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Is The Police Really Your Friend?
The Nigerian police’s motto, The Police is Your Friend, intends to remap perceptions of state violence at the fore of the youth-led #EndSARS protests. While highlighting the transformative potential of social media, protesters also brought into focus the ways in which the Nigerian postcolonial state abuses citizens and estranges them through acts of violence. But if not a friend, is the state an enemy or a stranger?
The #EndSARS protests in Nigeria invite us to rethink the famous motto of the Nigerian Police: The Police is Your Friend. While #EndSARS was generated by structural issues and produced several meanings, it was in large part a citizen-led social media campaign against police brutality and violence in Nigeria which was, for several weeks in October 2020, the top-trending topic globally on Twitter, drawing support from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and celebrities around the world. With Amnesty International calling for investigations into unjust killings of protesters at Lekki, a major hub of the protest in Lagos, and Nigerian state officials targeting many of #EndSARS promoters after denying involvement in these nefarious acts, we are confronted with the conceptual implications of an avowed friendship between the postcolonial state and citizens whose daily encounter with state agents, as the Lekki shootings have shown, is an unending song of the precarious and tragic.
The Police is Your Friend, which was itself part of a rebranding response to public perceptions of police as a foe, may then be seen as a rhetorical strategy that commands sociation, which attempts to remap perceptions of state violence. Through the online protests, we come to see that The Police is Your Friend misreads how friends are ‘called into being by the pragmatics of co-operation’, something policing in Nigeria desires of citizens but also undermines through its own brute display of force and vindictive imposing of fear on citizens.
...culled from James Yeku (temporary post)