A former United States ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has said that the #EndSARS protest is “exceptional” because it is “bridging the usual ethnic and religious boundaries” in Nigeria.
“There is little sense of national cohesion in Nigeria, and protests tend to be along ethnic and religious lines rather than national,” Mr Campbell wrote in an opinion article posted, Wednesday, on the Council on Foreign Relations’ blog, an online platform which promotes discussion on American foreign policy and global affairs.
“Like the 2012 demonstrations against the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s efforts to reduce the fuel subsidy, current protests against the police are exceptional in that they appear to be occurring across the country, bridging the usual ethnic and religious boundaries,” Mr Campbell added.
The diplomat said the 2012 demonstrations against President Jonathan collapsed after the Nigerian government made “minor concessions” and allegedly bought-off “certain trade unions.”
“The coming weeks will show whether these demonstrations have any greater staying power,” Mr Campbell said.
The #EndSARS protests, originally targeted at the scraping of a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), have gone on for over five days now in various Nigerian cities.
Many Nigerians have shared their horrendous experiences at the hands of operatives of the police unit, ranging from extra-judicial killing to extortion.
Although the unit was disbanded on Sunday and replaced with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit on Tuesday, Nigerians have refused to end the protests.
The protesters have demanded the halt to the use of force against protesters, unconditional release of arrested citizens, prosecution of officers culpable of extra-judicial killings, amongst other demands.
The former U.S ambassador, Mr Campbell, said the #EndSARS protests appeared to be “strongly supported by the Nigerian diaspora, which is linking them to Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the United States and Europe.”
“As in much of post-colonial Africa, police in Nigeria are widely hated for their brutality and corruption.
“Amnesty International has documented eighty-two cases of SARS extrajudicial killings and abuse over the past thirty months or so,” he added.
“The diaspora, especially in the United States, appears to be playing a major supporting role. There have been diaspora-led demonstrations in Atlanta, Berlin, London, and New York that tie in Black Lives Matter protests.
“Social media is playing an important role in coordinating the demonstrations, in Nigeria and abroad. According to Western media, American rappers Chance the Rapper and Cardi B are calling attention to the demonstrations.
“It remains to be seen whether the demonstrations will become more significant abroad than at home,” Mr Campbell said.
Mr Campbell, appointed by President George W. Bush, served as the U.S ambassador in Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.
Mr Campbell is the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC.
He has authored a book on Nigeria, Nigeria and the Nation-State, scheduled for publication in December. He also writes on the blog, Africa in Transition.