Lagos had just witnessed carnage of a monumental scale, not by any natural disaster but by rampaging men.
Many government structures, police stations and private businesses had been affected.
It was a reaction to last Tuesday’s incident at the Lekki Toll Plaza in which it was alleged that many #EndSARS protesters had been gunned down.
While the rampaging men carried out their acts, a dawn-to-dawn curfew had been imposed by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
It would seem the curfew was without effect for the destruction went on unabated as even the Oba of Lagos was not left alone. His palace was run over, and his staff of office seized.
Many a Lagosian went sad, watching their city go up in flames.
Soon, the reaction began to build up. Tweets and WhatsApp messages started going around – Let’s save Lagos.
Some youths went a bit further. In the same way, that they mobilised to protest police brutality, they mobilised to clean up Lagos. Tweets and WhatsApp messages quickly circulated, asking the youths to come out to clean Lagos.
It was obvious that they needed to show that youths were not all about protestations against police brutality, and certainly not about the rampaging that had just been witnessed.
The assurance of the management of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), that they would be equal to the task and so the youths should not bother, did not deter them.
Friday evening, the Lagos State Governor relaxed the curfew to 14 hours – 6pm to 8am.
And so, on Saturday, 24th October 2020, in Surulere, as soon as it was 8am, a few youths gathered at Kilo bus stop with brooms, bin bags, gloves and face masks.
And they swept. And they packed. And they cleaned up. Packing debris and dirt into bin bags, they set them up for LAWMA trucks to pick them.
Swiftly, they swept through Oduduwa Road, then Alhaji Masha Road, all down Adeniran Ogunsanya Street.
Banks and ATM machines at Adeniran Ogunsanya Street had been seriously vandalised. Bank windows were shattered while ATM machines at GTBank’s ATM centre, FCMB, Access Bank and Sterling Bank received the full brunt of the violence.
For security reasons, the youths were not allowed to clean those spots up. The management of the various banks affected needed to take an inventory of the carnage for documenting purposes.
On the street itself, burnt tyres used for bonfires were still smouldering and were too dangerous for the youths to handle. Even then, they swept the surrounding dirt and packed them up around the smoulders. When the LAWMA trucks came around 9am, they were able to remove the smouldering debris.
The SLOT and SAMSUNG shops had been ruthlessly smashed into. The youths swept around the shops.
Another spot the youths could not go in to clean was the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall which was under lock and key, even as broken shards of glass and other garbage littered the premises.
Down Bode Thomas Street, they went and swept and packed before they came back to their muster point at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Street/Bode Thomas Street junction.
They would not identify themselves individually but simply echoed, “We are the youth of Nigeria.”
The leader of the group not really impressed by the turnout appealed to other youths still at home. “We are here to do our own job. We the Youth of Nigeria have come here to help clean our environment. We are all working, making sure that we clean the environment. The looters did theirs, but we are here to show that we are against them. We are not with them or for them and we are not encouraging such violence.”
Kunle Afolayan, filmmaker had said in a social media broadcast on the same day: “I just would advise that let’s not destroy what we have built. Because we built an amazing country. Some of us would rather live and die in this country. Some of us haven’t stepped out of this country since COVID-19, which is a long time and we are surviving, we are working. But in all these things, let’s get involved in politics, in getting into the legislature, judiciary, and executive. Let’s find a way to occupy some of these seats.”
At this time, these youths may not have heard Kunle’s call. But we asked anyway, “Would you youths consider politics?”
One of the female youths smiled and said, “Time. Time. Time.” Then she continued with her work.