An iconic photo of a Nigerian activist, Aisha Yesufu, taken on Saturday during the #EndSARS protest at Abuja, has instantly become a morale booster for Nigerians calling for the scrapping of a police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), notorious for its brutality against citizens.
In the photo, Mrs Yesufu stood with her legs apart and threw a fist into the air which symbolises the defiance and resolve, as far as the #EndSARS protest is concerned.
She has a bag hung across her chest. A group of other protesters stood some metres away behind her, in the photo.
The identity of the person who shot the photo is unknown for now.
“I will tell my children, this was our statue of liberty,” one Twitter user said of the photo which is going viral on the social media site.
One Nigerian said he was already using the photo as his phone screensaver.
Another Twitter user, @lolajaey, who shared the photo, described Ms Yesufu as a “national treasure.”
“This pic is legendary,” said another Twitter user, @oluwatolz.
“It shocked me. Even without any sound, she made a statement. Enough is enough! Brave woman. The kind of person I can feel comfortable dying beside just to fight for a better future, for the future Nigerians.”
Many Nigerians who commented on Twitter saw the photo as inspirational. “What a woman! Sometimes I’m forced to think she’s not human. God bless her,” a Twitter user, @Dukeofmbaise, said.
During the protest, there were reports that Mrs Yesufu was brutalised and arrested by the police.
She later took to Twitter to narrate what happened to her during the protest.
“I am okay. I refused to run. I walked with my fist high up. @PoliceNG were all shooting at me as I walked away. I came out of the fence they cowardly built around themselves and about 4 of them came at me at the junction throwing bottled water this time,” she said via her Twitter handle @AishaYesufu.
“With my fist still raised, I told them how shameless they were. One of them cursed me and I gave it back to him. Only one of the bottled water they threw at me touched me slightly and from anyone far away with 4 of them throwing water bottles at me it would have seemed they had me.
“One of them had pushed me and the raised hand might be what some saw as a slap. No, I wasn’t slapped and I refused to cower and I turned and gave them a piece of what I thought of their pathetic selves and if I am going to die, it would be with my fist high up and my mouth open,” she said.
Mrs Yesufu, one of the leaders of the #EndSARS protest, has been a known name in civil protests in Nigeria.
She is a co-convener and one of the leading voices of the #BringBackOurGirls movement which has been campaigning for freedom for the Chibok school girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. Almost 100 of the schoolgirls are yet to be freed by the terrorists.
Mrs Yesufu, 46, is from Edo State, South-South Nigeria, same with her husband, Aliu. But she was raised in Kano State, northern Nigeria, which is why many Nigerians erroneously think she is from the north.
She was 24 years old when she got married in 1996, while still in the university. She has two children.
“Today my youngest child turned 18 and Nigeria decided to give her anarchy as a birthday present. I refuse to be an irresponsible parent & leave this fight for my children to fight,” Mrs Yesufu wrote on Twitter, December 6, 2019.
A graduate of Microbiology, Bayero University, Kano, she is into private business.
Meanwhile, citizens who gathered in Abuja on Sunday morning to continue with the peaceful protest were forcefully dispersed by the police, using teargas.
An #EndSARS protester was shot dead, allegedly by the police, on Saturday in Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
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