#EndSARS: Protesters are Real Life Heroes Pit Against a Supervillain State

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“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”

When Peter Parker’s uncle first said those words to him, the idea he was attempting to express was rather simple. Peter was suddenly vested with a unique power, and as such he suddenly had a unique responsibility to the world around him. He could not simply be a man with spider-powers who worked as a photographer.  He had to become the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man because in the idealized world of superheroes with good intentions, with great power comes a balance of reciprocal responsibility. 

In the real world, it isn’t that simple. For the most part, the people we vest with the most power; our political leaders, the older generation, and our law enforcement neglect the crucial nature of their roles. They become blasé about the responsibility they have accepted to bear and brazenly abuse it. We exalt powerful but irresponsible men, women, cultures, institutions, and nations. 

With the #EndSARS protests this past week, there seems to be a reversal of roles. The Nigerian youth have become the real-life superheroes we hoped for in our leaders. 

Sure there have been some misguided and distracted moments, accusations, counter-accusations, bickerings, etc, but there’s an entire marvel movie dedicated to Captain America and Iron Man fighting and making up. 

More importantly, there has also been a remarkable amount of determination, coordination, and unrelenting enthusiasm for doing the right thing. A determination hinged in the understanding that our status quo doesn’t have to be the status quo.

To repeat a wildly used cliché this week, I have been in awe of it. But who wasn’t in awe when they saw Thor touch down in Wakanda for the first time? Superheroes can’t help but make a grand entrance.  

Our superpower is that, despite the uncertainty, despite the seemingly insurmountable institution of the state predetermines the failure of every cause, despite the culture of cynicism taught to us from the crib, despite being Nigerians living in Nigeria, we decided that our responsibility to change our circumstances for ourselves and the generation after us, overrode everything else. We looked at certain failures in the face and said fuck it. 

So if the End SARS protestors are heroes, then what are their powers?

This is the most fascinating aspect of the movement for me. I think our power isn’t simply our ability to shut down roads or mobilize funds or force the world to pay attention. I believe our power is not even in realizing that we have the capacity to do these things. If the small successes of these protests were a preconceived outcome then the events we are witnessing wouldn’t be unprecedented.

Our superpower is that, despite the uncertainty, despite the seemingly insurmountable institution of the state predetermines the failure of every cause, despite the culture of cynicism taught to us from the crib, despite being Nigerians living in Nigeria, we decided that our responsibility to change our circumstances for ourselves and the generation after us, overrode everything else. We looked at certain failure in the face and said fuck it. 

In other words, our superpower is our deep sense of responsibility. Responsibility fuelled our anger, which gave us the courage to stare down men with guns and tear gas, made us stand in the rain, clean up after protesting, retweet a hashtag 2 million-plus times in a day and boo a Governor. Our responsibility made us go on national television and in front of the entire world and call Buhari (a former military dictator) ‘A Bad Boy’

So it’s safe to say the Nigerian youth are real-life superheroes and somehow, just like every superhero, they are succeeding in a sport where the game is rigged against them. 

I have struggled to articulate my thoughts about this week and ultimately I have nothing profound to say but I found myself repeating the common refrain that has been told to superheroes over the years – “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”.  Fortunately, this is something I suspect this movement already intrinsically understands because their power is their responsibility.

There will be rough patches, growing pains, and setbacks but I firmly believe we are in good, albeit occasionally unsteady hands.  And when we occasionally stumble, we will need to extend ourselves the grace we extend the superheroes in the movies because we understand that to be powerful is not to be infallible. 

“In an ideal world this story would be resolved in an 1 hour 30 mins with a happy ever after. Instead it’s been a horrible tragedy of death, physical and psychological trauma with no clear end in sight.  Because this is real life where the righteousness of your cause simply does not matter. 

We have lost people and we mourn our fallen heroes. But the villainy of the state does not extinguish our cause. Our loss only makes us more aware of the stakes at hand. It only makes us more powerful. More responsible. More certain. We have no choice but to continue however we can. You know what they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

#EndSARS #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY

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