People & Politics

December 12, 2021

Lekki Toll Gate and battle for Lagos

At the memorial yesterday.

By Ochereome Nnanna

If you think that the #EndSARS protest 
of October 2020 was only about ending police brutality in Nigeria you may be mistaken.

In the South East, South-South and Abuja, police brutality was indeed central to the street agitations.

But in Lagos, in addition to the core issue, it was a popular confrontation with the Bola Ahmed Tinubu political machine.

I doubt that the organisers of the protest originally aimed at targeting Tinubu’s hold on Lagos.

It probably became part of their casus belli when armed thugs loaded in Lagos mass transit buses were drafted to the venues of the protests, especially the Alausa seat of power.

READ ALSO: #EndSARS: The truths about the untruths of ‘massacre without bodies’

This probably also led to the direct targeting of BRT buses for arson when the protest turned into a riot.

Another element of politics was the choice of Alausa and Lekki Toll Gate instead of the usual Freedom Park at Ojota and Rowe Park in Yaba.

The Lekki Toll Gate was forcefully established against the wishes of most Lagos residents.  

When the hired thugs failed to disperse the protesters, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu should have deployed the police anti-riot squad.

Any police force that cannot disperse unarmed protesters with water cannons and teargas is not worth the name.

Why did Sanwo-Olu, a people-oriented gentleman, call in the Army?

Did he imagine that the Army would quell the protest and yet nobody would die? This same Army under Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai which massacred and buried 347 Shiites in Zaria on December 12, 2015? This same Buratai-led Army which Amnesty International, AI, in a report dated November 24, 2016, accused (with concrete evidence) of massacring and burying 150 Biafra agitators at National High School, Aba? With this track record of cold-blooded mass murder of unarmed civilians, how could the Lagos governor or those pushing him imagine that the Army would merely go and hug the protesters?

The hoodlums had effectively hijacked the protests and turned it into an orgy of burning and looting Lagos government assets and the property of those seen as Tinubu’s backers such as the Oba of Lagos, HRH Rilwan Akiolu. His palace was ransacked and his staff of office desecrated by street urchins. 

A lot of money was reportedly carted away from his palace. Hundreds of BRT buses, government offices, private warehouses, shops, malls and markets were looted out.

Police stations were burnt down and dozens of police officers killed.

As the riots died down, Governor Sanwo-Olu resurfaced, striking the posture of a sobre leader anxious to rally the Lagos populace back to normalcy and commence the process of rebuilding the city-state. But the political structure that owns him was looking for a scapegoat to hang the riots and destruction on.

With a snap of the finger they found one pronto – who else – the Igbo residents of Lagos. Ndi gbo in Lagos were accused of fronting the destruction of Lagos.

The plan of the sick individuals behind this narrative was to plunge Lagos and beyond into an ethnic conflict between Igbo and Yoruba and thus win back the rapidly-attenuating Yoruba support for Tinubu and his political clique.

But it failed because the Yoruba and Igbo youth and elders (such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere as well as IPOB and Yoruba Nation separatist agitators) had formed a solid alliance worldwide.

They rapidly dispelled the evil notion of Igbo plot to destroy Lagos.

They beat down the tension. When the devil saw he had been shamed, he fled. Resist the devil, he will flee, says the Bible.

The same politics is at play now that the Lagos #EndSARS panel has completed its job. Sanwo-Olu still strikes the posture of a good man in bad hands.

He set up a panel of people of integrity, gave them a free hand and provided all their needs.

But following the alternative narrative the Federal Government and his political owners have been pushing that nobody died at the toll gate, he is not only queuing up behind them, he is also preparing for what he calls a walk for “Peace”.

This walk is only for peace in name if carried out within the prevailing atmosphere. The Lagos #EndSARS panel report has become shamelessly politicised.

Only the Tinubu group believes it has solved a problem by the White Paper’s declaration that there was no massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate. Only they and their hirelings will participate in that walk. They will walk alone.

I hope, as they prepare for their Walk for Peace, they should also be ready to allow those who might want to Walk for Justice.

With government denial of massacre, justice has not been served. Can there be peace without justice? Even if nobody was killed at the Lekki Toll Gate, what about the 99 bodies recovered from all over Lagos during the #EndSARS tumult? Were they not Nigerians? Were they not human beings? Any justice for them?

Walking for “peace” while people are still hurting over their dead is insensitive and callous.

Caution calls for a shelving of this walk to calm frayed nerves first.

This is the primary reflex of the Sanwo-Olu personality we have come to know.

But his owners will want to assert power. After 23 years in charge, Tinubu’s political machine now relies more on iron fist to ram its way through rather than popular approval.

These are sure signs of the imminent end of an era.

Vanguard News Nigeria