It is unarguably true that a lot can happen within 365 days, including entering history books for distinguished feats and well-conceived activism. We bring you the top 20 activists who wrote their name in Gold during the past year.
The energy and grit they invested in informing change were honorary and their names will not be quickly forgotten. They made their impact felt in a year ridden with challenges, and wittingly set the blueprint for active citizenship. Without further ado, here are the top 20 activists of the year 2020.
Dubbed ‘the Queen Amina of our time’ socio-political activist, Aisha Yesufu is a brave and courageous activist. She has organized and led over a hundred protest marches in time past and wasn’t missing in action when youths stormed streets to protest against police brutality.
Clad in hijab with a bag hung across her chest, Aisha gave the protest its symbol of defiance and resolve as she stood with her legs apart and threw a fist in the air.
The 45-year-old Co-Convener of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement earned the respect and admiration of Nigerians for braving all odds, tear gas, and police harassment to demand good governance. She believes Nigeria is worth fighting for and has inspired citizens to do the same for their country.
Folarin Falana (FALZ):
2020 was a year which Nigerian rapper Folarin Falana – popularly known as Falz – won the heart of Nigerians. The 29-year-old boldly painted the ugly picture of events leading to #EndSARS protest during a live interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. His resolve to draw global attention to repeated acts of human rights violation made youths regard him as Nigeria’s man of the year 2020.
He lent his voice to the protests on social media and was physically present to lead agitations at Lekki, Lagos state. What’s more, he wasn’t scared to voice demands of #EndSARS protest through various interviews at a time which many young Nigerians declined to appear on camera for fear of dear life.
Convener of Pro-Democracy group Deji Adeyanju lent his voice to virtually all issue of national concern in 2020.
Known as a freedom fighter, he matched words with actions and took to the streets several times in 2020 for worthy causes including the #EndSARS agitation which is the largest protest movement in decades and widely considered as a symbol of hope and change from younger generations.
It is arguably true that no one used Instagram better than Obianuju Catherine Udeh did in 2020. Professionally known as DJ Switch, she is the custodian of what many considered as the true events that happened at Lekki Toll gate when men of the Nigerian army opened fire on unarmed protesters.
The songwriter who was present at Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October went live on Instagram to show the world the aftermath of horror in the form of bullets unleashed on peaceful protesters. Despite threats to her life, she stuck to her account of how soldiers killed protesters on that fateful night.
Thanks to the musician, the international community will not be fooled by the democratic front which the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari presents to mask extant dictatorial system.
The former Presidential candidate didn’t let 2020 slid without leaving his prints of stubborn and determined campaign for a better Nigeria. His quest to galvanize citizens to take matters into their own hands through protest saw him invite Self-proclaimed “African Giant” Burna Boy, for an anti-government protest on October 1st.
What’s more, the founder of Sahara Reporters was among a few other activists who stormed the headquarters of the police force in Abuja to demand the immediate disbandment of the force’s Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). Though on bail for what can be best described as trumped-up charges, Sowore proved in 2020 that his wings cannot be clipped or his mouth gagged.
Popular with Lagosians, Eromosele was an #EndSARS Champion who suffered persecution from the Nigerian government. The activist was arrested in Lagos on alleged connection to a continuation of nationwide protests against police brutality.
He was forcibly taken out of his home by security agents despite not in good health. Upon going through a harrowing legal tussle, Eromosele was released on bail, a development that helped him tend to his liver complications and immune system disorder.
Nigerian Journalist and Media personality Kiki Mordi made headlines for the right reasons in 2020. ‘The Grand Commander of the Feminist Battalion’ was named the 2020 winner of the Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling for her role in the popular sex-for-grades documentary.
Also, an #EndSARS promoter, Kiki Mordi emerged as 2020 MTV EMA Gen Change winner for her work on the frontline of the protest against police brutality.
Also known as Moe Odele, she is an International Attorney who was at the forefront of the #EndSARS agitation. She also helped arranged legal defence for #EndSARS protesters.
She suffered series of intimidations from immigration officers who once seized her passport. Her only sin was mobilizing over 200,000 followers on Twitter to agitate for good governance and an end to police brutality.
It is important we note that Modupe doesn’t feel comfortable being described as an activist. The way she figures it, “a country that turns everyone who speaks up into an activist still has a long way to go.” In other words, you don’t have to be an activist to stand up for what is right.
She is only 22 years old (as of December 2020) but outspoken, and the Federal Government is threatened by her. Ms Oduala is one of #EndSARS promoters who had their bank accounts frozen amid government’s clampdown on the agitations.
As a media strategist, she set up camp outside the Lagos governor’s office on 7 October, effectively rallied people and provided them with blankets to join her in protest against police brutality. They slept outside the state government buildings for 72 hours before the police attacked them.
Oduala’s spirit is not one that can be easily crushed. She went on to become a member of the Lagos State panel of judicial inquiry into police abuse – one of the key demands of the protesters after the president disbanded the unit.
To start with, his name is Oluseun Anikulapo Kuti. The son of Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti didn’t fall far from the tree. He carries a torch for infectious grooves and political song writing.
Seun Kuti who leads his father’s former band Egypt 80 was very vocal about corruption and the protest against the brutality from the now-defunct arm of police called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
In November 2020 he spoke against government’s infringements on the right of association and vowed to put up political resistance to the tyranny of this oppressive regime.
He is a Nigerian Journalist and activist in one package. Like Sowore, Jalingo has been imprisoned and persecuted for being a stubborn voice of dissent and he seems not to be backing down.
Barely a month after he was released from jail on bail in February 2020, Jalingo noted that his only regret was not criticising Governor Ayade on time. He identified with #EndSARS protest and joined ranks with Seun Kunti, Aisha Yesufu and Omoyele Sowore to plan Fresh agitations from 18th November 2020.
2020 supplied a lot of talking points for fiery public affairs commentator Reno Omokri, who became known by many as a voice of reason. Omokri lent his voice to issues of national concern.
It was Omokri who challenged Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai to a one-on-one fight in 2020. He also challenged Shehu Garba to spend a night at Koshebe in Borno State without security.
At the peak of the #EndSARS protest, Omokri launched a campaign #Unfollow Buhari that saw the President lose about 100,000 followers. The founder of Free Leah Sharibu movement really hit hard on Buhari, his aides and members of the All Progressives Congress in 2020.
On a sad note, we lost an activist who campaigned against insecurity to the cold hands of death. His name was Rabiu Auwal, an advocate of #SecureNorth. Auwal lost his life on Friday, November 20 when gunmen struck near the Rigasa train station in Kaduna.
Until his untimely death, Auwal did his best to draw the attention of authorities to be responsible for the security of lives and properties. It’s sad that he was consumed by the same insecurity.
Having read about how youths or activists of 2020 were in one way or the other involved in #EndSARS protests, it is logical to ask what sparked the protest. The protest began when a video emerged of SARS officers allegedly shooting and killing a young man in southern Delta State. The man who captured the video was Nicholas Makolomi.
He was trailed and arrested at Ughelli but later set free after several Nigerians, including Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), called for his release. Fast forward to December 2020, Makolomi was rearrested because he drew the attention of the police to an act of unlawful extortion conducted by one SP Sunday Nwaja who requested for N500,000 to grant him a soft landing. Not much has been heard from the videographer since his arrest. We can only hope that he is safe and sound.
In August 2020, Kemi Falodun co-founded a website Police Brutality in Nigeria (POBIN). It was in memorial of the Apo Six, a group of young club-goers that were sent to early grave by police officers in the Apo area of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in 2005. The website was designed to fill the void of lack of documentation of extensive incidents of police violence following national media regulator’s directive mandating traditional outlets not to “embarrass the government.”
POBIN saw an uptick in traffic when #EndSARS kicked in days later in October, and more writers volunteered to work on the platform by providing documentation of abuse of power perpetrated by SARS operatives. By and large, the POBIN project fulfilled its purpose by underpinning the need for reform. We have Kemi Falodun and co-founders of the project to thank for that.
Anti-corruption activist Wilson Atumeyi is a Nigerian committed to human and capital development in Africa. In 2020 he was nominated alongside 6 Nigerians for committing time and efforts in promoting better life opportunities for all Nigerians across various socioeconomic areas.
He owns a non-profit organisation called WaterWide that is committed to improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for people living in marginalised communities. The organisation also tracks government spending and international aid for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to ensure transparency, accountability as well as the proper implementation and completion of WASH projects in rural communities across Nigeria.
Asides being an activist, Wilson is a Communications Specialist, Graphic Designer and Social Media Specialist with over 5 years of experience working across diverse sectors in the development space to achieve better life outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable communities.
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi:
She is the founder of a Non-governmental organization known as Stand to End Rape (STER) Initiative. In 2020 the NGO expanded its psychological support and counselling resources to help protesters who have been victims of police brutality and find the demonstration mentally overwhelming.
It is worthwhile to note that Osowobi is the winner of the 2020 Global Citizen Prize: Nigeria’s Hero Award. She is committed to fostering systemic change by teaching consent education, providing capacity building support on sexual violence prevention and intervention to governmental institutions, as well as supporting policy advocacy to enjoin the Nigerian government for the passage of gender-centred laws.
♩♫ ♩ ♪ ♬ When I get older I will be stronger,
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh ♩♫ ♩ ♪ ♬
When K’naan sang Wavin’ Flag in 2010, little did he know that the chorus of the song would become incarnate a decade later. Holding a long pole with two and sometimes three flags attached, Flagboii identified with agitations against police brutality and gave the protest iconic moments.
The bravery of the anonymous flag-waving protester was second to none. By holding/waving the long flag, especially while standing on great heights, he became a conspicuous valuable target, like a top military officer being saluted by a subordinate where enemy snipers abound.
When protesters became scared to continue with the agitations after Lekki Massacre, Flagboii was spotted in different locations at Lagos, sustaining the faith in the struggle with solo protests. The young man who we gather is a student, has established himself as a luminary on Twitter where he has about 30k followers. He still tweets about #EndSARS and reminds us to ensure that the labour of our hero’s past yields desirable results.
Debo Adebayo popularly known as Mr Macaroni is a Nigerian entertainer redefining comedy. In 2020, he took his trade to greater heights by featuring the Oni of Ife, Ọba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi in a skit that went viral.
The skit – which has been seen by millions of Nigerian youths – was a big win for African cultural heritage especially as it relates to respect for elders, a practice which is fast dwindling, no thanks to the so-called woke movements being promoted by western societies.
Acting the role of a maroon agbada wearing sugar daddy, Mr Macaroni trades visual content that his audience (both young and old) find entertaining. This explains why he has close to 3 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram.
Commendably, ‘Mr Fantabulous’ used the strength of his followership on social media ‘Mr Fantabulous’ to campaign for good governance and an end to police brutality in words and deeds. He even made a skit targeted at elites, warning that they too can be victims of police brutality if they continue to look the other way.
This is a special mention of everyone who – in words and deeds – demanded good governance and took part in protests against police brutality. We remember the rich, dirt poor, disabled, enabled, atheist, Christian, Muslim and traditionalist who chose not to turn a blind eye to the evils perpetrated by licenced thugs in uniform. This section goes out to Nigerians at home and abroad who found common grounds on the sanctity and preservation of life regardless of ethnic backgrounds and affiliations.
Thank you for not pretending that someone, somewhere, someday will build the nation of our dreams. Thank you for rekindling our hopes of one nation under God with unity of purpose. Thank you for giving us a foretaste from the flavour of the near future. To all organizers of the protests, thank you for proving to Nigerians and the rest of the world that citizens of this great nation are capable of strategic and competent leadership.
It is with a heavy heart that we remember protesters who lost their lives in the struggle. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved. We can’t shy away from the sad realities that able-bodied men and women suffered varying degree of injuries, lost limbs and were made handicapped by participating in the struggle. Our heart also goes out to citizens who lost their source of income to hoodlums that hijacked the protests. Nigeria will surely be great.