On October 5th, 2021, The Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) welcomed R. Nanre Nafziger, Ph.D. to present her talk, “You messed with the wrong generation!’: #EndSARS, youth uprisings and the powder keg Nigerian state.”

Facilitated by Professor Kwasi Ampene, Ph.D., the workshop offered an insightful perspective on Nigeria’s young generation. During her presentation, Nafziger, whose work focuses, in part, on critical youth studies and Black social movements, highlighted the bold characteristics of the youth-led ENDSARS movement and the lessons which may still be drawn from it today.

While often discounted as “a challenge to Africa's development” and “disconnected from the traditions of the past,” Nafziger argued that this generation also embodies resilience and resourcefulness. In the face of government corruption and state-sanctioned violence, it is their strategic “leaderlessness,” “female leadership,” and “financial independence” which has allowed them to begin sparking real change.

Yet, Nafziger also pointed to what must change outside of the youth movement in order to sustain their progress. While this generation is undoubtedly innovative in their approaches to digital activism, entrepreneurship, and their ability to create “[unity] across religious and ethnic lines,” it is also important to note how their progress could be furthered by better policy-making.

For the movement to continue, Nafziger argued that restrictions on Nigerian youth organizations must be lifted. She also called for the need to teach “histories of resistance” and “critical thinking.” ENDSARS, she contended, “is not an isolated event, but a part of a wider movement for black lives, African emancipation from neocolonialism and globalized antiblack racism, for global unity, and the reignition of class struggle.”

In conclusion, Nifziger said, “There is only one struggle that is worth fighting for. And that is the struggle for our collective humanity, for no one speaks of the need for violent liberation from the colonizer. In the context of the answers of rebellion, the colonizer is both the Nigerian elites and the imperialist forces propping them up. Liberation today must not take on the form of physical violence, rather, the liberation of Nigeria and black Africans globally must both act as a collective exorcism where we must rid ourselves of the demons of division and self-hatred and also an outward facing struggle to reclaim our humanity, to be part of an intergenerational Pan-African movement to reclaim what has been lost, and to create a future where generations to come will sing the songs of our freedom struggle and remember us as the heroes that they seek to emulate.”

During the Q&A, Dr. Nafziger also spoke about the importance of “recognizing the deep distrust that youth have” and “supporting the organic structures that are beginning to define the political space in Nigeria.” She also pointed to “the importance of music in understanding history, specifically the role of artists, who tend to vocalize the memories of their forebearers most clearly.”

Dr. R. Nanre Nafziger is an Assistant Professor at McGill University’s Department of Integrated Studies in Education. You can read more about her work, research, and activism here