The shooting of unarmed and defenseless peaceful #ENDSARS Nigerian protesters by the Nigerian military in the country, especially at Lekki Toll area in Lagos, has left people talking since the dastardly incident took place on October 20, 2020. This action for all we know, has in many ways cast dark shadows on the country’s democracy, which is supposed to allow for freedom of expression, and not intimidation of any form.
Those who spoke at the wake of the unfortunate development wondered at the meaning of Role of Engagement (ROE), of the military. It is only conventional to engage when you come under attack. In this scenario, the #ENDSARS protesters according to reports, were seated peacefully, singing the National Anthem, yet, they were confronted by live bullets which to a large extent was confirmed by videos and pictures that went viral in the social media.
If we believe in the popular saying that the youths are leaders of tomorrow, then, this means that the country as it is, belongs to the youths. If the people in authority feel that the youths should not talk, then, it is no more democracy but autocracy that is being practiced here. Democracy, as it is, allows for citizens of a country to go on peaceful protest, speak out their concerns, and be heard by the government. That is what we think was the case here, when Nigerian youths decided to exercise their democratic rights. It is then ridiculous, the kind of treatment the Nigerian people are getting in the hands of those they elected into power.
For the country to move forward in the right direction, this narrative must definitely change. It can be recalled that few weeks back, for once, in the history of this great nation, youths irrespective of tribe and religion gathered, under one accord to demand for political and economic freedom from the people they elected into power, especially, the present Mohammadu Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) government, which came to power five years ago, having promised during their campaign to restructure the country and to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians, upon assumption of office.
What started with a one-point demand; #ENDSARS, however, stretched to eight (8) points, that include ENDSARS, SACK SECURITY CHIEFS, IMPROVE ON SECURITY, REDUCTION OF PETROL PUMP PRICE, REDUCTION IN PHCN BILL, CREATE JOBS FOR THE YOUTHS, STOP BANDITRY AND HERDSMEN, END ASUU STRIKE, among others. The inability of government to promptly and urgently address the issue(s) raised, which led to the protest may have given impetus to elongation of the protest, leading to total lockdown of some major towns and cities in all states of the country.
Although, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbanjo in his message to Nigerians, apologized and owned up that the government has been slow and may have failed to respond quickly to the yearnings of Nigerians; In his words “I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so, we could have moved faster and for this, we are sorry.” It is instructive to note that all known political socio-cultural groups in the country like the Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), and the Northern Leaders, have called for restructuring of the country to promote economic advancement, as well as peaceful co-existence.
This call remains valid at all times and must be heeded if we are not paying lips service to the problems bedeviling the country. Everyone acknowledged that the demands of the #ENDSARS protesters is legitimate and good for the country, yet, two weeks after the protest began, President Buhari was yet to address the Nigerian people. Even after the Lekki absurd massacre, and call by the upper legislative house and the protesters for the president to address the nation, the Commander-in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was yet to address the nation.
As it stands, critical infrastructures in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country have come under serious attack by hoodlums. Some unconfirmed information at our disposal has it that government is busy sponsoring thugs in Abuja especially, who move about to attack facilities and genuine protesters, instead of moving fast to assuage the peaceful protesters who many, including the governors, have identified with their course. The myriad of problems, ranging from insecurity, economic and political among other challenges are already threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria as they have continued to linger over the years.
Those fanning the ember of destruction and maiming hapless and unarmed Nigeria protesters, to be candid, are not working in the interest of Nigeria, but rather for their pay masters and should not be supported and shielded in any way. While we commiserate with the families of the people that lost their lives in the hands of these soldiers, yet to be identified, we call on the President Mohammadu Buhari to ensure that the Lekki ugly episode and others where the #ENDSARS protesters were felled by the bullets of those who were supposed to protect them does not happen again.
Beyond the Judicial Panel of Inquiry already instituted by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to investigate and unravel those behind this dastardly act, we charge the Federal Government to be involved deeply in this matter, so as to speedily unmask the soldiers and their commanders that perpetrated this gunfire that could have been avoided, given the heightened tensions in the land at the moment.