On October 17, 2020 I attended EndSARSYYC. At almost 30 years old, it was the very first protest I had ever attended. It was held downtown Calgary at (ironically) the Peace Bridge.
I had been protesting online since October 8th, tweeting and retweeting hashtags but I still felt so helpless and kept wishing there was more I could do. I found out about the EndSARSYYC protest the day before, on YAWA! Magazine’s page.
It was very symbolic for me because October 17th happens to my youngest brother’s birthday and he’s currently living in Lagos, Nigeria. I promptly cancelled all my plans that day, including volunteering at a STEM workshop that I had been looking forward to all month. I had to be at the protest by all means!
After seeing scores of videos of the courageous people at the front lines in Nigeria, risking their lives daily to protest, I felt like the least I could do was go out to protest my diaspora.
In -5 deg c weather, about 200 Nigerians and a handful of non-Nigerians came out to protest that day. It was a beautiful thing to witness! We chanted End SARS, shared a moment of silence for the lost souls, heard words of encouragement from community leaders and marched around the peace bridge singing protest songs. I felt so encouraged. After about two hours at the protest grounds, I left feeling hopeful. It felt like Nigeria was on the brink of something great, FINALLY.
But here I am, 4 days later with absolutely NO HOPE and a heart that has been broken into several pieces and then crushed some more. I’m speechless and numb. I have no other words to express how I’m feeling.
A friend of mine who lives in Nigeria kept telling me all this while not to stress myself because he felt Nigeria was a lost cause. His dreams were, and still are, to find a way to leave the country permanently.
I kept encouraging him to look at things from a different perspective. “This time feels different”, I said over and over these past two weeks. On October 20th, I sent him a message that read, “I’m sorry, I should have listened to you. What a wretched government!”
I am trying to muster the courage to feel hopeful again.
I’m trying to muster the courage to keep up the fight.
I’m trying to muster the courage to believe that something good will come out of this and that it would not all be for nothing.
– Somto Ibe