Nigerians Can’t Breathe By Bayo Oluwasanmi

The massive demonstrations in the United States and all over the world in response to the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd by blood-thirsty racist cops reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr., words that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” 

The quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., explains in plain language to those who are confused why those individuals have taken to the streets. Floyd cried in agony “I can’t breathe.” Nigerians are dying daily moaning that they can’t breathe. 

What it is that President Almajiri, the governors, and members of the National Assembly have failed to hear why Nigerians can’t breathe?

They have failed to hear that our economic plight has worsened over the last five years. They have failed to hear that we are going through a season of discontent, violence, despair, disappointment and hopelessness. They have failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.  

They have failed to hear that we are sick and tired of the wicked ruling class who are more concerned about their status quo, welfare, greed, lusts, than about justice and equality. They have failed to hear that social justice and progress are absolute deterrence to protests and riots. 

They have failed to hear that we are dying of hunger, diseases, and that we are being suffocated by unemployment. They have failed to hear that our lives and dreams are being cut short by armed robbers, ritual killings, auto accidents and lack of healthcare. They have failed to hear that we can breathe because we have been denied blood to brains and oxygen to our lungs. As a result, many have died, many are dying, and many will continue to die. 

To the coward, complacent, and confused Nigerian youths who can’t breathe, it is worth remembering that mass protests have been crucial to all the most important struggles in the world. Protests have always strengthen and shift focus to a movement and keep an issue in the public eye. More importantly, they have served as catalysts to launch campaigns and revolutions, win the vote, overturn hated and unjust laws, and bring down regimes.

Protests have changed the world. Demonstrations for the right to vote took place May 6, 1867 in Hyde Park, London. Two weeks following the protests, the electoral bill was passed into law and the number of people enfranchised quadrupled.

Protest known as “Women’s Sunday” happened June 21, 1908 at Embankment to Hyde Park, London, led to the legislation in 1918 that gave about 8.4 million British women the right to vote. 

The Russian Tsar was toppled February 23, 1917 due  to the massive protest in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was paralyzed by a strike wave and continuous street demonstrations. Three days later, the Tsar was forced to abdicate.

Egypt’s biggest demonstration in history took place in Cairo in 1919 to end British rule. The British arrested Egyptian leaders, more than 10,000 teachers, students, workers, lawyers, and government employees. The arrest sets off the Al Azhar demonstration in Cairo. British was forced to grant nominal independence to Egypt in 1922.

The Freedom March that took place March 24, 1964 from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in the US involved 8,000 black and white activists demanding black voter enfranchisement. The 50-mile walk from Selma Alabama to the state capital Montgomery forced President Lyndon Johnson to sign into law the Voting Rights Act which compelled all states in the US to register black voters. 

Protests lead to progress. No one from abroad will “come home and lead the revolution” for the suffering and smiling Nigerian youths who are being pulverized by crushing economic and social ills. There is no change without sacrifice. The youths have two options: swim or sink. The choice is theirs. The fight is theirs. They own it. It’s their burden. They either fight or perish! 

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