It is no longer news that the panel set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State in the aftermath of the ENDSARS riots that erupted in many parts of Nigeria in October last year, has submitted its report earlier in the week. The report has predictably continued to generate heated reactions in both positive and negative forms.
In the midst of the euphoria generated by the report, especially on the part of those who are pleased with the conclusions reached by the panel, there is the tendency to get carried away about the serious dangers staring us in the face if we allow political convenience and clamor for cheap popularity to determine the course of action to take in situations of this nature.
Before proceeding, it is apt to do a disclaimer: that whereas any commentary that is at variance with the report already submitted aggregates to swimming against the tide, there are aspects of the report that have a lot to do with our national security, prompting the Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor to condemn the way it was leaked to the public with little or no care about the sensitivities involved.
Though this column has since its inception been making a case for Nigerians to cooperate with our security and intelligence services as the best means to curtail our perrenial insecurity malady, as is obtained in other countries, it is necessary to make it very clear that it does not condone extra-judicial killing even by state actors. Of course the rules of engagement of our armed forces are very clear as to situations where human lives could be extinguished.
For our good friend the governor of Lagos State, there is naturally the tendency for him to simply accept the report as submitted and go ahead to issue a white paper on the recommendations. The preponderance of opinion in Nigeria today is anti-establishment. There are people, probably in the majority, who will swallow hook, line and sinker, anything thrown at them, in as much as it is negative about government of the day. For a politician that the Lagos governor is, therefore, it is safer for him to simply accept the report and use it to increase his popularity and enhance his electoral value. The election in 2023, even in states like Lagos, is likely to be hotly-contested, and the governor will naturally seek a second term of office which we honestly believe he fully deserves.
Definitely, if the Lagos Governor is absolutely sure of the veracity of the report, he is duty-bound to accept and implement it. But what if members of the panel simply also decided to play safe by giving the youths what they want, that is, an indictment of the Nigerian armed forces, so that they could at least walk about freely on the streets of Lagos, without looking at the larger picture, that is, the judgement of posterity that cannot be stopped?
For a columnist like me, I am bound to earn myself lots of plaudits if I simply endorse the report submitted by the panel. But then the duty of a columnist or a journalist is to tell the truth, without minding whose ox is gored. And it is for this reason that this column has never subscribed to the opportunistic approach of pandering to popular opinion, provided it is not the right thing to do. It is better and safer to say the truth and be condemned today, but exonerated forever by posterity in the fullness of time.
Whatever the case, it behoves on all of us, and even more so Governor Sanwo-Olu, not to forget that it is purely on account of the sacrifices that personnel of the armed forces of the Nigerian Federation are making that he has continued to govern Lagos today. Without the security personnel that staked their lives to protect Lagos from being taken over by hoodlums during the ENDSARS riots, millions of innocent Nigerian might have lost their lives, just as hundreds of them are still counting their losses in billions of naira, as a result of unwarranted attacks they have suffered during the riots.
In March this year, the American government issued a report faulting claims that lives were lost at the Lekki tollgate during the riots. Eight months after that report however, the Lagos panel disagreed, saying something representing a massacre took place there. For us, the issue is simple: the Lagos Governor should rise above politics and the clamor for cheap popularity to ensure only the truly guilty is punished, and that definitely includes members of the armed forces the panel insists used live bullets to kill what it calls innocent protesters.
If however, the entire claim about massacre is being made to disparage the armed forces, as America believes, the governor has a duty to fish out those that concocted the falsehood and deal with them in full accord with the law.
Writing under the headline, the Lekki report: fact or fiction, Mr. Adejare Ibrahim made some shocking observations about the report submitted by the panel. He wrote as follows.
“There is an obvious fact, which no one can ever fault: only God knows what truly transpired or happened on 20th October, 2020, at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos.
“Nevertheless, as humans, we all judge issues based on circumstantial evidence or evidentiary facts at our disposal. We all, including members of the Lagos State Panel of Enquiry, have our biases. Justice Doris Okuwobi, EndSARS protagonists and EndSARS antagonists will only want to believe what they want to believe. That is the absolute fact.
“However, truth, as they say, is always truth, no matter how detestable it may sound or appear. And falsehood is eternally falsehood, no matter how popular, gratifying and delectable it is painted. The conscience is subconsciously aware of the truth, though we pretend to deny it.
“The Lagos State Panel of Enquiry on EndSARS, under the chairmanship of Justice Doris Okuwobi, did a great disservice to many Nigerians. The report is a pure distortion of glaring facts and cannot, in the face of in-depth probe and sophisticated analysis, stand the test of time.. The report is fraught with discrepancies, irregularities and fallacious stances, which further substantiates the claim of some Nigerians that no one truly died in Lekki Tollgate.
“Evidence abound that no one died in Lekki Tollgate. Conscientiously, we have, in the last one year, flooded the social media with impeccable and unimpeachable facts that the claim of massacre by a section of Nigerian youth was nothing close to the truth of the matter. The recent Panel report is excessively watery, baseless and unfounded. Let us quickly probe some people listed in the Panel’s report as deceased.
1. Kolade Johnson (Salami): Kolade was shot during a raid by officers of the Nigeria Police Command at Onipetesi, Lagos-Abeokuta Road, while watching an English premiership match between Tottenham and Manchester United on March 31, 2019. EndSARS was in October 2020. After his death, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the then Lagos Commissioner of Police, Zubair Muazu, visited Johnson’s family at that time. They were even compensated by the Panel. Why did they mix it up with Lekki issue. Kolade’s has nothing to do with Lekki violence.
2. Nathaniel Solomon and Abuta Solomon: On 11th September, 2021, the Punch Newspapers had an interview with Nathaniel Solomon, where he claimed he fainted the day he saw his brother’s lifeless body at Lekki Tollgate. The person he claimed to be his brother was Abuta. Funnily, the Okuwobi Panel also published Nathaniel Solomon as one of the Lekki casualties. He was pronounced dead. We should ask Justice Okuwobi where she got her report. That shows that the report claiming both Nathaniel and his brother, Abuta, died in Lekki were premised on falsehood. Nathaniel should let us know where he and his brother are hiding.
3. Florunso Olabisi: Amidst the spread of fake news by EndSARS protagonists and supporters that one Folorunso Olabisi was shot by the Army and his corpse deposited at St. Nicholas Hospital, VI, Lagos. The Management of the Hospital later debunked the malicious claims that they did not receive any corpse in their hospital. Till date, no one has countered the claim of St. Nicholas Hospital. The fact remains that the purported death of Folorunso Olabisi remains a myth. How the name later crept to the Okuwobi Panel Report is surprising.
4. Jide: Sincerely, this is hilarious and laughable. I don’t want to believe that a retired Justice of the Lagos High Court approved this below-the-belt report for the public consumption. For God’s sake, what is the meaning of this? Who is Jide? No surname, no description, nothing! This is disgraceful!
5. Tola: Sincerely, this is hilarious and laughable. I don’t want to believe that a retired Justice of the Lagos High Court approved this below-the-belt report for the public consumption. For God’s sake, what is the meaning of this? Who is Tola? No surname, no description, nothing! This is disgraceful!
6. Wisdom: Sincerely, this is hilarious and laughable. I don’t want to believe that a retired Justice of the Lagos High Court approved this below-the-belt report for the public consumption. For God’s sake, what is the meaning of this? Who is Wisdom? No surname, no description, nothing! This is disgraceful!
7. Kenechukwu Ugoh: His identity could not be traced on social media. The only person, whose name is close to this, is not active on social. I went through the profiles of some of his family and friends. None of them said anything about him being dead. The Panel should tell us how they came about his name.
8. Olalekan Abideen Ashafa: There’s no one bearing this name on social. How he does not have a social media address or anyone declaring him dead is amazing.
9. Olamilekan Ajasa: There are some people bearing this name on Facebook. Some of them are active and alive. There is nothing pointing to the fact that they are dead.
“These are the people Justice Okuwobi Panel wants us to believe died in Lekki, whereas there is no iota fact substantiating these claims. The Panel should have understood that that Nigerians are critical thinkers, who will not accept everything thrown at them hook, line and sinker. They will always probe the veracity of anything you tell them. Nigerians are greatly brilliant.
“Till date, none of their family members has shown up. Is the panel telling us they have no family members in Nigeria. After all, the family members of the Ikoyi Collapsed Building victims, within hours, quickly showed up after the sad incident. Why have the family members of the fathom Lekki victims not shown up after a year? Are they still afraid?
“The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian Army, represented by Major General Ibrahim Taiwo, had spoken the pure truth on the day of presentation at the Panel. The presentation was evidence-based and devoid of empty emotions. The Army, as a public institution, deserves some respect from Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Their report has brought the truth to bare. Many of us, as well, have presented the truth in its plainest form. Our reports deserve to be looked into, not the report of those who have proven not to be neutral right from the inception of the report.
“In conclusion, I implore Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to think deep and ponder on this report before accepting it as a fact. The report is in no way different from all the junks reported by CNN, some Nigerian newspapers and their social media acolytes. It is full of irregularities, discrepancies and fictions. It will be a great disservice to many Nigerians if the report is in anyway considered.
“The Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), should thoroughly go through the report before raising any White Paper as ordered by the Governor. Those who killed and maimed our security operatives and innocent citizens and destroyed public and private property deserve to be punished, not compensated for their criminal acts.”
For us, it is surprising that emphasis has not been equally placed by the panel on those who hijacked the protests to unleash unprecedented reign on terror on Lagos State, also killing uncountable number of security personnel. There are arguments that the riots last October is what has provided the impetus for the so-called unknown gunmen to continue to kill our security personnel, including soldiers and policemen, in the southeast and other places. But it is necessary to put this on record: Unless the criminal elements that perpetrated the mayhem are fished out and dealt with by the law, sooner than later Nigeria will be a lawless place, and no governor, including that of Lagos, can continue to govern or live in peace.
Before our very eyes, we have seen that owing to deep animosity built against our security and intelligence forces, many Nigerians see them as enemies, refusing to volunteer important information they need to quell our insecurity by arresting enemies of the society. These security personnel are running on shoe-string budgets to perform miracles, exerting themselves to achieve what they could ordinarily do with ease, if the widespread sentiments against them were to be reversed.
Therefore, even if at the end of the day it has been established that some members of the armed forces are guilty as charged, BRASS TACKS calls on Nigerians to be careful not to lump up the entire security and intelligence services for condemnation. They are the only reason many of us are alive today. These are people who have continued to sacrifice their yesterday for our today. They deserve commendation, rather than condemnation, even as they can never be perfect, just as no human institution or endeavor has ever been so.