a social media influencer, was a prominent figure during the #EndSARS protest. A human rights activist, she used her social media platform to mobilise and encourage Nigerians to join the protest and was among the first people out on the street.
Oduola had said she wanted to use her voice to speak against extrajudicial killings, extortion, and harassment in the country.
Following the protest and the setting up of judiciary panels in states, Oduola was chosen as one of the youth representatives of the Lagos judicial panel on police brutality. But she withdrew from the role about two months after.
At one of its sittings, the panel had granted approval for the return of Lekki tollgate to the control of Lekki Concession Company (LCC).
Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi, another youth representative, had criticised the decision, saying their views were not reflected in the panel’s ruling.
Oduala described the development as an act of injustice and said she would not be part of a cover-up.
She was also one of the protest promoters whose bank accounts were frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the wake of the #EndSARS protest.
The CBN had approached a court to seek an order to freeze the accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters for 90 days. Following the expiration of the 90 days, Ahmed Mohammed, a federal high court judge, ordered the unfreezing of the accounts.
Reacting to the verdict, Oduola had described the embargo placed on her account as an act of intimidation while claiming that the CBN did not carry out any investigation within the stipulated three months.
Yesufu is a co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement and a renowned activist.
A fiery and vocal protester, Yesufu was another notable force during the #EndSARS protest. She was among those who led the protest in Abuja.
At a point during the protest, the police were deployed to disperse protesters from their convergence point. The police fired tear gas at the protesters and while many ran away for fear of being hurt, Yesufu, undaunted, stood her ground and refused to leave.
Her resilience and bravery encouraged many protesters to fight on.
One of her pictures, where she was clad in a hijab, with a fist raised in front of protesters, became one of the symbols of the #EndSARS movement.
On this day in 2020 my heart was filled with joy that the Nigerian youth were in charge of the #EndSars protest. I was beaming.
This was before @PoliceNG tried to attack which was when I came to the front.#EndSars protest was a success.
Buhari & Osinbajo’s govt was a terrorist https://t.co/xp7Iw3lVUJ pic.twitter.com/eiiXxvcEiY
— Aisha Yesufu (@AishaYesufu) October 10, 2021
In one of her recent tweets to commemorate the anniversary, the activist asked Nigerians not to give up on the country.
“We must never give up on Nigeria. As long as those who kill us do not get tired, those of us that want to live will also not get tired,” she tweeted.
— Aisha Yesufu (@AishaYesufu) October 10, 2021
The Feminist Coalition is one of the groups that provided support during the #EndSARS protests.
Made up of young women, the group helped to raise funds for protesters by asking supporters to make contributions.
During the protests, the coalition helped to receive donations via bitcoin, after government authorities reportedly blocked its account.
According to the group, the monies were donated to fund legal services, medical services, among other things.
When the protest came to an end, the coalition put a stop to donations and announced a breakdown of how the remaining funds — about N87 million — would be disbursed.
Some of the expenses included paying the #EndSARSresponse team, relief for victims and families of police brutality, legal aid network, and memorial for the fallen.
Odele, a member of the Feminist Coalition, was a leading force during the #EndSARS protest.
Odele, a lawyer and a social media influencer, was among those who coordinated the provision of security support to protesters and helped facilitate legal aid to those who were arrested.
But in what appeared to be a clampdown on promoters of the protest, Odele’s passport was seized by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) on November 1, 2020, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, when she was on her way to the Maldives to celebrate her birthday.
Her passport was later released by the NIS eight days later.
FEYIKEMI ‘FK’ ABUDU
Abudu also came into the spotlight during the #EndSARS protest.
A member of the Feminist Coalition, she, in collaboration with some individuals on social media, helped to raise funds to seek the release of several protesters arrested during the demonstration.
She also engaged in disbursing funds for the treatment of injured protesters, and also, the feeding of protesters.
Obianuju Catherine Udeh, better known as DJ Switch, was one of the many women that played significant roles during the #EndSARS protest.
She live-streamed the Lekki protest on Instagram on the evening of October 20, affording those who were not at the scene of action the opportunity to have a glimpse of what was going on at the protest ground.
More notably, she narrated how the Nigerian army, who had been deployed to the scene by the government, allegedly shot at protesters.
Balogun is a medical doctor who provided medical assistance to protesters during the #EndSARS movement.
She was one of the health workers who were on the ground to attend to the medical needs of the protesters.
Please if you are organizing any protest in Lagos and you feel you may need medical assistance on ground. Kindly reach out. We would send someone to your location. If you want to donate medical related items @funmioyatogun will get it to us. #Endsarshealth
— Temilola. O (@dhammythemmy) October 14, 2020
Every single Medic in this picture was awesome today at Alausa. Y’all are heroes 🤗 @olawalesmd @aproko_doctor @osheyguy @nonsodynasty @dhammythemmy Thank you for the great team work. #EndSarsHealth #endsarsresponse #EndSARSProtest #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria pic.twitter.com/WhXk7yGZd7
— Temilola. O (@dhammythemmy) October 15, 2020
During the protest, Balogun shared information about where to get medical assistance via her Twitter handle while also mobilising other health workers to join the cause.
— Temilola. O (@dhammythemmy) October 15, 2020
— Temilola. O (@dhammythemmy) October 17, 2020
She also alleged that her account was frozen by the CBN.
She was, at a point, arrested by the police during the protest. According to her, the officers threatened to shoot her and dump her body in a canal.
Just so you know not only did they block my account. I was arrested, beaten, threatened. They promised to throw me in a canal where no one will ever find me. said they wouldn’t take me to any police station because they know we have people who would come and bail me #EndSARS pic.twitter.com/Q5RrDGcKeT
— Temilola. O (@dhammythemmy) December 4, 2020
Spurred by the determination of protesters, Ogbonna, an entrepreneur who resides in Abuja, took it upon herself to cook and feed the demonstrators.
According to Ogbonna, she cooked for protesters in Abuja for almost two weeks.
She said she was encouraged by the Lekki protesters who had people sending them food and drinks.
Ogbonna told TheCable that an “unpleasant” encounter she once had with the defunct SARS also encouraged her action.
“While buying ingredients at the market, I remembered how, in 2019, SARS raided our compound. They came to arrest some boys in the compound and they wouldn’t let us out of the compound, as much as we tried to explain to them that we were not involved,” she said.
“While trying to explain, one of them cocked his gun and pointed it at me. I was very scared that day. This memory prompted me to cook for the protesters. After the first day that I cooked, I went online and asked people that I needed who could assist me. The response I got was amazing and it prompted me to do more.”
You ask where I get the energy to cook for more than 100 SARS protester? When I remember the SARS officer that cocked a gun to my face I fry that Tin Tomatoes harder,because na who dey alive dey cook for people.😤🤧 #EndBadGovernanceinNIGERIA #EndSWAT
— Praise Tochi Ogbonna (@pee_deevah) October 14, 2020
Ogbonna got donations from supporters after the first day she cooked.
“Some donated cash, foodstuff, water, brought their cars for delivery,” she said.
Despite collapsing at the protest ground due to exhaustion, she still forged ahead with her duty.
She added that although the task affected her business as she was unable to dedicate time to it, she was determined to play her part to make the protest a success.