Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has condemned the shooting of peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos, on Tuesday evening, saying the army has replaced the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
In a statement on Wednesday, Soyinka accused the federal government of acting in an “authoritarian manner” by deploying armed soldiers on the protesters.
“It is absolutely essential to let this government know that the Army has now replaced SARS in the demonic album of the protesters. My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order’. Nevertheless, the Centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche.
“It is pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done, that the continued protest is hurting the nation’s economy. COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy – such as it is – for over eight months. Of course, it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory – such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder.”
In his statement, Mr Soyinka said as he resumed his trip to Abeokuta at 6 a.m. today, he negotiated nearly 15 roadblocks “all distinguished by an implacable state of rage.”
“It was in stark contrast to the inclusivity of the protesting ‘family of common cause’ of earlier days,” he said.
“All inherent beauty of instant bonding and solidarity evaporated. At the block just before the Lagos Secretariat, the protesters proved the most recalcitrant. In the end, they exacted from me just the one offering to the rites of passage – I could sense it coming — I had to come down from the car and addressed them. I did. Little did they know what was churning in my mind: This is not real. This is Back to Abacha – in grotesque replay.’”
The Nobel laureate called on the affected governors across the country to immediately demand the withdrawal of deployed soldiers.
“Convoke Town Hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hr Curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on Local Councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism,” he said.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also condemned what he said is the use of brute force to quell protests at the Lekki tollgate. He added that it was obvious that President Buhari didn’t exhaust all avenues before deploying soldiers.
In a statement titled, ‘Statement on Violence Against Protesters In Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm’, the former President called on Buhari to “restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force as a way of ending the crisis,” saying that history has shown that killing protesters only worsens the crisis and makes dialogue impossible.
“The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration. Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution. It is clear that Mr President and his lieutenants did not exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to the use of force.
“It is worse that there is a denial of wrongdoing in spite of overwhelming visual evidence. Great harm has been done but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control. We are at a critical moment in this crisis and the President must act now before it is too late. This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such,” Obasanjo said.