By Peter Cherry
Across the United States, cities with large Nigerian immigrant populations have seen demonstrations in solidarity with the Nigerian protests against SARS police terror as well as the larger issue of a ruling class which represses the people and keeps them locked in poverty. Protests in US cities have included New York City, Baltimore, Columbus, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh, among others.
On Sunday, the Association of Nigerians in Pittsburgh (APN) organized a protest downtown. With about 80 people in attendance, the protest kicked off with chants of “End SARS—Now!” and “Soro Soke,” meaning “Speak up” in the Yoruba language. Many shared their own personal stories about police violence experienced in Nigeria, with one man speaking about how he learned his son had been murdered by the police as he and his wife were running to catch their flight to visit him from the US.
One speaker from Serve the People-Pittsburgh spoke about the organization’s efforts to combat police terror in the city, particularly in Wilkinsburg, with the fight for People’s Justice for Romir Talley. He connected the struggles against police terror in both countries to US imperialism and stressed that when facing state repression, “It is right to rebel!”
Another speaker named Ghandi spoke about the creativity of the Nigerian people, defending expropriation of food from government storehouses by working class Nigerians and stressing the farce of every election in his home country. Pointing to the contradictions involved, he commented, “The senators make tens of thousands of dollars a month, but the people make 40 cents an hour. And the police only 54 cents an hour. The government turns the people against the people. The police turn to robbing rather than starve.”
Around 56 protesters in Nigeria have been killed since the start of the End SARS movement. Last Tuesday, the Nigerian army opened fire at protesters in Lekki, leading to demands for the current government to step down. Ten of Nigeria’s 36 states have announced 24-hour curfews, with Lagos announcing an indefinite curfew.
President Muhammadu Buhari attributed the riotous protests to “hooliganism,” much like protesters in the US have been criminalized while killer police officers walk free.
Buhari, the 77-year old former general and military head of state from 1983 to 1985, has been backed by US imperialism in its drive to consolidate its military and political control over Nigeria under the guise of fighting Islamist group Boko Haram. While his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was ousted for indebting Nigeria to Chinese social imperialism, the current upheavals only show that the people will continue to rebel against their bureaucrat capitalist rulers.
That being said, US imperialism always seeks to dominate the other imperialist powers, and because of this it seeks to exploit popular movements like the End SARS protests for their own ends.
Forces in the military claim to be sympathetic to the demands of the movement, such as Colonel Sagir Musa, who said the military was prepared to intervene in support of protesters, but in reality he only seeks to ensure that the current order be maintained. Musa has collaborated with US imperialism closely in fighting armed insurgents like Boko Haram and other organizations in regions rich with natural gas and oil resources. The one way forward for the protest movement is to continue fighting against the bureaucratic capitalist and landowner Buhari government while opposing cooptation by the US imperialists and the agents of the so-called ‘international community’ like the United Nations.
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