#EndSARS: How Nigerians shook the world and forced the publisher to retract

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Trish Lorenz, British journalist and author of the book “Soro Soke: The Young Disruptors Of An African MegaCity”

Nehru Odeh

Although the EndSARS protest that rocked the country in 2020 seems to have died down, the unassailable spirit of resilience and speaking truth to power that defined it lives on. And its ripple effect is still very much present as Nigerians have taken the protest a notch higher beyond their country’s borders.

Nigerians recently demonstrated this undying spirit, never-dying attitude and desire for justice and good governance when they staged an online protest in the form of a petition against Trish Lorenz, British journalist and author of the book , “Soro Soke: The Young Disruptors Of An African MegaCity” and its publisher, Cambridge University Press, Crassh.

The Berlin-based journalist had taken to Twitter to celebrate the draft released in May. She also said the book won her the 2021 Nine Dots award, which recognizes creative thinking that tackles contemporary social issues. “I’m so excited for my first book, Soro Soke, to be released today. Seeing it advertised in the windows of CUP Bookstore is breathtaking. Can’t help but smile,” she tweeted.

However, the author didn’t smile for long, as another statement she made came back to haunt her. She said in an interview that she was the one who named the end-SARS protesters the “Soro Soke generation”. “This cohort exhibits a confident outspokenness and a streak of creative disruption, which leads me to call them the Soro Soke generation,” she claimed.

This claim by the award-winning journalist did not sit well with Nigerians who believed that Lorenz was not only profiting from their labor and sweat but also appropriating a cultural product. And she has come under heavy criticism on social media.

“How can you name and claim what already existed? She has no connection with wrestling, but she capitalizes on, benefits from and profits from the trauma of Nigerians.

“This is a Nigerian story to tell and we have qualified Nigerians to tell it. We have said it before without support or visibility. African stories need to be told by Africans,” reads the online petition, adding that the book is intellectual property theft and a gross disrespect to Nigerians.

The petition demanded that Lorenz apologize to the Nigerian and that the interview be taken down. However, the petition, which had more than 7,000 signatories, was successful, as it forced Cambridge University, the book’s publisher, to retract some of the author’s claims.

Reacting to the backlash, Cambridge University Press, Crassh (which published the interview) and The Nine Dots Prize issued a joint statement admitting the author’s misrepresentation. He clarified that the interview had been updated and called the author’s gaffe “unintentional”.

“There was no intention on the part of Trish Lorenz, or anyone involved with the book, to suggest that Trish coined the phrase ‘Generation Soro Soke,'” the joint statement read.

“No such claim was made in the book. Rather, it was an unintended turn of phrase in a single interview, the text of which has now been corrected.

“Soro Soke was chosen as the title because of its use as a rallying cry and call for change among young protesters in Nigeria, which is clearly stated in the book.”

In his book, Lorenz examined the bravery of the youths who led the movement and presented the views of some Nigerians who took part in the protest in the book whose title, ‘Soro Soke’ is a phrase of Yoruba origin meaning ‘speak’ or ‘speak louder.’ And it rose to prominence, becoming a slogan during the #EndSARS protest against police brutality and bad governance in 2020.

The petition titled “Recall ‘Soro Soke’ from publication – The author cannot CO-OPT and steal from a Nigerian movement!” was launched for this purpose. The petition reads,

“Sóró Sóké is a Nigerian movement. The one who came with our blood, our sweat and our tears. We have not yet recovered from the aftermath.

“Sóró Sóké means Speak Up/Do not be Silent in the West African Yoruba language. It was a cry, a battle chant, a movement used in the #EndSARS campaign by Nigerian protesters fighting against police brutality from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in October 2020.

“The phrase signaled that the Nigerian people would no longer put up with bad governance and would speak out boldly. Demonstrations and community rallies were held for “Sóró Sóké” (Speak Up).

“Unfortunately, during the protests, the authorities responded with the military and more than 50 Nigerians lost their lives. Many protesters and activists are still in prison, some in exile. Nigerians have not recovered from the aftermath.

“In all this, Trish Lorenz, a white woman from Germany, decides to expropriate and abuse the name of the struggle which recalls the actions of her ancestors at the Berlin conference of 1884/5.

“She also expropriated Sóró Sóké who is a product of labor and a symbol drawn from the Yoruba nation/tribe of Nigeria and its natives.

“In an interview with Crassh, she provides misrepresentations, stating, ‘This cohort exhibits a confident outspokenness and a streak of creative disruption, which leads me to refer to them as the Soro Soke generation.’ – Trish Lorenz.

“How can you name and claim what already existed? She has no connection with wrestling, but she capitalizes on, benefits from and profits from the trauma of Nigerians.

“This is evidenced by his winning The Nine Dots award which comes with around $100,000 compensation. She has also received book contracts with Cambridge University Press and has her books in global bookstores and universities such as Harvard University Library.

“This is a Nigerian story to tell and we have qualified Nigerians to tell it. We have told it before without support or visibility. African stories need to be told by Africans.

“Our demand: 1. This book is intellectual property theft and gross disrespect to Nigerians. He pours salt on our open wound. Therefore, the edition must be stopped and it must be removed from all libraries. (This was already done when the book “Bad and Boujee: Toward a Trap Feminist Theology written by Jennifer M Buck, was taken down for cultural appropriation and intellectual property theft.)

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