Times have changed. It is no longer business as usual. The social media showed its power over the orthodox media, as images of unarmed, vulnerable and distressed youths were shown fighting for their dear lives, even as the peaceful youths were being sporadically shot at.
SOME SALIENT QUESTIONS HERE
How did Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital and a city for all Nigerians, become a wild shooting range against defenceless, protesting young people, waving the national flag and singing the National Anthem?
Why and how did Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu declare a curfew, publish same within hours and get it enforced? How come he was unable to contain the resultant dire consequences? Why did he declare the curfew after midday, in a heavily populated city of over 20 million people? Did he think of the serious commuting challenges? Why are the Nigerian authorities frantically attempting to cover up the Lekki Toll Gate massacre, which was watched live by millions across the world?
Was Governor Sanwo-Olu under any intense and unseen pressure to reopen the country’s commercial nerve centre for business and thereby desired to hurriedly clear the streets, especially the Lekki Toll Gate, which is said to generate for the government over N220 million weekly?
Why did the government bluntly refuse to secure genuine harmless protesters, yet allow so-called hoodlums to hijack the protests and turn them into bloody looting spree? By the way, who are miscreants and hoodlums? Are they not direct products of an unkind and unjust society that incubated and delivered them to the streets?
Why did the IGP say SARS had been disbanded, yet announce the very next day that a new SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit had been created from the ashes of SARS? Why the plagiarism of America’s well-known SWAT? Why put old wine in a new bottle?
Did the authorities not appreciate the searing anger of deprived youths, who, after 12 days of continuous protests, still defied government’s fierce terror, water cannons, teargas and live bullets?
Didn’t the government realise that #ENDSARS was merely a metaphor to end the many ills of the society and make their voices heard? Were they not worried that, like the “Occupy Wall Street” nine years ago, #ENDSARS did not require pyramidal leaders to operate? The youths had bluntly refused to crown so-called “leaders” who would sell them off Nicodemously at night. The protesters were shapeless and formless, like amoeba proteus.
MY HUMBLE TAKE
On my part, I identify with the #ENDSARS peaceful protests. It was within the youths’ constitutional right. I, however, unequivocally condemn the wanton destruction of private and government property, media houses, shopping malls, etc. I deplore the needless, heartless killing of innocent people that later followed. These unnecessarily detracted from the nobility and altruism of their cause.
Having said this, the #ENDSARS protests exposed the cluelessness and incompetence of this government and the entire thieving political elite, regarding our socio-economic problems. The government vainly tried to muzzle protesters by blocking access to funds from commercial banks. But they resorted to cryptocurrency. Exploitative senators, ministers, honourables and even governors who hoarded palliatives meant for a dying people were roundly disgraced. Such edifices were pulled down and the people possessed their possession.
THE BIG DIFfERENCE
Where the government hired thugs and soldiers, the protesters provided their own security, using drones and apps. Where the government infamously basked in ethnic and religious sentiments, the protesters united across tribal and ethnic divides. They taxed themselves to provide necessaries, food, water, medicare and prosthetic limbs for limbless youths.
Where the government bribed grovellers with food and money, protesters cooked their own food, swept and cleaned the highways. The youths distrusted the orthodox main street media and provided their own radio broadcast stations. They used the social media effectively.
Where the government resorted to unprovoked violence, the unarmed protesters responded by waving the national flag and singing the National Anthem. These flags were later stained with youths’ innocent blood. A new era and unimaginable vistas had been charted by the youths. They even marched on the Presidential Villa in their bloodied vests. Their spirits were never conquered.
SOME EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
One Chukwu said they sat on the ground at the toll gate as it got darker. He then noticed that the lights that were usually turned on at the area had been switched off.
Later, Chukwu said he saw trucks arriving with soldiers. He said, thereafter, national flags were distributed among those who had gathered there to protest peacefully. They sang the National Anthem, while waving the national flags. They genuinely believed no soldier would shoot at them, being peaceful and non-violent.
But they were wrong: “At around 7pm, we started singing the National Anthem and waving the national flag when the soldiers started shooting at us. I observed that they cornered us and mounted barricades before the shooting. We did not upset them in any way. I was even joking with one of the soldiers who looked young that he should join us in protesting against bad governance. He did not laugh, though.
“Not long after was when the shooting started. The soldiers shot into the air and then at protesters trying to flee because of panic. I thought I was going to die but I hid behind some barricades with others, and luckily we were not hit.
“Actually, I had thought to leave the scene by 8pm since the curfew was postponed to 9pm. But seeing soldiers at past 6pm was what I could not understand. I even thought they would disperse us with whips or teargas. I had been protesting daily at the tollgate and we had been law-abiding. If they had requested us to leave, I’m sure people would have left gently.”
ARMY V. SAnWO-OLU
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has denied deploying soldiers to the Lekki tollgate and even described the videos of the killings as “photoshopped.”
But Governor Sanwo-Olu insisted soldiers were deployed and that 30 persons were injured and being treated in hospital. He also said only one person died as a result of gunshot injuries. He later recanted and said more died.
Amnesty International said at least 12 protesters were killed at Lekki, adding that it received “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki tollgate.”
Live video streams on social media showed some wounded people lying in the streets, or being carried by others into hospital emergency wards.
The Lagos State Governor has since announced the terms of reference of a seven-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses. It would also look into the Lekki tollgate incident.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), later addressed the country, but failed to mention the Lekki shootings.
Buhari even berated people he tagged subversive elements, as using #EndSARS protesters to cause chaos and truncate the country’s democracy.
He commiserated with the police, but said nothing about the innocent youths that were massacred at the tollgate.
The President’s snubbing of the #LekkiMassacre has since generated public outrage and international condemnation from the United States, the United Kingdom, the International Criminal Court, and the African Union, among others.