Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that despite how the curtains closed on the nationwide #EndSARS protest, there were so many beautiful stories that emerged from the two-week long movement, as humanity indeed showed up in words and in action
For a nation that lives on ethnic and religious lines, a factor politicians manipulate each time to cause division, the unity and empathy that #EndSARS protesters exhibited across the nation was quite commendable.
From offering pro bono legal services to engaging private security for protesters, financial donations providing data, food, water, entertainment, sanitation, medical services, logistics and so many others- all carried out by youths, the protest has shown that indeed, a value-bound Nigeria is very much possible.
The aftermath of the unprovoked shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate, also saw humanity show up. After social media went agog with the shooting, Nigerians across the divide shunned all ethnic and religious biases by opening up their hearts and pockets to the injured and stranded.
A show of unimaginable unity was on display at the protests. The protesters buried their age-long political, religious, social and cultural feud and campaigned with one voice. As shocking as it might seem, members of opposition parties who never saw eye to eye were in this instance in agreement to end police brutality and bad governance
Unlike what was obtainable in the past, the two major religions in Nigeria- Christianity and Islam, showed tolerance while protesting. At the protest grounds, it was not out of place for gospel songs to be sang and those of the Islamic faith did not object.
On Friday, during the congregational prayers held by Muslims, the protesters showed solidarity as all protests were put on hold for them to observe their Jumu’ah prayers. Whilst their Muslim counterparts prayed, the Christian faithfuls formed a human barricade around them to ensure they were not attacked.
Also witnessed was an amplified voice of religious leaders across the Pentecostal and Protestant divide and even the Muslim faith.
Religious figures like Pastor Enoch and Mrs Folu Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor David Oyedepo of Living Faith Mission, Pastor Sam Adeyemi of Daystar, Pastor Kingsley Okonkwo of Davids Christian Centre, Pastor Poju Oyemade of Covenant Christian Centre, Pastor Tunde Bakare of Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Daniel Olukoga of Mountain of Fire Ministries, Pastor Paul Adefarasin of House on the Rock, Pastor Akin Alabi, Apostle Suleiman Johnson Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministries, Pastor Paul Enenche of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Pastor Victor Adeyemi of Global Harvest, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo of Trinity House, Pastor Emmanuel Iren of Celebration Church International, and several others also provided succor like a shepherd to the flock irrespective of denomination. They were also vocal in supporting the reforms put out by the protesters. While some marched with them, others prayed and even sent out support.
If the protest scene was a river, the empathy of protesters would have over run it. From one corner of the nation to the other, stories of strangers looking out for themselves abound. From making financial contribution to helping the weak and even less privileged persons.
In Lagos, a youngster, Damola won the hearts of protesters after he gave his snacks for free. We they begged him to collect money he said “ẹ bawa ṣe kín lè lọ ile iwe” (loosely translated to mean ‘Do it for us so that I can go to school’).
As posted by one @Animolenikun, the youngster sells Cheeseball, a snack, to make a living. Moved by those words, they took his picture and shared the experience on Twitter. It soon went viral with several people reaching out to sponsor him to school.
At the Lekki protest ground, an aged groundnut seller went home with over N2,350,000 contributed by Nigerian youths.
According to one @Sama_on-Point, over N500,000 was raised first raised for her with a hefty donation from John Ogu, Nigeria’s midfielder. The money raised was finally pegged at over N2million with a charge to desist from such a trade at her age.
In Abuja, protesters came across some destitutes living under the bridge and showed them love. Without taking any joint agreement, the protesters released different sums of money to the mothers and their children.
Also in Abuja, a traffic warden made to flee when he saw the crowd approaching, but they calmed his nerves and donated money, drinks and snacks to him. He wept as the Nigerian youths commended him for his diligence to duty despite the meager salary.
Another aged woman, who joined up in cleaning the protest grounds as part of her contribution, was also bombarded with money by protesters as she looked in bemusement.
Meanwhile, the viral picture of a young girl, one Jane Obiene, who has her left leg amputated, but still joined the protest with the aid of her crutches, attracted goodwill to her.
Championed by Dr Chinonso Egemba, popularly known as Aproko Doctor, the fundraiser was to help get her a prosthetic leg since she has not been gainfully employed since 2013 when her leg was amputated.
Although the funding goal was initially N500,000, it was later increased to N1.5million to cover the cost of other expenses. But barely hours after the portal went open, 961 persons crashed the funding goal and raised over N5million for her.
With the overflow, the doctor also intends to help out another male amputee who was at the National Stadium in Surulere to march despite his disabilities.
Funds for Victims, Bereaved Families
One of the things that stood out was how Nigerians rallied round the victims of police brutality and bereaved families. Although the government set up its own Victim Support Fund, notwithstanding, that did not deter Nigerians from donating to their own cause to compensate for the losses.
Health is wealth and who better to understand this than doctors. Several doctors including Aproko Doctor sacrificed their time, intellect and even resources to take care of the wounded.
Backing them, health companies like Avon Medical supplied ambulances free of charge to help treat and convey the injured to the hospital.
Some other medical brands that stood in the gap were Medplus and other brands that supplied medical supplies.
One thing that stood out during the protest was how Nigerians were so open to giving protesters free rides. Even some cab hailing companies soon joined. In Ibadan, a bike startup company @SafeBoda_NGA provided free rides for all protestors to commute for the #IbadanProtests.
Meanwhile, to keep the pulse in the protests, some light entertainment was held at intervals.
From artists singing to talks and presentations, the entertainment can be said to have gingered the protesters to keep going despite the elements and stress.
Food and Drinks
One thing that was in surplus was the food and drinks shared. Most amazing was the quality of dishes as people fell over themselves to contribute to the feeding of protesters. From local dishes to intercontinental and even snacks and confectionaries, the protesters certainly had their fill.
The Place of Prayer
Meanwhile young members of the Christian community went spiritual. Exercising their spiritual authority, the young Christians led by one @Limboblaze began the movement in Lagos with over 600 youths in Alausa. The movement doubled in size with caucuses springing up in cities like Ilorin, Abuja, Kaduna, Abeokuta, among others.
The prayer walks soon went viral and it featured prayers for peace in the country, an end to police brutality and for good governance. In Nigeria, the prayer walks were staged in states like Lagos, Niger, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Kaduna, Niger, Rivers, Kwara, Delta and has even spread globally.
Also, there were several prayers groups by pastors, churches, gospel musicians and even mothers, all targeted at praying for the nation. For Pastor Nathaniel Bassey, founder of Halleluyah Challenge, the crisis started off another 21-day session where Nigerians all over the world tunes in at midnight to pray and worship on social media. The first day had over 41,000 people tune in to seek for God’s face.
Magnanimity after Lekki Shooting
In the aftermath of the shooting in Lekki by soldiers, many churches, hospitals, individuals and even organisations threw its doors open to the wounded, and stranded.
Churches like The Dome (This Present House), the Elevation Church, Daystar, Covenant Lekki Chapel, opened up their churches to accommodate stranded protesters
Some individuals also paid for rooms at Sabitex Hotel, Four Points by Sheraton and other hotels with no hidden agenda.
Treatment for the Injured
In the chaos that erupted after the shooting, many hospitals opened up its beds pro bono with surgeons on standby. Also individuals like Davido offered to foot the medical bills, however, although the state government afterwards stepped in to address the bills, the hospitals showed humanity at its peak.
Some of the hospitals include First Cardiology in Ikoyi, Premier Specialist in Lekki, VICHS in Victoria Island, St. Nicholas Hospital, George’s Memorial Medical Center Off Admiralty Way, Lagoon Hospitals in VI, Ikeja and Ikoyi, and Reddington Hospital in Lekki, Marigold Hospital in Surulere, and Grandville Surgery.
Others include Dr Cik, AVON Medical Practice (Clinic) in Lekki, Brittanio Hospital, Lekki First City Diagnosis LTD, Budo Specialist Hospital, St Edward Specialist Hospital and Cardiac Centre, Lifeline Children’s Hospital, Executive Cardiovascular Clinic, Vedic Lifecore Hospital, Olive Multi-Specialist Hospital, and Preston Hospital.
Succour for Entrepreneurs
Once again, the humanity in Nigerians showed off in the aftermath of the widespread destruction. Organisations, individuals, banks and even governments including the Lagos State government pulled up with support.
The Beer Sectoral Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, made up of a coalition of Nigerian Breweries, Guinness, and International Breweries created a N50million fund to affect victims and families affected by the crises.
Others include The Phoenix Fund by AGS Tribe and Diatom Impact Requirements, which can be accessed by a CAC Registration, proof of residence, financial documents, business owner identity and evidence of damage. It can be accessed via https://www.agstribe.org/phoenixfund/
Also, Oak and Teak Interiors proposed to help five affected businesses in repainting. The support can be accessed through bit.ly/OakandTeakSupport
Not left out were Diary of a Naija Girl SME Support Funds which can be accessed by mailing Ietsrebuildlagos@gmail.com ; Style Me Africa SME Support for Lagos-based fashion or beauty business and can be accessed via @stylemeafrica; Linda Ikeji SME Funds for females and Lagos-based business to be applied through firstname.lastname@example.org ; as well as Naijabrandchick entrepreneurial funding link https://naijabrandchick.typeform.com/to/u4JVWbjN
Banks who also jumped into the loop for SMEs include First Bank Nigeria and can be applied through https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage ; Stanbic Bank SME Support Fund through https://standard bank.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/ ; as well as Access Bank’s N50 billion support in form of interest-free loans and grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to support the rebuilding of businesses affected.
Brands that Supported
There were so many brands that supported with food, drinks, products and services without being cajoled. Organisations like Gatefield Impact provided accommodation and grants for journalists covering the protests. They also provided data support to citizen reporters to enable them stream the protests.
Others brands that stood out were Prince Nduka Ogbaigbena – owned Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper (led by Ijeoma Nwogwugwu) who alongside the team covered the protests without prejudice, a move that recently earned them a N3million fine from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Other brands include Spar Shopping Complex, Flutter Wave, Cowry-wise, Piggyvest, Bigi/Fearless Drink, Chicken Republic, Coca Cola (who donated N20million to cover the medical costs of victims of the protests in hospitals), banks who provided protesters with raincoat and umbrella when the rain came, Sweet Sensation, Royal Hugs and Surprises, Dooney’s Kitchen and so many other caterers.
In all, there was a huge display of humanity that won more hearts to the cause than the protests did.