The #EndSARS protests will undoubtedly go down in the annals of the country as one of the momentous events in recent times. Youths from all walks of life united on the streets, demanding an end to police brutality, compensation for the families of victims of police killings and other demands. The peaceful protests went on for about 14 days before it was hijacked by hoodlums and turned bloody. However, the saddest point of the protests was when security operatives allegedly opened fire on demonstrators at the Lekki (Lagos) tollgate on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Though the protests had no official leader, there is no doubt that certain celebrities were actively involved in the movement. Saturday Beats takes a look at some of these celebs.
If ever there was any doubt that Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, would make a brilliant lawyer if he had not pursued his music career, such was cleared in the past few weeks as the #EndSARS protests raged. Falz stood resolutely with the protesters as he called on the government to listen to the youths and act on their demands. He also constantly educated his fans and followers on the position of the law as regards issues that arose in the course of the civil demonstrations. He supported the judicial panels of enquiry raised by state governments and enjoined youths to nominate representatives that would sit on the panels. Shortly after Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, declared a 24-hour curfew in the state, Falana lampooned the government for its tacit admission that it could not safeguard the lives of its citizens. He then called on youths to stay safe and get ready to regroup when the curfew was lifted. He also condemned the shooting of unarmed protesters.
When the protests started, singer, Damini Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy, was criticised by many for not lending his support and speaking out early enough. But he soon ‘corrected’ his wrong by offering to pay the legal fees of anybody who had issues with the police in the course of the protests.
The ‘Way Too Big’ singer wrote on social media, “I have taken the past week to gather my thoughts. I usually respond to these matters with my emotions and frustrations. This time, I have chosen to ignore the attempts; well-meaning or derogatory, to draw me out. This is not and should not be about me. It is about a fundamental problem that affects us all Nigerians, as Africans, and as human beings.
“I have created a sub-fund under my charity, The Reach, to help protesters that are wrongfully harmed/arrested by SARS during and after these protests. This is a fund for the people by the people.”
Popular singer, Ayodeji Balogun, aka Wizkid, fired his first salvo in the #EndSARS protests earlier in the month when he directed a post to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on social media. Reacting to the president’s goodwill message to Donald Trump when the latter tested positive for COVID-19, the pop star wrote on Twitter, “Donald Trump is not your business, old man. Police/Sarz (sic) still killing Nigerian youths on a daily. Do something. Nothing concern you for America. Face your country.”
One of the President’s aides, Lauretta Onochie, later called out the singer but he was unperturbed as he continued to identify with the #EndSARS protests. He even joined demonstrators in London United Kingdom, on Sunday, October 7.
Evidently angered by the shooting of unarmed protesters in Lekki, Wizkid again addressed the President on Twitter.
“You are a failure. Old and incompetent. Step down. We don’t want you, your Vice President and your IG. Resign,” he wrote.
Top singer, Tiwa Savage, has shown that she knows more than just putting out hit songs and shaking her bum sensuously.
Along with other artistes, Tiwa took to the streets and joined thousands of youths in calling for an end to the notorious and dreaded police unit.
In a post she uploaded on Twitter, she wrote, “I don’t even know what to think right now. All I know is that we cannot stop now. Ending SARS is not even the tip of the iceberg. Police reform, healthcare, infrastructure, education, fight against gender-based violence…the list is plenty…we will hold these leaders accountable. They have played with our lives for too long…”
Days after the protests continued unabated, Savage got so passionate about the cause that she called on Beyonce and other international brands to speak up for Nigeria. In a video she posted on her Instagram page, she said, “I’m calling on Beyoncé and her team. The same way they used their platform to elevate and show the world that ‘Black is King’ and how beautiful afrobeat and African culture is, I want them to please use their voice(s) and platform(s) right because the same country that birth(ed) this genre is on fire right now.”
Actress, Mercy Aigbe, did not leave her fans hanging as she joined them on the streets for the protests.
Apart from regularly showing up at the protest grounds, she was also vocal on social media. After the protests had gone on for some days, she had written on Instagram, “Great Nigerian youths, I am so proud of everyone involved in this movement. It is time to re-strategise. Avoid where those hoodlums are. Whatever you do, please be peaceful. Stay at home during the curfew and be safe. Remember we need you in numbers to flush them out come 2023. We will continue to move.”
Also, when the protests appeared to have been taken over by hoodlums, Aigbe wrote, “Focus. Stop the looting. Stop destroying properties of your fellow citizens. Stop fighting yourselves. Stop the destruction (and) burning of public properties. They were built with our money for God’s sake. Stop the killings. All these acts defeat and stand against what we have been advocating and fighting for.”
‘As tough as nails’ is a phrase many have used to describe singer and disc jockey, Obianuju Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch, these past days. The entertainer was at the Lekki tollgate as fire was allegedly opened on protesters by security operatives. Throughout the carnage, Switch was ‘live’ on Instagram as she transmitted to the world what was happening in real time at the scene. Many celebrities and fans applauded her bravery, even as they implored her to be safe. At a point, rumours began circulating that she had been apprehended by security operatives but she later debunked the reports, re-iterating that she was safe. She also visited hospitals where some victims of the attack were being treated and she went with some other protesters to a church in Victoria Island which threw open its doors for protesters to sleep.
The next morning, Udeh continued filming and she reported that shots were still being fired upon unarmed protesters.
‘Ada Ada’ singer, Chinedu Okoli, aka Flavour, is one artiste that is good at singing about love. However, when it comes to struggles, he also does not back down.
The singer with some of his colleagues of South-East origins were at the forefront of the protests in that part of the country. He was constantly on the protests grounds and he made speeches, joining youths to call for an end to police brutality and justice for those who had lost their lives.
At a point, the singer alleged that his life and that of his colleagues were being threatened by the Enugu State government. Together with Phyno, Zoro and Kcee, they released a statement which read, “Today, our lives were threatened and we are making it clear that if anything happens to any of us, let it be known that it was done by the Enugu State government. Our peaceful protest was going well until we reached the government house. Along the way, we noticed a group of thugs joined the protests. The governor came out but refused to speak up and address the protesters. Instead, he addressed the thugs. The thugs tried to fight us but we recognised their plan.”
Popular rapper, Chibuzor Azubuike, was one of the most prominent faces at the protests which took place in the South-East regcon of the country. Phyno stood resolutely with some of his colleagues as they marched against police brutality and bad governance. It was obvious that the singer felt strongly about the issues raised by the youths as he gave several impassioned speeches at the rallies.
Many people probably thought it was a joke when social media comedian, Debo Adebayo, aka Mr. Macaroni, started canvassing support for the #EndSARS protests, but he quickly showed that this time around, he was totally serious.
He was visible at the protests in Lagos, as he motivated youths to stay focused in fighting for their rights. The comedian has a history of activism having attended four universities before he could graduate all because he always spoke up on issues that the authorities were not comfortable about. This evidently came in handy as even when he was threatened, he did not back down. He took to social media to inform his fans that some strange faces had trailed him to his area of residence but he was not cowed. He has continued to talk about the protests and its ideals.
Douglas Agu, Runtown, was one of the first artistes that got publicly involved in the protests. He mobilised youths to join the protests through his social media pages. He followed this up by constantly bringing infractions during the demonstrations to the attention of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other public officials. After the shootings at Lekki, the ‘Mad Over You’ singer called on the international media to investigate the sad incident.
Actress, Toyin Abraham, has shown in the past that she is an empathetic individual who is concerned about the wellbeing of her fans. So, it was not surprising to those who knew her that she identified with the #EndSARS protests.
The mother-of-one was part of protests in two cities— Ibadan (Oyo State) and Lagos. She passionately called for an end to police brutality and enjoined youths to speak up for their future. She also wrote on Instagram, “I am more than my movies. I am an instrument for change and a destiny implementer. You can do this. Love you all.”
It is said that ‘big things often come in small packages’ and ‘Penalty’ singer gave meaning to that statement in the course of the #EndSARS protests. He was very visible at the protests in the Agege area of Lagos, where he is very popular. He led several youths to march across the area, demanding for a cessation of police brutality, especially against youths. The singer also took it a notch further when he protested in a church on Sunday. His actions drew commendation from a wide section of Nigerians, with many applauding him for being socially conscious.