BY CHLOE PAN
Protests in the October 2020 Nigerian End SARS movement mobilized tens of thousands of people within the country to march on the streets against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), demanding for the federal government to institute change. Their demands have also captured the attention and received support from people around the world, many of whom have had to reckon with incidents of police brutality closer to home. Public frustration with the quality of the country’s institutions and social services are high, with the majority of the national population living below the poverty line. The power of this decentralized movement in raising awareness and organizing around social change is suspected by analysts to have a significant impact on the political landscape of the country going into the 2023 elections. A key factor at play is the level of young Nigerians’ significant influence; 51% of the 84 million registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 35 and they’ve already demonstrated overwhelming engagement in demanding for political reform through this movement.
The available data on the locations of End SARS demonstrations and most recent state census information point to several conclusions, including a positive correlation between adult literacy and protest density, as well as between unemployment and protest density. Examples of states with highest protest density include Lagos and Abuja, both of which also have one of the highest rates of households with access to a mobile phone and internet. This demographic information follows the trend of other protest movements around the world that have been led by an educated younger generation who mobilize to push for institutional reform – Burma in the late 1980s, anti-war movements in the US, Hong Kong’s protests for democratic freedoms, and Nigeria’s own independence movement in the 1950s that began as a youth protest. All eyes will be on the upcoming elections and the power of the younger generation to create lasting social change.
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