Anthony Joshua says he thought #EndSARS protest was about a virus

The heavy weight champion had never heard of SARS in Nigeria before October.

Anthony Joshua had to educate himself about #EndSARS (Photo: DAN MULLAN)

In Nigeria, SARS is an an acronym for the notorious police unit--Special Anti-Robbery Squad. SARS was disbanded by President Muhammadu Buhari midway through the protests.

SARS is also an acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome--a viral respiratory disease caused by a SARS-associated coronavirus.

It was first identified at the end of February 2003 during an outbreak that emerged in China and spread to four other countries. Joshua thought this was what #EndSARS was all about when the viral hashtag first hit him.

“I never knew what SARS was during my time in Nigeria; I never encountered SARS, so, when the movement started happening, I thought SARS was maybe like a virus, I didn’t know SARS," Joshua told Punch.

The champ would later educate himself on what #EndSARS was about through plenty of research, he said.

"One day after training, my uncle called me and this was just before the issue of the Lekki toll gate, about five hours before it, he called me and told me about the situation on the ground. He told me the people of Nigeria loved me and wanted to hear my voice on it.

“I told him I didn’t know enough about it to talk about it and he said I should just lend my voice and bring awareness. So, I said if it’s what I can do for now, let me just lend my voice and bring my attention to it because I have a big platform.

"So, I just said it’s important to find a common ground because you can’t overthrow the government in a minute, but we need to find a common solution that will benefit the people.

“So I thought it was important for me to send out a positive message and shortly after that, about four hours later, people had been murdered at the toll gate. So, I said this wasn’t only about finding a common ground, this had to stop.

"But I didn’t want to go back on my message, I had sent a message out and I had done a lot more research about the #EndSARS movement.

“I also started learning about the colonial history, the structure of the political powers, the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Igbo. I learnt about the Biafra war, I learnt about Lady Lugard, I learnt about why Nigeria is called Nigeria – because of the River Niger and the area.

“So, I started doing a lot of research on the country and I found out that the country has so much potential, it is a country where people are thriving to be better and with the leaders, they need to put more into the people, and that is what the #EndSARS is about.

"It is not just about the police, it is about good government looking after the people, and that is what the people want and I am with the people, I am a man of the people, so I support what they say.

“And from that #EndSARS movement, it educated me what SARS was, it educated me about the issues in Nigeria, it gave me more. I felt proud to be a Nigerian because I learnt more about the country’s heritage after the #EndSARS movement,” Joshua added.

The #EndSARS protests were quashed by armed soldiers who shot into a crowd of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.

Hoodlums and thugs who had hijacked the protests, would go on to unleash anarchy and arson on the land afterwards.

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