A Commentary on Falz’ End-SARS Video: “Johnny”
By: Deji Yesufu
The Nigerian musician Folarin Falana with stage name “Falz the Bahd Guy” published the video to his song “Johnny” two days ago, 10th of November, 2020, on YouTube. The three minute video captures perfectly everything that has happened regarding the EndSARS protests that enveloped Nigeria for close to three weeks. If you have not seen the video, I urge you to take sometime to watch it now:
Falz, dressed in all white, with his trademark spectacles without lenses, is lying in the pool of his own blood, but at the same time rapping out the lyrics of the song – “Johnny”. His hair is tinted: a message to Nigerian policemen who think that every young man with tinted hair is a Yahoo-Boy. Falz is saying in essence that one can be dressed like this and still be very creative, productive and adding to the Nigerian economy in legal ways. Unfortunately the young Nigerian man has just been gunned down and he must relay his message from the grave in the pool of his own blood. The song is laced with a background chorus saying “…Johnny just dropped…” A visibly angry Falz is pictured reeling out his lyrics, while videos of police carrying out extrajudicial killings of young Nigerian are placed intermittently in the video (see timeline 0.24, 0.34 and 0.38 for a few instances). At timeline 1.46 the song is paused and the events of 20th October, 2020, at Lekki Toll Gate are replayed again. The young man making the video is heard in the background saying that this is Lekki Toll Gate and soldiers are shooting at unharmed protesters. That singular video refutes all the lies that soldiers did not shoot at unarmed protesters. There were indeed shooting of young Nigerians that day and it remains a blight on our national history, just as the blood stained Nigerian flag from the scenes that night perfectly depict.
For Folarin Falana, son of Nigerian legal luminary, Femi Falana, the EndSARS protest is a personal issue – just as it is for millions of others who joined in the protest later. Falz and a few friends had commenced the EndSARS protest in Lagos in the first week of October, 2020. And like wild-fire the event caught up to every part of Nigeria. The Nigerian government swiftly abolished the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police but the protesters made it clear that SARS had always been proscribed in Nigeria every year since 2017, yet this evil arm of the Nigerian police continues to rear its ugly head. The protesters therefore remained on the streets until something substantial was done to bring total reforms, not just to the Nigerian police, but to every other ailing part of the country. The people of this country were at this when some accursed individuals took it upon themselves to approach unarmed protesters, most of whom were youths, and opened fire on them at Lekki, Lagos. D.J Switch who was there that night has been saying that even after the soldiers shot at the protesters, the Nigerian police also came and opened fire on them. All of these was happening as the CCTV cameras attached to the Toll Gate had been removed and the whole scenery was plunged in darkness following power outage. Anyone that does not see the shooting at Lekki as a systematic effort to end legitimate protest in the country must be from the planet Mars.
Following the shooting at Lekki, the President of Nigeria gave a speech to the country and left out the issue of the shooting. His media aides explained later that the President chose not to speak on the matter because it was already under investigation. Quite reassuring, you would say. But events of the following weeks will show that there was more to the President ignoring the Lekki shooting than not wanting to interfere with investigations. A meeting of Northern Governors was conveyed. Top officials from the Presidency were in attendance at this meeting and the Governors, quite ingeniously too, came out with the resolution that the social media should be regulated by the Nigerian government. Their argument: following the Lekki shooting, the social media was inundated with fake news that led to the uproar among the populace and to the burning down of public buildings and so on. They said it was these events that led ultimately to people discovering palliatives stored away in various warehouses around the country and the looting of the palliatives that followed. I consider this resolution by Northern governors stupid because it conveniently overlooked one vital fact: the EndSARS protests had continued peacefully in most parts of the country until October 20, 2020. It was after peaceful protesters were shot at and many killed that miscreants took advantage of the milieu and began to burn down buildings. It is simple, if law enforcements do not break the laws of the land and kill innocent Nigerians, people will not take the law into their hands and begin to attack government buildings and burn down police stations. How governors from the North conveniently overlooked this fact remains a mystery to me. The problem is not the social media but the same attitude of people in power using unbridled force in lawless ways. If government wishes to have its people live by the laws of society, they should lead those people by abiding by those laws themselves.
As we were coming to terms with government playing with the idea of regulating the social media, news began to emerge that individuals that led the EndSARS protests all around the country were being arrested, detained without trials and many of them were having their personal accounts in banks frozen by the Central Bank. When people protested the illegality of freezing people’s personal accounts, the CBN approached the Nigerian courts to make it legal. Then another joker appeared on the scene, taking a number of Nigerian celebrities and popular personalities to court over their involvement with the EndSARS protests. The fact is that if the same energy that the government is putting at clamping down EndSARS protesters is channeled at reforming vital sectors in the country, this country would have seen much progress by now. The very Northern Governors who are asking for an end to the protest and are calling for the regulating of the social media, have Boko Haram and armed bandits continually terrorizing their own people. If the Nigerian police had done its job of curbing the violence of insurgency among the general populace in Northern Nigeria, there would not have been the need to bring the army into it. The police failed at keeping its citizens safe and they again turn the guns on the very citizens they should protect and kill them. People protest these killings, saying that there must be a meaningful reform of the Nigerian police, and then the police come out and kill young Nigerians while they are singing the national anthem and holding up the Nigerian flag. Nigeria is in a very sad state.
Folarin Falana, aka Falz, sang “Johnny” long before the EndSARS protests began. He himself would have marveled at how the lyrics of the songs fitted so well into events that would play out later; as if to say Nigeria is so damn predictable. Falz is unhappy in this song; some lyrics he spits out paint a perfect picture of the grim situation we are talking about:
“… mad man… uwaka… you bloody bastard…
“… you waste a life and you try to tell me you are sorry after…”
Those words depict the frustration and anger in the Nigerian public space. Our rulers in this country have taken us for granted for far too long and at the same time they think they are doing us a favor. For a long time the question of the unity of this country has been debated in the public. When one section of the country appears to hold the other section back almost at every juncture, you begin to give thoughts to the idea of whether we should stay together as a country or we should go our separate ways. No person in their right senses will observe the EndSARS protests and not see that Nigerian youths are ready to take their destiny in their hands. Folarin Falana turned 30 a few days ago and refused to celebrate in honor of all who were killed in Lekki. Our rulers forget quickly that we know that those who led this nation in the early years of our national life were in their thirties. If young Nigerians can do the job that the opposition has failed to do in about six years of the Buhari presidency, this is a testimony to the fact that these young people can govern themselves in the days to come. We are tired of recycled politicians. We are sick of geriatric leadership. We say no to SARS and all failed military institutions. We are calling for a new Nigerian nation. This is the message that Falz sought to put across in his song “Johnny”. Falz’ words of dedication at the end of the song encapsulate it all perfectly:
Dedicated to our fallen heroes
Justice must be served. Every single person responsible for these gruesome acts must be brought to book.
It is time to get your PVCs ready.
“The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.
It could not be better said than this.