By Michael West
At last, Buhari has failed! His government has brought self-inflicted uprising despite warnings from different quarters on the need to handle the #EndSARS protests carefully and tactically. Impunity is a blind executive arrogance often used to serve sinister motive than public good. In the context of what happened Tuesday night at the Lekki Toll Plaza venue of peaceful protest, General Muhammadu Buhari has failed both as a father and a leader. As at Thursday morning, the President was yet to yield to pressures from the Senate and some key personalities that he should address the nation on the raging issue.
I watched a Turkish government official video on Twitter lashed out at the President for deploying soldiers to kill innocent and unarmed youths. He rained invectives and insults on Buhari for his unfatherly, brutish and heartless order to mow the protesters. The outrage that is trailing the shooting is expected, and, I guess the President and the military high commanders are fully prepared to stomach vituperations that will be hurled at them from aggrieved and bereaved local and international citizens.
Mr. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu can’t absolve himself from blame in the unprovoked killing of peaceful protesters in his territory. He actually prepared the slab upon which the innocent ones were slain by the military guys on death mission. His blanket ban on protests via imposed curfew without clearly defined delimiter was all that was needed to pump bullets into the congregation of protesting youngsters. Sometimes, I wonder why logical reasoning, critical analysis and evaluation of situations are not often done before pronouncements or executive orders are made. Otherwise, how could government punish violence committed by miscreants in some parts of the metropolis on the well organised, peaceful and civil protesters several kilometres away?
Mr. Governor has been up and doing since the protest started over two weeks ago. He has demonstrated great comradeship with the protesting youths. He visited the President and the Inspector General of Police in Abuja and presented the youths’ demands to them. He briefed them on the situation of things and pleaded for a speedy response from them as a means to curtail the protest from dragging for too long. I must commend him for being alive to his responsibility until Tuesday when he announced a 24-hour curfew in the state. That was a big and costly mistake.
Being a cosmopolitan city, Lagos is more complex than other states of the federation. That the protest has been largely peaceful, properly organised and firmly under self-control should have been considered before adopting the curfew option. The truth is there are many jobless and hungry vandals roaming the streets of Lagos than elsewhere in Nigeria. The Governor should not have announced the curfew at all. The situation in Lagos was manageable if proper evaluation and critical thinking were done before the decision to impose the curfew was taken taken.
Replicating his Oyo State counterpart, Governor Seyi Makinde’s idea would have been ideal for Lagos. Like other states in the Southwest, schools have been shut. Makinde directed security agents to go after the hoodlums wherever they cause violence and skirmishes but they should protect the peaceful #EndSARS protesters and disallow miscreants from mingling with them. Makinde also asked Oyo State citizens to go about their lawful businesses without molestation. As at today, Oyo is peaceful and economic activities are going on while #EndSARS protest continues. This is what Governor Sanwoolu should have done and the peace Lagos has enjoyed over the weeks wouldn’t have been truncated.
Sanwo-Olu is rumoured to have acted on the instructions of his ‘big boss.’ Grapevine has it that he was “ordered” to declare the curfew, a directive his co-APC governors in the Southwest have partially adopted. It was alleged that the governor appeared “too complacent and unperturbed” about the daily financial losses to the protest at the toll plaza. This, it was alleged, may have necessitated the hurriedly imposed curfew.
There are footages of videos on social media showing street urchins being ferried and dispatched at different locations in posh black Toyota Prado jeeps by those suspected to be covert security agents or aides to some public officials or politicians with the sole aim of discrediting the peaceful protest in order to prepare a justifiable ground for military deployment so as to crush the agitation. The same tactics were said to have been applied in Lagos through the use of young boys rampaging and attacking police facilities. What is so obvious is that the public is aware that government is sponsoring thugs to disrupt the peaceful protests in Abuja and Lagos in particular. The real #EndSARS protesters are easily identified by their conduct, orderliness and non-violent demonstrations.
Till now, no rampaging demonstrators have been arrested, quizzed and set for prosecution. This underscores the fact that the miscreants were indeed hired for a purpose. I hope the current momentary but uneasy calm would not be mistaken for an end of the #EndSARS protests. It is only a short break to mourn their dead compatriots, reenergise and restrategise. Government should embark on speedy actions on the demands of the youths to keep them out of the streets before a resurgence of restive agitations ensues.
It is very annoying for Mr. Governor to deny casualties from the shooting. It is unthinkable that soldiers will shoot rounds of live ammunitions at defenceless youths at such a close range without recording casualties. The soldiers should have shot into the air to disperse or scare the protesters. It was an intentional killing. There are video evidences to this effect. Meanwhile, actions preceding the shooting confirmed that it was carefully planned. Security cameras were earlier dismantled by the officials of the toll plaza. Then, barely five minutes to the arrival of the killer squad, the street lights were switched off. It is therefore heartless and ungodly for Mr. Governor to claim ignorance of the whole plot whereas facts are already emerging on the shenanigans, executive hypocrisy and conspiracy against the youths on peaceful protest. For this sacrilegious and wicked action, only God can forgive the plotters and executors of the evil acts. Sanwoolu needs to ask for forgiveness. It is sad for him to stain his garment with the blood of innocent youths cut at their prime.
While Governor Sanwoolu is left alone to sort himself out of the problem of indiscretion and decision summersault, those he did not have “direct control” over but caused the problem for him have been denying knowing next to nothing about the military deployment. It is funny to hear the Nigerian Army deny deploying its men to execute the dastardly engagement on the unarmed youngsters at Lekki toll plaza in Lagos.
As an elected public officer who is accountable to the people on his stewardship, actions and pronouncements, Sanwoolu should never agree to serve any parochial interest that is at variance with public good, peace and prosperity. If the fear of losing second term ticket is the reason for doing what is against his conscience and conviction, he should stand for what is right and commit his future to God’s hand. If he serves the people well, his political prospects lie in the hand of God and the support of the people. He should stand on the part of rectitude and take steps to appease the blood of the murdered protesters by reaching out to their bereaved families. And until Nigeria is restructured, reformed or a new nation emerged from her, Aluta Continua!