In October 2020, Nigerian youths, tired and frustrated by the illegal activities of the now “defunct” Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), took to the streets to protest. For two weeks, the #EndSARS hashtag took over thousands of protesters matched social media and the verve in different cities across the country. From Lagos to Port Harcourt, Ibadan to Benin, the message was clear: End Sars and reform the police force. For the first time, Nigeria’s younger generation experienced a unity of purpose like never before, organising and maintaining peaceful protests without an established “face” or “leader.”
But at a time when the Buhari-led Nigerian government could take action to effect structural change and even win some goodwill from a section of the populace that had lost all faith in it, the leaders of this nation decided to do the opposite and show their hand through brute force. On the evening of October 20, 2020, members of the Nigerian army attacked peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, killing scores and wounding many.
The emotions of that night – confusion, sadness, anger and a loss of hope – are all explored by Efe Oraka in her latest single “Live Rounds in the Dark.” The soulful ballad opens with a reference to the effects of the agony suffered by youth in the wake of the protest. Over the steady strumming of a guitar, she sings “I see fires in my living room”, an emotion familiar to everyone who watched the events unfold in real-time. The rest of the song follows in similar fashion, with lyrics that paint a vivid picture of a person overwhelmed by sadness and helplessness in the face of continued injustice and violence.
“When revolutions are televised/There will be blood on your Insta live/When dissent triggers a genocide/I see fire before my very eyes.”
The song ends with the lyrics above, a poignant reminder that we did not imagine the events of that night. We did not collectively hallucinate as a nation when we saw and heard the anguish of our brothers and sisters on DJ Switch’s Instagram live. The people who died that night were real flesh, blood and bone - murdered by the very people who took oaths to protect them.
One year on, the government and their supporters have continued their disservice to the dead by denying that October 20 2020 never happened. Gaslighting, distractions with Femco,and brushing over testimonies of survivors continue to pervade our space at a moment when we are supposed to band together. “Live Rounds in the Dark” is a reminder of tragic events, but it is more than that. According to Oraka, although it “succinctly and poetically paints a picture of what we all lost in the fire,” it also “has the power to reignite the spirit of young Nigerians and lead them from a place of collective grief to collective healing.”
Stream “Live Rounds in the Dark” below.