It took a second trip to Nigeria to get Obianuju to talk to us. After much online research and reading reports from Amnesty International, we quickly realised that we had to find someone, most likely an expert who has been personally affected by the brutality of SARS: We found Obbianuju. In November of 2012, her brother Chijioke was arrested by a SARS unit in OKUZU. Soon after we arranged the lights, sounds and Camera, Obainuju opened up about her experience sharing this very insightful interview with us.
Joadre: How do you remember your brother, Chijioke?
Obianuju: He loves fashion and dressing up. Shoes are his thing. He is the most fashionable one amongst us. He is fun. He always looked after me. People knew that Chijioke loved me and would do anything to protect me. We were like twins. Oh god, he loves salt.
About: Obianuju Iloanya is a political scientist and an advocate for social justice. She is a feminist and a firm believer in youth leadership, gender equity and social inclusion. As an expert who experienced the brutality of SARS in her personal life – Her brother Chijioke Iloanya was arrested by SARS and never found to date, Obianuju continues to advocate against police brutality.
Joadre: Tell us about the day he got arrested.
Obianuju: Chijoke went to a child dedication ceremony. Child dedication is a normal Nigerian thing. After the dedication, you go for the afterparty. So he went to the after party. Chijoke and some boys were having fun, talking, gisting, drinking, and making noise. That was what the police officer said prompted them to make the arrest. They said there were a group of boys making noise in the compound. They came, and they carried everybody. About 4 of them were arrested.
Joadre: Is this the procedure for arrest in Nigeria?
Obianuju: When someone gets arrested, the next thing will be either the person gets bailed or charged to court. If found guilty, the person will go to jail. That was my opinion on things. That was what I believed not until 2012 when my brother was arrested. They saw my brother being led out with the three other guys.
At first, my mother could not go to the police station because a male relative must escort her. So when my father came, they went to the police station. They were all in chains. They were already beaten and looking rough. My mum started shouting. That’s the boy I am talking about. That’s my son.
SARS Okwuzu is a very terrible place to be at. It is a nightmare for every young person. They met with the OC. They said sir, I came because of my son. That one we saw that day. He said, if it is that boy you are talking about, I have wasted him, and there is nothing you can do. Those were his words. I have killed your son, and there is nothing you can do.
Joadre: What would you say prompted the endSARS protest in 2020?
Obianuju: The primary reason why we were out is police brutality. You have to understand that what poured us to be out there is the police killing somebody. That was why we went out and decided to protest. We know that there is economic hardship. But the breaking point was we are suffering all these things; why do we also have to die unnecessarily at the hands of the people we suffer to pay their salary?
You must understand the economic aspect of all this. Now if my parents were rich, if they were Dangote. Or if my parents were, if my dad was a politician, say Peter Obi or Atiku. This would not happen. Of all the stories of police brutality you have heard, I am sure you have not heard of any rich person with social and economic capital having their son brutalised by the police. So you find justice in Nigeria for the Rich if you can afford it.
Joadre: What would you want to happen so that you can get closure in the case of your brother?
Obianuju: I still want to go to court. AI want a civil case. Let the court take this case properly. I demand answers. The court has enforcing powers. The unit’s responsible officer should be summoned. He will come. He will answer the court, and maybe he will give us answers to what actually happened.
Watch the movie and listen to Obianuju’s contribution to the film Voices Uprising >
Politics and participation in Nigeria | Voices Uprising
Joadre: Are there enough policies in place to prevent such atrocities from happening?
Obianuju: I studied political science and have worked with civil society. I have an interest in conflict litigation and social justice. At the base of everything, justice is essential. If we all can access justice irrespective of our status, things can improve in the country. Nigeria has to work at some point. We have various policies, a whole lot of them. The problem is who is enforcing which.
Joadre: How would you describe the political situation in the country?
Obiajunu: There is political apathy in Nigeria, and it is deep. We believe there would be rigging. It is unfair. Power corrupts. People want to hold on to power as long as they can, so they keep rigging themselves in. At our current level, we have to get people to vote.
We need an ideological movement. Most of the votes we lose are the votes we do not canvass for. It is time for a new initiative, go to the grassroots, and talk to people. Look at Stacy Abraham and what she did in Georgia. She canvased for the grassroots vote, and Georga flipped. We must effect change not by creating third forces but by infiltrating spaces.
I would fight my best to the best of my ability.Obianuju Iloanya
We can spend our time on social media lamenting and talking on Twitter from home. Many do not have voters card, and they do not vote. But it is beyond performative rage or performative activism. If everyone eligible to vote does not show up, rigging can happen. It is your money, your task used to print the cards, so go and use it.
I can sit down here, telling you about how Nigeria is bad and what not. But I can only effect change when I begin to participate in politics. Hate Politics as much as you can. You must participate for it to favour you.
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Joadre: Are you hopeful?
Obianuju: There is so much work to be done, but there is hope. We are going to get it right. My generation would. I would fight my best to the best of my ability. I will because, god forbid I have children that suffer the same fate that I did. God forbid I have children that would be scared to go out because the police will shoot them dead. We will get it right.
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