When the EndSARS protests began, Nigerians deployed various means to raise their voice and contribute to the rising national movement. People showed up with placards, musicians sang, writers wrote, photographers documented, DJs kept spirits up, footballers juggled balls, and dancers danced. One anonymously-clad youth, wielding symbolic flags, stuck out like a conductor of an orchestrated cacophony.
He appeared in tracksuits, face covered and bearing his formidable weapon of resistance, a flag. To his flagpole are two pieces of clothing. One is the easy-to-recognize green and white flag of the country, and the other, a white piece of clothing, emblemed #EndSARS.
His poses in those photographs are iconic. In one, he is standing in front of the Central Bank of Nigeria, his flag gaining expression with the current of that day’s wind. In another, he is standing on a mobile shed designed for traffic wardens. To me, those photographs speak of defiance and triumph.
One month after the Lekki Massacre, he began a solo campaign and new pictures of him carrying his flag on the streets of Lagos (and elsewhere) began to emerge. “I started my lone protest at exactly one month after the unfortunate Lekki Massacre,” He told me. He saw it as a matter of duty to protest for those who were injured or murdered courtesy of the Nigerian Army’s gunfire.
He sees the movement as a primary part of his life now, and he takes his flag with him wherever he goes. In the days leading to Christmas, he was spotted dressed in a Santa Claus costume and his flag rebranded as he spread Noel vibes. He believes it’s important to continue to do this for the victims of state-sanctioned violence.
One sunny afternoon in December 2020, I spoke to the popular flagbearer of Nigeria’s Endsars movement who is known to the public as ‘Flagboi’. On phone, we spoke about his participation and choice of voice for the Endsars protests. The 24-year-old spoke in a throaty manner, a man of little saying, he sometimes paused in the mid-discussion, scouting for the right words.
What prompted your involvement in the protest and at what point did you decide to join?
I joined the protest on the second day in Lagos state where I live. Nationally, police brutality and bad governance is something that is affecting the lives of Nigerian youths, not even just Nigerian youths, but everyone living in Nigeria. I have never been a victim of brutality, not in a typical way, but I have had my phone searched in the past.
I think your style of protest is unique, looking at how you carry emblemed flags and the costume you wear. What inspired that?
Before the EndSARS protests, I have always been a creative. An art creator, a dancer. So the whole camouflage, the way it keeps me anonymous is all part of my art. That was the best personality I could bring to the protests. It is an art I created for myself.
What does it feel like to be an active participant in a generation that’s demanding change from a traditionally irresponsible government?
First of all, I believe that if this generation doesn’t get it done, then we are done for. A lot of people came out and for the first time, we were speaking the same language. It seems unbelievable. The individual doesn’t stand alone with his struggles anymore. People of my age grade were all saying the same thing. It’s like break time in primary school when everyone is not afraid to speak their minds. it’s a good feeling, I won’t lie to you.
We can’t put the load of the struggle on the next generation who do not even know what it is at this time. If we don’t fight for them now, it’d be worse.
After the Lekki Massacre, the motivation to keep the resistance going dwindled, but you carried on, launching a solo protest armed with your flag. We are deeply moved by this. What inspired you?
Obviously, the flag I brought to the protests made me popular during the protests and that is opening doors for me now. I became popular, a celebrity of sorts. Some people came out to protest because they were inspired by the flag but some of them are dead now.
I started my lone protest exactly one month after the unfortunate Lekki Massacre. I began to protest the death of those who died. People had lost the courage to physically protest against the government so I tried to do that for the dead and the injured even though we all know what the outcome would be.
What is the cost of your courage?
I get harrassed and also get encouraged by the police. Honestly, I don’t know if those who harass me are truly members of the police force because most of the ones I have encountered have been nice to me. In Calabar, I met the Police and Civil Defense Officers. When they saw me, we were able to communicate without issues. It doesn’t feel like the same police that has dispensed brutality for years. They all salute me, including soldiers.
You mentioned meeting officers in Calabar. Were you doing inter-state protests?
I was in Calabar for a performance so I took my flag with me. I seized the opportunity to take the protest to the streets of Calabar. I want it to go round Nigeria. We need everyone’s mind to be on the same page.
Knowing how family could act, did they try to stop you?
It has been a serious issue in my house but they’ve been unable to stop Flagboi. It is normal for family to do that but I have chosen to be a part of the movement. I am just this person who does whatever his heart is set on so far it’d not hurt anyone.
What does it feel like to be recognized for your contributions to the movement. Also, how do you intend to continue?
I’ve been trying to strike a balance given the overwhelming load of fame. It is not an easy part. I do not know yet, but I am doing this already. I believe everyone should be able to protest anyway they can, my flag is what I use. For now I will continue carrying my flag.