George Floyd: How A 17-Year-Old Citizen Changed History – Lessons For Nigerians

By Nick Agule

After the police killed George Floyd about 11 months ago, the following was the cause of his death as issued in a statement by the Minneapolis Police Department:

“Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.”

George Floyd had died and gone. He was no longer there to contradict the account by the police by saying they knelt on his neck until he died. He joined the many who have been killed by the police and other agents of state and buried without anybody held responsible for their deaths!

A citizen by name Darnella Frazier who was only 17 years old as at then was in the crowd that watched the broad daylight execution of George by the police, which led to the police being called on the police, pulled out her phone, activated the video and recorded the killing. She would later see the police statement and knew instantly that it was a blatant lie. She could not keep this injustice done to a fellow citizen who was unarmed, defenceless and vulnerable to herself.

She stepped forward to do the right thing so that her conscience will find peace. She posted the video of the murder of George Floyd on her Facebook page. Americans watched it in horror! the world watched it in disbelief! It was incontrovertible evidence that the police killed George and not only that urinated on his corpse by lying against him.

Next the citizens rose up in huge protests that quickly escalated to all the 50 states of the United States of America under the watchful eyes of the then president Mr Donald Trump and further spread to many other cities globally. The heat was turned on the police and the political leaders to give George justice. The result is the conviction of the killer police officer, which the world watched happen live yesterday of 2nd degree murder, 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter! The charges carry a maximum sentence of 40 years.

The police officer will be sentenced in 8 weeks! His three other colleagues who also participated in the killing will have their day in court later this year in August. Messages of support for the conviction were swift in coming beginning with America’s number one citizen – President Joe Biden who not only put a call to George’s family but also addressed a press conference together with VP Kamala Harris.

The state of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in his own press conference after the decision by the jury said “I would not call today’s verdict “justice”, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice.” No nation will do well without citizens being held accountable for their actions either in their personal or official capacities. Nigeria will not do well until our public officials are held accountable for their actions. This is a job we must all demand to be done by those who swore on oath to defend our constitution and enforce the laws!

Matters Arising:

1. Police Dishonesty – The police killed an innocent man and framed him. In Nigeria we have the police and other security agencies like the army killing innocent citizens and framing them. There is therefore no difference between America and Nigeria because the police on both sides who are paid to protect the citizens do turn their guns and their power against the people.

2. Citizen Journalism – A young girl stepped up to do citizen journalism by exposing the falsity in the police statement. This is where Nigerians are lacking. We have citizens who are not living up to their duties and responsibilities. Credit must be given to Nigerian citizens who have lived up to their duties by publishing videos of brutality by the security agents but more needs to be done! For example, in September 2020 in Benue State, a repentant bandit Gana accepted an amnesty deal and surrendered.

He was seized by the Nigerian Army and murdered. The Army put up a statement that the man died in a gun battle and even had no shame in planting an AK47 rifle beside his body! The truth is that the Army seized the man from a convoy that was conveying him to Makurdi to meet the Governor of Benue State. In this convoy were traditional rulers, Govt officials, politicians, the man’s family and his boys. There were hundreds of people present when the Army abducted this man. Till date no citizen has had the courage to do what this 17-year-old did. No video has been released of the Army seizing Gana. No photos. Not even a statement from the traditional rulers nor the Govt officials in whose custody the Army abducted Gana to contradict the fallacious statement issued by the Army.

Our citizens have become chicken livered, cowered to silence for fear of losing favours or not exposing themselves to danger and are thus not speaking up to raise their voices against the impunity currently happening in Nigeria. It will never be well with us if we continue with this docility. If a 17-year old did not fear for her life and stuck her neck out to post the police killing of George, what is the gain of old men in Nigeria some gone past their 80s have fear for their lives and chicken out from speaking out when they see injustice being perpetrated?

3. Citizen Protests – After the 17-year-old did her civic duty of posting the video of the killing the people protested to force the hands of the authorities to bring the officers involved to justice. Again, this is where Nigerians are lagging behind. We have lost the fire of protest in us which we once had. I graduated in December 1989 instead of June because I lost 6 months of my final year at university as a fallout of our protests against the injustice of forcing the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) down our throats by the Babangida regime.

I did not moan my loss because I sacrificed it for a good cause! Today Nigerians are counting personal losses and weighing them above the sacrifices for nation building. Workers’ unions only go on strikes if they want increases in their salaries. The fire of protest for justice and for the common good has been extinguished in us. When it was briefly re-ignited during the EndSars protests, it was brutally suppressed by the Govt. and we were intimidated and stopped the movement.

Look at Myanmar, they have not stopped. See Hong Kong they are still marching on. Russians are protesting. Americans are quick to rise in protests despite police brutality! Why must we be cowed into silence by the Govt? America is 245 years old as an independent nation, yet it takes protests for citizens to get their Govt to do their bidding. How then do we expect Nigeria of 60 years old to have a Govt that just does our bidding without protests? England is more than 1,000 years old a country but till today the citizens mount massive protests to get the Government to shift and acquiesce to citizens’ demands.

If we are hoping in Nigeria that the Govt will just on their own volition begin to deliver good governance to us the citizens, we are joking! We have allowed ourselves to become punching bags! Any rubbish thrown at us by the political leadership, we just accept and say God dey and move on. Have we not been pushed to the wall enough to begin to fight back that enough is enough??? Even the wall we are being pushed against is cracking so when are we the citizens going to crack and begin to fight back for our lives!!! Is it until we have all being robbed, raped and killed by herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers that we will begin to fight?

4. Security Response – The Minneapolis police responded to a case of suspected forgery of a $20 bill. This is the Govt providing a police service that responds to citizens’ distress calls. See the number of police cars that responded to this call. In Nigeria the Govt has left us to our peril. Criminals come in and terrorise citizens for hours without a police response. Bandits stroll in and stroll out with school children without anybody chasing after them.

Gun men casually drive in, kill and drive out without a chase from any security agents! Even the defence minister said we should fight the bandits by ourselves because it is not the job of the security agents alone! We are absorbing all these while remaining docile without any reaction or protests!!! Even the President does not say a word to us when we are being killed like flies because it will make him a talkative!

President Biden showed leadership yesterday by personally calling George’s family and thereafter doing a press conference to address the nation and the international community on the verdict, yet he is not called a talkative! Can we also notice that the police department is called ‘Minneapolis Police Department’? Minneapolis is a city in the state of Minnesota, but they have their own police. It is not even the capital city of the state which is the city of Saint Paul.

It is not even a state police which is being advocated in Nigeria, it is a police department for a single city. Policing is most effective when it is local. Nigeria must stop talking and devolve policing to the states immediately. The police are not armed forces that need to be national, maintaining national police are the remnants of military rule in Nigeria and must be stopped!

5. Awards – the literary and free expression organization PEN America have awarded Darnella Frazier who thought quickly and filmed the murder of George Floyd and was dauntless in posting it to social media to trigger America’s largest civil protests in recent history, the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award. In our case in Nigeria, we reserve our awards for people of dubious character so long as they have deep pockets to pay for it. Many in Nigeria would have attacked the brave 17-year-old instead of saluting her courage and backing her up because of their jaundiced political, ethnic and religious leanings.

Snide comments such as what was she doing out there, who sent her message to be filming police, why was she not minding her business etc will be posted on social media to denigrate her. We can never build a better nation if we continue on this trajectory of launching wars of words against each other especially on social media. Good is good and bad is bad! This idea that we must find reasons to see good in bad or bad in good because of our primitive ethnic, religious and political persuasions must stop if we are to build cohesion towards our common good. We can’t all agree with each other all the times but the vitriol that trails our conversations as Nigerians especially on social media is doing nobody any good. Let us stop it! In every situation, let us see how we can do something better for our nation even in our disagreements.

Nigeria Must Be Great!

The state of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said yesterday – the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States. This message equally applies to us as Nigerians. The cause of justice is in our hands. Nigeria belongs to us all and we must all have hands on deck to build the Nigeria of our dreams – the Nigeria that as our national anthem says is – One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity where peace and justice shall reign. Nobody will do it for us! We must do it ourselves. We are stronger in unity. Even if we find reason to disagree, let us disagree in love instead of abuse and fights. 2023 provides us the next opportunity to get the leadership that serves us and not loots us. Have you got your PVC?Mr Agule is a concerned Nigerian and can be reached via: nick.agule@yahoo.co.uk

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