By Benjamin Njoku
The United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee has joined U.S-based Nigerian artist and peace activist, Prince Ayo Manuel Ajisebutu and the global community to observe a candlelight vigil for the lives lost during Nigeria’s violent military campaign against #EndSARS protestors.
The #EndSARS movement calls for the dismantling of the state police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, and has expanded to broader calls for government reform and an end to police brutality.
“The activists and heroes who gave their lives in an effort to end police violence and to bring a more peaceful inclusive Nigeria are not only important to Nigerians in Nigeria, but important to me personally and the Nigerians in my community and to everyone in my congressional district and throughout the country,” said Lee.
“The United States Congress is paying attention and we stand with you,” Lee continued. “I’ve joined with my colleagues to call on the president to acknowledge the demands of the Nigerian people to stop the violence and to lead real investigations into police brutality. We’ve also urged both the United Nations and the United States Department of State to support the efforts of the Nigerian people to demand Justice, accountability, and an end to violence from their government
Lee encouraged Nigerians in America to call their congressional representatives to urge them to co-sponsor “H. Res. 1216” (11/24/2020 House Resolution 1216), which condemns the use of excessive force by Nigerian security forces, calls for an investigation into the Lekki Toll Gate massacre in Lagos and other violations of human rights, and supports the demands of the #EndSARS movement for justice, accountability, and meaningful police reform. The resolution was introduced on November 12 by Congressman Al Green (D) of Texas.
“Democracy depends on the right of people to publicly and peacefully demand accountability from their government,” Lee concluded. “Young people in Nigeria are on the front line of fighting for justice, just as young people are here in the United States of America. You are part of a movement that is standing up to demand an end to police brutality and injustice wherever it exists. So I stand with all of you and the people of Nigeria to demand peace, justice, and respect for each and every human being.”
The global vigil event was promoted by Blend Forward, an organization founded by Prince Ajisebutu to promote peaceful actions that unite people for the good of all. Blend Forward calls on Nigerian youths to wear a blue ribbon and and fly blue flags in remembrance of those who have died at the hands of police and soldiers, and encourages people everywhere to embrace these blue symbols until all who have been brutalized by either the police or soldiers receive justice. The blue ribbon is a declaration of self-love and unconditional love for all human beings and the environment.
“There’s a dark cloud over Nigeria and only love can cast it away,” says Prince Ajisebutu. “The elders must humble themselves and embrace the crying youths and say we are sorry. We eat all the grains and that’s why you are hungry, but together we shall make your future better than the past, for this is a new beginning for all of us. From now on, the police and the soldiers shall be your friend. We shall make Nigeria a model for Africa and the rest of the world to follow as a country that is run with love.”