Pastor Sam Adeyemi, General Overseer, Daystar Christian Centre, was expectedly apt. He dared not do otherwise. He was in his usual element. He adequately addressed my mind, and perhaps that of many others the other day.
What did he do? Nothing extraordinary. He simply bared his mind on the now famous #EndSARS protest; and very boldly too. Guess what, it tallied perfectly with the stark reality on ground.
#EndSARS was an agitation like never before. It has now become a reference point. It would never go away from our hearts. Not even in the farthest of time. We would continue to live it, eat it and drink it. Do you blame us?
Damning all damnations and ignoring all consequences, Adeyemi stood solidly behind the youthful protesters. And he did it amazingly. He cared less whose ox was gored or even bruised. It was bravery at its height.
His exact words: “Dear young citizens. It is time for everyone to reflect.
“The massive destruction of properties in Lagos and other cities is so sad. Some want to blame you, but you must not buy that narrative. They know those that introduced violence.” Very profound!
He is not done yet: “Those that looted and destroyed property are also not part of you. They are products of a system that does not value its youths and has left them with little or no hope. They are part of the reason you raised your voice against injustice and want a new Nigeria.
“What you did in less than a week was a phenomenon. Let me share how I see it. You attracted a mass following across all sectors within a short time because your cause is noble. No sane person should fault your call for justice.
“Leadership experts believed for a long time that the best way to motivate people to move is to give them a vision of the ideal future. But it has not always worked. People prefer status quo to change.
“In recent times, they have come to realise that it sometimes works better to tell the story of people’s pain: their livable experiences. You got this right. You generated impetus and galvanised people to act, focusing on police brutality.
“You overcame things that have divided our country and frustrated its development, including ethnicity and religion, and put up a united front. You practically shared love, instead of our culture of prejudice. That was a breakthrough.
“The power gap between the leader and the led is high in most developing countries. That gap is low in most developed countries. You crushed that gap. You ran an efficient system on a flat structure. Your model of leadership facilitates development.” These youths are something else.
Adeyemi confirmed as much: “Your flat leadership structure meant no one was dominating another. As leaders, you took responsibility and served one another. You were accountable and transparent, announcing income and expenses daily. These have not been part of our leadership culture.
“You provided ‘stomach infrastructure,’ meeting, the basic needs for food and water. You provided healthcare with ambulance services. Some even got free haircuts on the street. Your organisation was efficient.
“You got quick wins. A governor came to meet you on the street (I commend him for this). SARS was dissolved and the government agreed to your five-for-five demands (I commend government for these).
“Continue to call for a stop to the looting and destruction. Take a deep breath. You created a mini new Nigeria. How do you take things forward and scale up? Please stay strong online, own your narrative by all means and keep your discussions going.”
Adeyemi was emphatic. His message was not lost. It sank deep into our skulls. His insistence: “Those who wanted to blame you for destruction of properties knew those who introduced violence in the #EndSARS protest.” That is the factual fact.
For all intents and purposes, this would not be the first time government would wickedly sponsor hoodlums to truncate peaceful agitations. And it would not be the last time either. But this would be the first time sponsored thugs would turn against their sponsors in a violent revolt. We are very conscious and much aware of this.
The no-death narrative at the Lekki Tollgate shooting is one way of robbing us of this great gain and rubbishing the big lesson learnt. Let the unrepentant advocates of this narrative sincerely ponder over these:
Did the gunshots at the Lekki Tollgate sound like a clapping of hands or a round of applause? Did the fireworks that followed in the dark look like Christmas knockouts? When they switched off the lights and pulled down the CCTV, were they preparing for a disco session (dance of old) or a Tuesday night jump?
Even more than that, the curfew was extended. It was initially meant to take off at 4pm. But reason prevailed, and Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, graciously shifted ground. He obliged them 9pm.
Those soldiers, desperately thirsty for blood, could not hold back their thirst. They unilaterally brought it forward. They rolled in their tanks by 7pm. Two clear hours early. And the rest is history, an ugly, dirty and bloody one.
That no-death memoir was poorly written. Equally, the dummy was lazily marketed. The very strong reason it sold abysmally. Right from the factory, it was a bad product. It was not meant for our collective good. It was diversionary.
Riot is poles apart from peaceful demonstration, agitation or protest. Those patriotic youths were never rioters. That is why notable pastors, governors and others could easily buy into their market. They effortlessly won them over.
Rioters would not do that, because they remain troublemakers. The sponsored thugs, hoodlums and bandits were the rioters in the midst of the agitators.
The rioters had the whole space to themselves in some other parts of the state. There were earlier cases of arson and carnage at Orile-Iganmu, Ajegunle and Mushin by these hoodlums.
These were isolated cases where the culprits could be easily identified and dealt with. No troop was sent after the arsonists. They were left to have a field day. And they did have one overflowing to the fullest.
But the troops turned their anger on Lekki agitators. They left hoodlums to have a harvest of arsons, carnages, etc. SAD!
We should begin to get our act together. It is a huge lesson those young agitators taught us. And we should not mindlessly mess it up.