IN many ways, the #EndSARS protest of 2020 reminds us of the June 12, 1993 presidential election whose annulment led to serious political crises and loss of lives.
Like June 12, 1993 which was the freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria, #EndSARS was the cleanest, best organised and most patriotic protest ever held in Nigeria against police brutality.
But on October 20, 2020, following failed moves to disperse the protesters, the Lagos State Government invited troops whose original mandate was officially to prevent a breakdown of law and order, but the consequence of that “invitation” will live in infamy.
To this day, there are still conflicting figures of the number of people that died that night.
Nigerians and the world at large watched on live television as shots rang out from troops as the unarmed youth sang Nigeria’s national anthem. That bloody night served as a trigger that sparked off the riots, burning and looting that first started in Lagos and spread to other parts of the country when warehouses stocked with COVID-19 palliatives were discovered.
Police and security personnel as well as their establishments were targeted by hoodlums.
Indeed, 22 policemen, seven solders and 59 civilians were killed, while 205 police stations were destroyed, according to the former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu. Also, 71 public warehouses and 248 private stores were looted or razed.
Lagos State lost hundreds of public transit luxury buses while many government buildings were attacked by arsonists.
By the time the smoke of crisis cleared, the nation was bleeding profusely as a result of government mismanagement of otherwise peaceful protests.
While the Federal Government took a few cosmetic measures to “reform” the police, several state governments set up panels of inquiry.
The presidency ordered the arrest and prosecution of the protest leaders. Such a monumental event deserves to be marked, especially at the Lekki Tollgate which has now become a hallowed ground due to the spilt blood of patriots. We call for the removal of the tollgate and erection of a national memorial in honour of victims of the Lekki Tollgate massacres.
However, we caution youth and social advocacy groups to kindly shelve the anniversary activities to a more opportune time in the future.
Any attempt to protest again will surely lead to further bloodshed, particularly as government will likely do all in its power to prevent a re-enactment of the looting spree and attack on police personnel.
More importantly, we should not dance into the waiting arms of evil politicians who had attempted but woefully failed to twist the crisis last year into a Yoruba/Igbo ethnic confrontation.
The issues that led to the #EndSARS protests are still germane, but another protest at this time should be avoided.