I got this message to repost from someone involved in organizing protests in Nigeria on Saturday, October 17th at 6:18 PM EST time. “They are planning to deploy Nigeria army to stop the protesters, pls let us go and get Nigerian flags no Nigeria army will dare shoot at any Nigerian holding Nigeria flag. Advised by a retired colonel…it is a military code. Pls repost.” Photo of Nigerian flag covered in blood. Original Source Unknown.
That following Tuesday, this photo was circulating widely on social media. The Nigerian military walked calmly up to the protesters at Lekki gate, firing hundreds of rounds at peaceful protesters. This is a photo of a flag covered in blood of a fallen Nigerian soldier, Oke. His body and murder displayed all over social media. Disbelief does a lot of maintenance work for state violence because it is space people often get caught – stuck if you will. People were singing the national anthem while being shot at by the military. “Innocent people were just sitting there peacefully! How could they?”
Disbelief results from maintaining hope and faith. Make no mistake: Killing is what police do. There are no limits to the violence the state will use to preserve itself. They maintain order by causing fear and establishing themselves as the only form of security when police are what you need protecting from. In Jackie Wang’s book Carceral Capitalism she writes, “This evolution in the social function of the state from provider of social services to provider of security also represented an evolution in how [marginalized] populations in the United States would be managed.” The same could be said for Nigeria – Buhari even referenced this in his address: “But remember that the government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, and the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence,” Buhari firmly stated. Buhari was creating the enemy he swears to be protecting Nigerians from while refraining from denying his involvement in the murder of protesters. I find it even more ironic as Buhari assumed his first head of state role in the ‘83 by a coup d’état, overthrowing a democratically elected presidency.
Similar to how black people are branded as undeserving of remorse and more likely to commit crimes, young Nigerians with nice cars, name brand items, or trappings of modernity are associated with being “robbers” or being up to no good. The (somewhat outdated) slang is “Yahoo boys”. This association is false and these men are often opportune targets for extortion — their murders justified with labeling them criminals. In Emeka’s case, with my aunt in the backseat watching her children be tormented, he had no choice but to capitulate for fear of murder. Most of my family and folks I talked to echo these sentiments. I imagine many Nigerian youths and protesters feel the same.
Police have been murdering people as a result of these protests since they began. Killing people is how we got here, we should not put it past them to kill us (in the United States or in Nigeria) when that is what we’re protesting. The Nigerian military proved this point by unloading fire on a crowd sitting peacefully and silently and denied it even happened, calling it (you guessed it) “Fake News”. People in Nigeria live under a government so inexplicably corrupt, upon embezzling 36 million naira (~$100,000 USD) from the state’s examination board, a government clerk claimed that a “snake ate the money”, to auditors. The carelessness of the Nigerian government is so vast and profound one could do multiple dissertations on the audacious absurdity of the Nigerian government. One could also draw distinct parallels between the games the Nigerian government plays to the operations in the United States.
The US government’s manipulation of the press, attempted silencing of black rage by writing off militant resistance as distinct from the movement, the wealthy’s non-payment of taxes but benefiting from them, the soulless imperialist nature of the US state, the remnants of colonial structures on indigenous lands–the list runs long. We cannot deny the existence of police in Nigeria as a direct result of colonialism and a pillar of western rule. The role imperialist domination plays in the formation and maintenance of nation states on the African continent must be tied to abolition movements in the US. Abolition must reach across oceans and is inherently decolonial if applied with integrity. Patricia Hill Collins’ matrix of domination must account for the grievances of people in the global south and must inform our fights for freedom on US soil.
I’d like to pose a provocation. Maybe the movement here in the US can learn from what is happening in Nigeria to build solidarity rather than the other way around. Police in Nigeria as an extension of direct British colonial rule has only been around since 1960 (the year of Nigerian Independence from Great Britain), growing steadily in numbers over time. The emergence of police and military in Nigeria was a direct product of coloniality and British rule in the 1880s. It’s showing the idea that police and the capitalist, colonial, white supremacist structures that cause them should not exist and should not be needed. Abolition.
There is recent precedence in Nigeria for direct action. In my hometown of Enugu-Ukwu, no one depended on the government to grow food in their backyards, collect water in water towers, set up hospitals and care centers, build roads, build large homes, and set up market places. It was through familial relationships and a shared vision for a good life outside of what the Nigerian government could provide that codified these projects. This is not a utopia and there are problems in Enugu-Ukwu, but the reliance on non-colonial governance structures has turned it into a haven. Folks in Igboland believed so much in this vision, they waged war to try andseparate from Nigeria and were punished with attempted genocide. And yet, my people act on.
In this article, I am not making a single case, but many cases predicated on the idea that the world has much to learn about the future of capitalism and how far the state will go to protect such a disgusting trajectory from what happened in Nigeria. Buhari gave a presidential address this Thursday, October 22, where he stated Nigerians mistook the disbanding of SARS officers with reassignment to other forces of police for a show of weakness. He refused to absorb that the Nigerian protesters were not falling for empty reforms. In the wake of Nigerian forces murdering innocent peaceful civilians, he told international powers to essentially mind their business and did not deny ordering an attack on innocent civilians.
What can we do right now? Even the most disorganized, spontaneous responses will be repressed, let alone organized, coherent approaches. Tactics of resistance to state repression including direct action, mutual aid and other facets we call anarchism, communism, and movement formation in the virtual and material world are what we can do however messy. I want to note that the absence of the state is not the benevolence of a people. We need to show up to remain in conflict with each other and find non punitive, non-harmful, non carceral methods of relating to each other. To support Nigeria, take part in direct action, build the world of relationships you want to see today, support folks doing abolition work near you, bloom where you are planted, and send money where you can. I have vetted no sources, but have seen the below links floating around to support:
Feminist Coalition in Nigeria (https://feministcoalition2020.com/) (Currently no longer accepting donations)