Tuesday, January 18, 2022

His eyes are on the goal as he steps up to take a penalty kick for his team. He takes a few steps back, exhales, rushes towards the ball ferociously, slows down as he inched closer; he uses the subtle panenka kick, lobbing the ball into the net. The goalkeeper is nowhere to be found. The spot-kick taker wears a number 4 jersey for Remo Stars, a second division football club in the Nigerian Professional Football League. His hair is braided in three cornrows, and he looks only as dangerous as Sergio Ramos (who also wears number 4) on the pitch until he starts smiling. Going through a video made for him, Kaka’s (as fondly called) defensive acumen is as exciting as his hunger for goals. Kaka was linked to an European team move that was in the works. Kaka was promising, but unlike the Brazilian star he was nicknamed after, or the Spanish defender whom he shares a jersey number with, Kazeem will not maximize his potential. His offence? Being a Nigerian. 

endsars protest
Kaka’s Tears. Illustration by sef adeola.

Kaka had gone out with a teammate to relax and have some non-football fun when they were stopped by men of the F-SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force. According to his friend, they identified themselves as footballers but were profiled as criminals and all their pleas fell on deaf ears. The operatives put them in a car and set out for their station. Kazeem was not having it, as he continued to argue with the operatives. Enraged by his determination, one of the operatives pushed him out of the moving car and Kazeem was instantly crushed to death by an oncoming vehicle. The 21-year-old Kazeem, his talent, and dreams died on the spot. There was a peaceful protest to demand justice for Kaka where five more people were killed by the Police. In Nigeria, you either listen to the police or buy your dreams. But many Nigerians live with the trauma of the prices they paid to be alive. 

Franklin had gone to watch a championship play-off match between Brentford and Fulham and was on his way home when he was stopped by operatives. Franklin’s first offence was that he had flouted the curfew by 11 minutes, his second offence was having a shisha pot in the boot of his car; he had to be punished for these crimes. He was taken out of his car, sardined with other illegally detained Nigerians and was driven around until about 2 am when he was taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw N15,000 ($39) as his bail. Franklin added that “I do not drive at night anymore since then and I have a great phobia for anything Police authorities, be it legitimate or otherwise.”

Many middle-class Nigerians believed that the Police brutality, especially from F-SARS was limited only to their economic division, but more victim accounts are beginning to prove otherwise. 

Nigerian artist, Wale Adenuga, recently recounted how he was harassed at gun-point with his friend, gospel artist, Bob Fitts. He said,

“till now, Bob and I still relive that experience…”

The Ooni of Ife, a traditional ruler of the Yoruba Ife kingdom has mentioned how his daughter was harassed and almost killed by F-SARS despite identifying herself. Leading Nigerian banker, Ibukun Awosika, also mentioned that her children have been victims of SARS harassment. Felix Orole, an Assistant Professor at Australian Catholic University said he was harassed for looking “fresh”. Felix works outside the country and was only visiting his family, but still met the same fate. In Nigeria, the brutality spreads far and wide, as long as your feet are in the country. 

Paul, a University of Ilorin student shared his experience with me. Paul had stayed late in school to study at the university library, before leaving around 10 pm, for his hostel. Paul was picked as soon as he alighted from the bus, and was driven around until 1am before they let him go for a N5,000 ($13) ransom.

Bayo* was forcefully evicted from a commercial motorcycle and accused of being an armed robber. Bayo said when he tried to struggle, the officer moved closer to him and said he would make his life miserable for embarrassing him. Bayo was taken to F-Divison in Ilorin, where the officer whom he later identified as Mr Eze, accused him of armed robbery. In shock, Bayo said “haba Mr Eze”, and another officer immediately cocked his gun, promising to shoot Bayo, for insinuating that Mr Eze was lying. Understanding the dire situation, Bayo begged for his life and was eventually driven to an ATM, where they withdrew the last N3,000 ($7) in his account. 

These incidences happen to victims like half-formed dreams. It is illusionary. It is like an out-of-body experience for some. In the comments and responses of most victims, what they want is justice. Justice for the harassment that they face. Justice for the trauma that they deal with. Justice for money that they have lost. Justice for the limbs that are missing. Justice for the lives that are gone. Justice for the dreams that are buried. Justice for Tiamiyu Kazeem. This justice will come in the form of ending the notorious SARS unit, and reforming the Police force. At least ten people have been killed since the beginning of the #EndSARS nationwide protests. Several illegal arrests have been done. Peaceful protesters are being shot at. Will we ever get justice for the dreams that come here to die?

This story is the third instalment in a five-part series about the ongoing #endsars protest in Nigeria. You can read the first instalment here and the second instalment here.

Muhammed Akinyemi is a Nigerian Journalist and writer, currently telling human rights, space and minority rights stories in Nigeria. You can reach him on akinyemimuhammed@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @theprincelyx.

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