CORE Nigeria: “We will fight for our total liberation”

On Oct. 3, 2020, a young man was killed by the police in Ughelli, a town in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, a country rife with militarization, police abuse and deadly levels of inequality. A video of this incident mobilized thousands of Nigerian youths who began to push the #EndSARS revolt on social media and in the streets. In spite of the supposed dissolution of SARS in early October as a result of the protests, a new police force was formed, and the country was soon drowned in blood with the massacre of at least 36 people Oct. 20.

Baba Aye of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) calls for a people’s uprising against an illegitimate regime in Nigeria.

by Baba Aye

On Oct. 3, 2020, a young man was killed by the police in Ughelli, a town in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. A video of this incident was circulated by residents of the city on WhatsApp and posted on Twitter, sparking the #EndSARS revolt by Nigerian youths. The country was soon drowned in blood with the massacre of at least 36 people Oct. 20. The bulk of these was at the Lekki tollgate, in Lagos state – one of the two main centers of the uprising in the mega-city where one-tenth of the country’s population resides.

Nigeria is the most populous country on the African continent, with just over 200,000,000 inhabitants. The country was under military rule for 30 of its first 40 years of independence in the 1900s. The republic was reinstated in 1999. But in Nigeria, civil rule has been marked with militarization. The two longest-serving presidents – including Mr. Muhammadu Buhari who is currently in the saddle – are retired generals who ruled at different times as heads of military juntas in the 1970s and 1980s.

Police brutality has become a key element in this militarization of politics and social life, along with a strong clientelist trend of administration. The most dreaded unit of the police is the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). A 2016 Amnesty International report heavily documented the sheer brutality, torture-induced “confessions” and strings of extra-judicial killings committed by SARS.

Protesters were attacked by the police and hired thugs in the employ of the state. With these reactions failing to achieve the aim of ending the spread of protest, a massacre was planned.

The Oct. 3 killing took place within a context of increasing economic deprivation and political radicalization largely spurred by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) since taking to the streets to protest. The coalition, which is aligned with the radical Africa Action Congress, launched its #RevolutionNow campaign on Aug. 5, 2019.

The #EndSARS protest movement has been formally leaderless – partly because the spontaneous movement took on a non-partisan character. There were efforts in several quarters within the movement to limit its demands to ending police brutality. But, by the second week of protests, #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria began trending on the Nigerian blogosphere, where larger narratives of the movement were shaped.

The state did all it could to break the movement. Protesters were attacked by the police and hired thugs in the employ of the state. With these reactions failing to achieve the aim of ending the spread of protest, a massacre was planned. 

First, a curfew was declared in Lagos state, a major epicenter of the #EndSARS movement, along with Abuja, the country’s administrative capital. Before the hour of curfew descended, soldiers and police moved in on the Lekki tollgate and the front of the Lagos State House of Assembly at Alausa, the two main spots in the state where thousands of people had peacefully gathered under the Nigerian flag, day and night, to demand an end to police brutality and bad governance.

Like the cowards they are, state agents first cut off all CCTV camera and streetlights, then moved in shooting live bullets. They had no intention of just dispersing the crowd of peaceful protestors, who were singing the national anthem and waving Nigerian flags – soldiers blocked the two main exits and started firing live bullets into the crowd. 

The Coalition for Revolution condemns this despicable killing, describing it as “unacceptable.” CORE holds the Nigerian government responsible and insists that every single officer involved in committing these despicable murders must be booked on charges. The coalition further salutes the Nigeria Bar Association’s stand to support legal proceedings at all relevant fora against the Nigeria military, and holds that Lagos State Gov. Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is equally culpable in this premeditated massacre and should be held accountable.

The political aim of the government was to buy itself some respite with repression: But that goal was dead on arrival. Despite continued sporadic shootings by security personnel in different parts of Lagos and other states, angry youths have taken over several areas, burning tires and raising barricades.

The genie of resistance is out of the bottle. The struggle now unfolding will be turbulent. But, united and determined, the people will win.

These areas include the Lekki link bridge, Ikorodu township and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The Bola Tinubu-owned TV Continental station was also ransacked by protesters. Our oppressors have sowed the wind of mass suffering and massacre; now, they start to reap the whirlwind of mass anger.

CORE insists the regime of retired Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has lost all legitimacy and must be forced to abdicate power. The exploited and oppressed Nigerian masses want and deserve an end to bad governance. We will fight for our total liberation. 

While the government has since been able to restore order, this is at best temporary. The genie of resistance is out of the bottle. The struggle now unfolding will be turbulent. But, united and determined, the people will win.

Down with the regime! Another Nigeria is possible! Justice for the Lekki Martyrs! Justice for all victims of police brutality! The people united can never be defeated!

Baba Aye is a trade union leader and co-convener of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE). An activist of over three decades, he fights for a better world where development brightens the lives of the many and not just the 1 percent. Baba has published book chapters, working papers and journal articles on health and social care, industrial relations, development economics, migration, workers’ education, identity politics, women’s liberation, precarity and globalization. He is also the author of “Era of Crises & Revolts: Perspectives for Workers and Youth.” This article is an expanded version of a press statement issued in the immediate aftermath of the Lekki & Alausa massacre.