Metro Councilwoman Zulfat Suara ran for office last year with a platform focusing on the wonkiest of issues: city finances, schools funding, taxing policy.
Issues like that are in Suara’s wheelhouse since most of her professional career has been spent in the field of accounting and her day job is working as an administrator for Meharry Medical College. But, when she organized a well-attended rally on Saturday at the state capital in downtown Nashville, it wasn’t Metro fiscal policy on her mind.
Suara helped lead a rally to draw attention to political corruption and police brutality in her native Nigeria. The international awareness movement, which uses the social media hashtag #EndSARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), is especially important to Suara because many of her family members and friends still live in Nigeria.
Suara left Nigeria in 1991 when she was in her mid-20s. In Nashville, she earned her political stripes as an activist and attended numerous rallies in response to instances of police brutality here.
“When we talk about police brutality, when we talk about injustice, I’m an activist and I go to rallies,” Suara said. “I think it’s hypocritical to talk about issues related to Black Lives Matter and then turn a blind eye to what’s going on in my own country.”
Suara said the rally was a “last minute thing” that was put together late last week. Despite its last-minute nature, the rally at Legislative Plaza drew around 200 people. Similar rallies across the globe have been organized to draw attention to rampant corruption and police brutality in Nigeria.
Suara said some top government officials make seven-figures, while Nigerian residents live in poverty. There have been documented instances of police killing protesters in Nigeria as demonstrations there have turned violent. Suara’s campaign website says she is the first Nigerian-born politician elected to public office in the United States. As an at-large member, she represents all of Davidson County on the Metro Council. She also is the first Muslim woman elected to office in Nashville.
Suara said she wants to elevate the issue and encourage those concerned to contact their representatives in Congress to support the United States government backing the Nigerian citizens who oppose the corruption in the Nigerian government.
“The impetus for the rally was, ‘How do we stand in solidarity with the movement in Nigeria?’” Suara said. “We were showing the community that we stand with them, and we were amplifying and educating people on what’s going on.”
In a statement on his campaign website last week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria following several deaths.
“My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence,” Biden said. “The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”