.Lamido Sanusi

On that fateful day, too many lies were told. The protests could have changed the country. But many people were in such a hurry. So they ran a marathon with the mindset of a sprinter. It had all seemed too successful that people forgot how to play rope a dope.

It had started with a noble 5 point demand. Then, once it gained traction, people began to dream. They expanded the list. Then they began talking like there was no list. They could have achieved all and more, but there was no methodology. And they said that the lack of methodology was a virtue. So they adopted general haphazardness. But that was only a part of the problem.

There were problems on all sides. The Federal Government didn’t read the handwriting on the wall early. The youths were fed up. They wanted a new way of doing things. But the federal government, when they responded, did it the old tired way. The government’s tardiness allowed an impetus they could have harnessed to initiate thoroughgoing reforms and enlist youth participation in politics to turn malignant. EndSars was a lost opportunity.

Many the souls of those that died rest in peace.

The truth must be said.

The soldiers that went to the Lekki toll gate and marched to a calm crowd of anthem-singing Nigerian youths to begin shooting were at the best clownish. There might be no evidence of a massacre, but there was clear evidence of military recklessness. They didn’t need that drunken display of gunnery, blank rounds or not, to disperse that crowd. Their visible conduct lent credence to all the rumours that later sprouted.

In the immediate aftermath of the Lekki shooting, many lies were told.

The military refused to confirm it participated. Then when it accepted that it deployed men to that toll gate that evening, it denied firing live rounds. Many weeks later, it became sure it fired only into the sky, not into the crowd. Many lies were told. The Lagos state government initially feigned ignorance of the military deployment. Then a couple of days later, it accepted that it had requested military assistance. The Lagos Govt’s reaction was baffling. Because it had strong reasons to call in the army. Policemen were being killed by mobs and police stations were being burnt. A curfew had been declared but the madness was spreading. The problem was, Lekki was relatively calm. The soldiers who went to Lekki, probably left their senses at home. But there were many other lies.

The Hyperbolic casualty rates haven’t been substantiated till today. Nobody knows whom to believe. Those who said they counted almost a hundred corpses are now only asking the government to provide the corpses. But where are the bereaved families? The panel sat for many weeks, only a few have shown up. The CNN and the BBC have contradicted themselves. The CCN claimed evidence of the military shooting live rounds into the crowd. Whom do we believe?

I know it’s difficult to separate the Lekki killings and those that happened when rampant arson started Post Lekki shooting. But the pictures of victims of a road traffic accident and Nollywood scenes, other events unrelated to the Lekki shooting, had gone viral and helped fuel the violence. Many of those who spread those pictures never bothered to retract when they found out they were false. There were simply too many lies.

Before that day, that fateful day at the Lekki toll gate, the protests had acquired dubious political undertones. Those who lost elections one year earlier had joined with red eyes of political opportunism. Many of them didn’t really care if SARS lived till eternity. They only joined the EndSars train because they wanted the ruling party’s mandate truncated. Some were democrats not adept with living in the opposition. So they didn’t mind a political hurricane that would create a new beginning. Amongst these folks are those who believed that the ruling party will manipulate the 2023 and subsequent elections. Some others who joined the Endsars train were activists seeking political leadership positions through the back door.

That said, the majority of the original participants were hardworking, patriotic, Nigerian youths desirous of a total reformation of a crumbling country. EndSars got contaminated.

Hours before the ugly event at the Lekki tollgate, a mob had descended on the Orile police station, murdered some police officers in broad daylight and looted the armoury. While hoodlumism spread, the organizers of the protests were aloof. They didn’t call off to reconvene at a later date. Had they the mindset of accomplished marathoners, Endsars which had become a social transformation movement would have been alive and kicking today. By the next day, the Oba’s palace was sacked, public buses and buildings were aflame, police brutality was back on the streets, hoodlums were running from shop to shop looting, the mouthpieces of the protest were in hiding.

The Federal Government was innocent and was efficient. The use of janjaweed anti-protest thugs in Abuja and other places was criminal. Even if it wasn’t the federal government that hired them, it was the duty of the police to arrest and prosecute the goons. Allowing cudgel-bearing hoodlums to descend on protesters unchecked, created the impression that the federal government was intent, not on listening but, on muzzling the protesters. Those viral pictures of men in dark suits chaperoning agberos angered the youths and instigated more violence.

Once the situation got complicated, the organizers lost control. Had the protesters appointed a leadership they would have been able to calibrate the pressures and not burn out. Because locking the Lekki toll gate permanently wasn’t tactful. The protesters forgot they had a duty to win hearts and minds too.

And those children whom they kept out of school had no hand in police brutality. Power intoxicates and power without responsibilities maddens. We all saw that. They shut the Lekki toll gate without regard to human suffering. And all the while, guys assembled at the gate, smoked ganja and frolicked.

The protesters didn’t have to be tyrannical. They didn’t have to be arbitrary and self-indulgent. When they refused to choose leaders because they didn’t trust in themselves and feared their leaders could be compromised, they inadvertently accepted the rule of the mob.

And that was what happened. Good faith was lacking on many sides. When snakes crept in and started ordering arson and murders, nobody called them out. And everything became poisoned. By the time the lies of the death toll at the toll gate were being told, the gates of hell were already breaking loose. When cities erupted and hoodlum spread into homes like wildfire, the de facto leaders of the protest were washing off their hands and jetting out to nice beaches abroad for vacation.

Sensationalism helps to raise awareness, especially where gross human rights abuses have happened. But activists must not encourage violence, even by their silence. Otherwise, they lose their moral voices.

Till today Lagos suffers.

Desperadoes, chameleons, snakes, secessionists, Janjaweed enforcers, crude security handling etc. messed it up.

I wish EndSars had lived till this day and fulfilled its true purpose. We missed a golden opportunity.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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