Basketmouth has been at the forefront of Nigerian comedy for decades. A modern-day social media internet sensation, he tackles some of Nigeria’s most difficult subjects, but with a comedic twist.
But the widespread #EndSARS protests that have gripped the nation for more than a week now are no laughing matter for Basketmouth. Since the protests erupted, the stand-up comedian has been tweeting his support for the demonstrations and lending his voice to the movement.
“I’m definitely all for it because what is happening in this nation is terrible,” he told Arise News.
“The government has dehumanized the police force, and weaponized [SARS]. It’s clear that SARS is an Anti-robbery squad but these guys have taken it upon themselves to profile young people and assume that these guys will be the armed robbers of the future and take advantage of them.”
Basketmouth himself has been a victim of profiling and the incessant ‘stop-and-search’ measures employed by SARS officers, but unlike some young people in the country, he “got away with it” because he was famous.
“They stopped me but the reason they didn’t take advantage of the fact that I was driving a so-called good looking car is because they recognized me. But for the people who don’t have any kind of image that these guys can recognize, they suffer every other night.”
After days of protests, the government dissolved SARS, the rogue police unit that became the catalyst for the vigorous demonstrations, and replaced it with another unit, SWAT. On Thursday, the government set up judicial panels to investigate accusations of police brutality. But Basketmouth is skeptical about these measures, seeing them as a ploy “to get the youth out of the street.”
“They’ve disbanded the police four times before now, nothing happened. They’ve banned the checkpoints across Nigeria several times, nothing happened,” the comedian said. “So now, if the police force are not respecting others, how do you think they are going to respect the rule of law?
“EThey’ve promised us several things in the past…they immediately created a new unit, SWAT, when did they go for training? How can you create a new unit in 24 hours?
“We need to see proper change.”
His words echo the general feeling of distrust of the protesters, who despite the disbandment of SARS and the arrest of some police officers, continue to stage demonstrations and demand more reforms.
“There’s no proof that what they decided to do is going to take effect, and that’s the reason why nobody believes the government anymore,” Basketmouth said. “If our leaders were doing their jobs- the house of reps and the senators and the elected officials- these people would not be on the streets protesting. They failed the youth…”
The #EndSARS protests continue to gather momentum, with cities across the country seeing larger crowds every day. Basketmouth says the police unit is simply emblematic of a larger problem in Nigeria, including a lack of accountability and the growing frustration of the youths with poor leadership.
In his words, “SARS is not really the problem, they are the result of the problem.”