By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
TUESDAY’S shooting of unarmed, peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos has drenched the country in blood, drained hopes of quick resolutions of the issues, and more importantly doused Nigerians with more airs of uncertainty.
A recurring question is who in-charge.
Who ordered the use of live bullets on unarmed Nigerians, the youth, the leaders of tomorrow? Who prepared the grounds for the attack by removing the cameras at the toll plaza? Was that the best option? Was what we saw the skills of our army in handling protesting civilians?
There is a lot to worry about Tuesday night. The attack on 20 October 2020, famously noted as Tuesday 20.10.20 is unforgettable.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said there was no loss of lives. It could be an interim position as victims were still in hospital. Wanton loss of lives has become a part of our national life. The shooting executed by the Nigerian Army on unarmed protesters had all the marks of a war. The ricocheting sound of firing filled the air. The shrilling cries of young people trapped at the scene gave those who watched the clips a sleepless night.
Nigerians should be worried beyond the attack, which was deliberate, planned not to disperse the protesters, but to inflict maximum damage on them. The use of live bullets is inexplicable. The denial of access to ambulances racing to the scene was another indication of the intentions.
What should bother Nigeria more include the clear absence of leadership accepting responsibility for ordering the attack. The closest to accepting that the shooting was official came from Sanwo-Olu saying that powers beyond him acted, mentioning the Nigerian Army specifically in his Wednesday morning broadcast.
“This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted after visiting the injured in hospitals in the early hours of Wednesday.
Governors swindle Nigerians as the Chief Security Officer of their States, a guise to empty the treasury of billions of Naira as security vote. We have always known they were not in-charge of security.
Nigeria has only one Chief Security Officer. President Muhammadu Buhari bears that title. Have Nigerians heard from him? His loud silence in the two weeks of the protests led to the outcome in Lekki.
President Buhari refused to address the protesters directly, smiled when Sanwo-Olu was briefing him, and generally carried on as if the country was going through one of its greatest moments.
Tweets, statements, and caretaker decisions the Vice President, Inspector General of Police and other concerned Nigerians made did not resonate with protesters.
Why did the President who has the powers to stop the protests act lamely through others? Did he rate the issues too unimportant to merit his majestic presence? Is he not always telling Nigerians he would take responsibility for actions of government?
Attacks on peaceful protesters also in Abuja have all borne the imprimatur of the authorities. Efforts to stop them have been at most casual.
Condemnations of the Lekki shooting have been from home and abroad. American presidential candidate Joe Biden has asked President Buhari to stop the shooting, re-echoing an earlier position of Hilary Clinton, former American Secretary of State and a 2016 presidential candidate.
The response so far from Abuja on the Lekki incident was through Senator Ita Enang, presidential Senate Liaison Officer. In response to Channel Television’s morning programme, Sunrise Daily about a statement from the President, Enang said, “Well, the incident happened last night and we are just waking up”.
Sanwo-Olu in his broadcast tried justifying measures he took to ensure that the State did not descend into chaos. He said hoodlums were taking over and the State wanted to deal with them. That could not have been possible if the peaceful protesters were permitted to remain on the streets.
Protesters needed to leave the streets. They wanted someone to hold responsible for the change they were demanding. Only the President could provide that comfort. He refused to address them.
How does Nigeria proceed from this point? The economy already down through mismanagement was grinding along with the additional devastation of Covid-19. The shooting adds to the political and economic challenges facing Nigeria.
The shooting tells different stories about the feelings of leadership about Nigerians, ordinary people who are statistics mostly needed during elections. They do not matter. They can be killed without consequences.
If the Nigerian Army did not attack the protesters, who did? Should the development not be another reason for concerns? If it did as Sanwo-Olu is insisting, why the denial?
Are we in a country that some armed people in army camouflage can get into highbrow Lekki, not a remote village, switch off electricity and toll plaza cameras, before firing live bullets at unarmed, peaceful protesters who were waving the Nigerian flags?
The blood that flowed at Lekki Toll Plaza adds to the brutality of security agencies. Those denying that the army shot the unarmed protesters should tell us who did. Or will they also deny the incident?
Hoodlums defying the curfew have unleashed mayhem on Lagos. They have replaced the peaceful protesters. Reports of burning of government offices fill the social media. Some television stations have gone off the air for fear of being attacked.
While we wait for the President to wake up, Sanwo-Olu has provided leadership within his span of authority by setting up a panel of enquiry, attending to the injured, and liaising with the military authorities, to find out who sent the army after unarmed civilians. There are names behind “the forces beyond our direct control”.
How protesters over SARS killings became latest additions to Nigerians the army brutalised with live bullets is important enough to get the President’s attention when he wakes up.
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