The #EndSars movement in Nigeria has been trending over the last few weeks. SARS which stands for (Special Anti-robbery Squad), is a policing body who were established to address the issue of armed robberies, however reports have come out of their involvement in killings, harassments and ill treatment of innocent civilians. This led to the beginning of peaceful protests all across Nigeria calling for the end of police brutality and bad governance generally in Nigeria and across all African countries. With the rise of these issues, many debates have emerged online between Nigerians at home and those in the diaspora.
READ ALSO: SARS Crushed My Brother And My Dreams
On October 1st 2020 Nigeria celebrated 60 years of independence from colonial rule from the UK. Nigerians across the diaspora made ‘Nigerian Independence’ a trend even a week in advance of the day. While doing so, many other Nigerians on twitter and other social media platforms expressed their frustrations at those who were celebrating. There were many cries for support in relation to ongoing brutality and killings of the youth in Nigeria. Unfortunately these cries were left unnoticed by many. The main issue in the debate was whether it was appropriate for those in the diaspora to celebrate independence day when so many issues remained at home. Many argued that youths in the diaspora have often turned their back on issues at home and they presented/saw Nigeria as only an aesthetic, as well as detaching themselves from the suffering of Africans throughout the continent.
While these points are very important, an understanding of the role that conditioning has played in experiences of many in the diaspora is necessary to fully understand why these differences exist. Growing up Nigerian, or more generally African, in the global north poses quite some challenges. Balancing both African and Western cultures and societal norms often caused many conflicts. Growing up I definitely felt uncertainty about where I could truly call home. It has only been till recently the terms “Black Irish” and “Black Brit” have been seen as positive terms. Prior to this you were seen as black and nothing more. Moving out from a small town in Dublin and meeting like-minded people has definitely made me realise how prominent these issues are within other diaspora youths. There is comfort in knowing others face what you have.
Going back to Nigeria always felt unusual as one's differences are instantly noticed regardless of how much you try to blend in. There is something unique and multidimensional about growing up African in the global north, a constant conflict between your ‘motherland’ and where you have been raised for the majority of your life. We consistently face racism here, and issues of bad governance at home. As well as this we are bombarded with negative depictions of what it means to be Nigerians in the media. Many Africans in the diaspora are left conflicted on whether they should embrace this or to assimilate.
There has definitely been a slowness to act in relation to ongoing issues, but the protests that have been ongoing have shown a unity that I have never experienced before. I think the criticism from the youths at home was necessary in starting a conversation that we don’t normally have. There is a new generation of youths, creatives and innovators constantly pushing for African culture and the empowerment of Africans globally. Whether it is from fashion brands such as Motherlan, Orange Culture, to the ‘year of return’ in Ghana. Diaspora youths are putting African culture on the map in a new way, by reclaiming ownership. The unity that has been shown in the last days after the Lekki massacre and other ongoing issues across the continent shows that the divisions that once existed can be replaced with collaboration. In a country like Nigeria with historical divisions between tribes, the youths have shown older generations that we can break these generational divisions by fighting together for a better Nigeria.
Whether it is posting on social media, donating to organisations such as the feminist coalition, protesting or signing petitions, the help of diaspora is necessary especially with the rise of online activism since the Black Lives Matter movement. The betterment of Africa should be at the forefront, by rewriting our own narratives and pushing for innovation, and our energy focused towards our countries I believe there will be change if not for our generation but for generations to come.
Credit picture: dreamstime.com
Written by Olamide Alao