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#EndSARS: Tiamiyu Kazeem, How Young Man’s Dream Ended

His eyes are on the goal as he steps up to take a penalty kick for his team. He takes a few steps backward, exhales, rushes towards the ball ferociously, slows down as he inched closer; he uses the subtle panenka kick, lobbing the ball into the net. 

The goalkeeper is nowhere to be found. The spot-kick taker wore a number 4 jersey for Remo Stars, a Second Division football club in the Nigerian Professional Football League. 

His hair was braided in three cornrows and he looked only as dangerous as Sergio Ramos (who also wears number 4) on the pitch until  smiled. 

Going through a video made for him, Kaka’s (as he was fondly called) defensive acumen is as exciting as his hunger for goals. 

Kaka was linked to a European team move that was in the works. Kaka was promising, but unlike the Brazilian star whose name he used as a nickname,  or the Spanish defender whom he shared a jersey number with, Kazeem will not maximise his potential. Why?  His dream was cut short by the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). 

Kaka had gone out with a teammate to relax and have some non-football fun when they were stopped by men of the F-SARS Unit of the Nigerian Police Force. 

The friend said they identified themselves as footballers but were profiled as criminals and all their pleas fell on deaf ears. 

The operatives put them in a car and set out for their station. Kazeem would not have it as he continued to argue with them. Enraged by his determination, one of the operatives pushed him out of the moving car and Kazeem was crushed to death by an oncoming vehicle.

The 21-year-old Kazeem, his talent, and dream died on the spot. There was a peaceful protest to demand justice for Kaka where five more people were killed by the police.

 In Nigeria, you either listen to the police or bury your dreams. But many Nigerians live with the trauma of the prices they paid to be alive. 

Franklin had gone to watch a championship play-off match between Brentford and Fulham, two English football teams  and was on his way home when he was stopped by the police.

Franklin’s first offence was that he had flouted a curfew by 11 minutes, his second offence was having a shisha pot in the boot of his car. He had to be punished for the offences. 

He was taken out of his car, put with other illegally detained Nigerians and was driven around until about 2a.m. when he was taken to an ATM point and forced to withdraw N15,000 as bail fee.

Franklin said,  “I do not drive at night anymore since then and I have a great phobia for anything police authorities, be it legitimate or otherwise.”

Many middle class Nigerians believed that police brutality, especially from F-SARS, was limited to their economic group, but more victims’ accounts are beginning to prove otherwise. 

Nigerian artist, Wale Adenuga, recently recounted how he was harassed at gunpoint with his friend, gospel artist Bob Fitts.

He said, “till now, Bob and I still relive that experience…” The Ooni of Ife, a traditional ruler of the Yoruba Ife kingdom, has mentioned how his daughter was harassed and almost killed by F-SARS despite identifying herself. 

Leading Nigerian banker, Ibukun Awosika, also mentioned that her children had been victims of SARS harassment. Felix Orole, an assistant professor at Australian Catholic University, said he was harassed for looking “fresh”. 

Felix works outside the country and was only visiting his family. In Nigeria, the brutality spreads far and wide, as long as your feet are in the country. 

Paul, a University of Ilorin student, shared his experience. Paul had stayed late in school to study at the university library before leaving around 10 p.m. for his hostel. Paul was picked up as soon as he alighted from the bus and was driven around until 1a.m. before they let him go after paying N5,000 ransom.

Bayo* was forcibly evicted from a commercial motorcycle and accused of being an armed robber. Bayo said when he tried to struggle, the cop moved closer to him and said he would make his life miserable for embarrassing him. 

He was taken to F-Divison in Ilorin, where the officer whom he later identified as Mr Eze, accused him of armed robbery. 

In shock, Bayo said, “haba, Mr Eze”, and another officer immediately cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him for insinuating that Eze was lying. Understanding the  situation, Bayo begged for his life and was eventually driven to an ATM point, where he withdrew the last N3,000 in his account and handed to the policemen.

These incidences happen to victims like  dreams. It is illusionary. It is like an out-of-body experience for some. 

In the comments and responses of most victims, what they want is justice. Justice for the harassment that they face. Justice for the trauma that they deal with. Justice for money that they have lost. Justice for the limbs that are missing. Justice for the lives that are gone. Justice for the dreams that are buried. Justice for Tiamiyu Kazeem. 

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