body-container-line-1

Nigeria activist 'Flagboii' keeps protest spirit alive

By Camille MALPLAT
Nigeria 'Flagboii' Akinwunmi Ibrahim Adebanjo became a symbol of the protest movement.  By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)
OCT 20, 2021 LISTEN
'Flagboii' Akinwunmi Ibrahim Adebanjo became a symbol of the protest movement. By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)

Unfazed by the pollution and blasting car horns, Nigerian activist "Flagboii" stands by a Lagos highway, waving two huge flags that flutter in the breeze.

On one, the colours of Nigeria -- green, white, green. On the other, a slogan marked with black marker: #EndSARS.

The hashtag refers to the mass youth protests against police brutality that rocked Africa's most populous country a year ago before they were bloodily suppressed by security forces.

Thousands of young people took to the streets of major cities in southern Nigeria to denounce the brutalities of SARS, a special police unit accused for years of racketeering, illegal arrests, torture and even murder.

Last year, a photograph of Flagboii, whose real name is Akinwunmi Ibrahim Adebanjo, standing on a police hut and waving his flags over a Lagos crowd, made its way around the world to become an emblem of the protests.

The image made the 25-year-old math student a popular figure, recognised by all, thanks to his green hat, sunglasses with white edges and his raincoat in neon colours.

'FlagBoii' Akinwunmi Ibrahim Adebanjo continues to protest, a year after the crackdown.  By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP) 'FlagBoii' Akinwunmi Ibrahim Adebanjo continues to protest, a year after the crackdown. By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)

"It was really a coincidence that I was standing there," said Adebanjo, as he prepared to mark the one year anniversary of the crackdown on the #EndSARS protests.

"No one told me to put myself in this place, I just saw it and felt it was my responsibility to go there and hoist a flag for people to see."

'So disappointing'

Flagboii has become even better known after the movement ended -- just after the bloody repression of a rally at the Lagos Lekki tollgate, the epicentre of the protests.

On the evening of October 20, 2020, the army and police fired at unarmed demonstrators waving flags, killing at least 10 people, according to Amnesty International.

The army says it only fired blanks to break up a crowd that was defying a night curfew.

Over the next few days, as the traumatised protesters were holed up in their homes, Flagboii kept walking the streets of Lagos, his two flags fluttering.

"After the Lekki toll shooting, the protests stopped," he said. "It was so disappointing."

On his second flag, he has added the inscription: "Who ordered the Lekki massacre?"

After demonstrating at the Lekki tollgate, Flagboii said he was threatened by security forces, and returned home.

But a few months later, the activist reemerged with his flags, and has since kept up demonstrations unperturbed on the roundabouts, tollgates, and the main arteries of Lagos.

"A lot of people have died, maybe I was the one who gave them the motivation to go out on the streets," he said.

"So if no one else is walking, I have to keep protesting, until they probably do the same with me."

ModernGhana Links

Join our Newsletter

body-container-line