Sanwo-Olu’s Curfew and Executive Hypocrisy (2) ~ By Michael West
The Nigerian Army’s confession that they were invited by the Lagos State government didn’t hit me as a surprise. I knew all along that Mr. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu knew more than passing knowledge about the Lekki toll plaza shooting by soldiers. Last week, this column gave some sketchy behind the scenes that ultimately led to the incident. The plotters of the incident failed to consider or probably took for granted the furore that the misadventure would generate locally and internationally.
The Nigerian Army which had earlier denied deployment of its troops to the scene didn’t just recant, it volunteered the information when it couldn’t sustain the narrative any further. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has been under intense pressure over the incident. He was receiving calls from world leaders including the Secretary General of the United Nations placing demands for a probe to unravel the mystery surrounding the incident.
Prominent Nigerians, pressure groups, religious bodies, leaders of thoughts and opposition political parties have sustained the pressure to know who actually called out the military guys to duty under such a circumstance. Expectedly, Buhari turned the hit on Army authorities to explain what they knew about it. It was the result of the global outcry and heated agitation that forced the military to speak out as a way of exonerating itself from human rights violation culpability.
In its statement, the Army, through its acting spokesman, Osoba Olaniyi, claimed that “soldiers stayed away from the #EndSARS protests until the Lagos government invited them to restore order.” It went further to reveal that “However, the decision to call in the military was taken by the Lagos State Government (LASG) after a 24-hour curfew was imposed.”
Unfortunately, the incident happened even before the commencement of the curfew. The curfew, initially announced to take effect from 4pm was later shifted to 9:pm while the shooting started at about 7:00pm. The entire scenario was a manifest conspiratorial plot executed in blind impunity and sheer executive conspiracy to achieve subversion of a popular agitation. This was what played out last week Tuesday’s night at the Lekki toll plaza venue of the peaceful #EndSARS protest.
In his response to the Army’s revelation, Mr. Governor, through his spokesman, Gboyega Akosile, said there was nothing wrong in seeking the intervention of the military in crisis situation. He placed emphasis on the aspect that the military denied shooting at protesters thereby dismissing the accusation that they shot and killed.
According to him, “if you read the statement very well, the angle of Lagos State government, you (will) understand. There is nothing wrong to say lawlessness, anarchy has come and the military should be called to intervene. There is nothing wrong there, there is nothing wrong there.” He, however, was silent on the earlier denial by his principal that he didn’t know who drafted the soldiers to the scene.
I dare say that Governor Sanwo-Olu is playing a fall guy for somebody in this conspiracy. He was not acting his own scripts. I alluded to this possibility last week in this column. Not a few people are now disappointed in the agile and able governor.
In his live interviews on local and international television stations, Sanwo-Olu kept denying his involvement in the plot while assuring that a proper investigation will be carried out to unravel those behind the onslaught on the unarmed peaceful protesters within the military command structure. His barefaced lies vitiate his credibility and integrity as a governor of the wealthiest state in West Africa sub-region.
Sanwo-Olu is not alone in the shenanigans. Now that his loyalty to the people has been put to test by the disclosure of the Nigerian Army, it also behoves him to name his instigators and accomplices in knitting the web of the onslaught. Last week, I placed the blame for the unfortunate incident at the doorsteps of the governor given some incontrovertible evidences and sequence of events preceding the shooting.
The major cause of the problem was the impulsive imposition of the curfew in Lagos State. To be honest, there was no justifiable reason or reasons for it. It was done in a desperate bid to get the determined youths off the streets at all cost. For the wanton destruction of state and private properties and looted businesses as a fallout of the shooting, the governor should take the blame.
When state sponsored thugs and streets urchins could not disrupt the well-organised, peaceful and widely supported protests, they resorted to the curfew option which has now caused more harrowing and painful consequences than they ever imagined.
I want to disagree with those who are saying the #EndSARS peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums. That was a blatant lie. It was never hijacked. The narrative was propounded to achieve a sinister end. To hijack means the miscreants took over the protests in all its standard locations; and this never happened. When government’s sponsored vandals attempted to disrupt the protests at Alausa and Lekki toll plaza locations, the youths engaged the services of bouncers and security dogs.
That was the end of the coordinated aggression. Until government’s unprovoked attack on the protesters at Lekki toll plaza venue, there was no commotion or disruption of any kind recorded. The curfew, I insist, was needless; it was imposed as the last option to dislodge the youths, howbeit, forcefully from the streets knowing full well that the protesting youths would want to defy the order.
Mr. Governor has also come out to declare that there were no casualties as a result of the shooting at Lekki toll plaza. How possible? With live ammunitions being fired in the midst of unarmed youths, it is impossible not to record casualties. That night, the protesters were screaming loud and clear that the soldiers refused to allow the injured and those lying lifeless from being taken to the hospital in the ambulance. It was later alleged that the soldiers took away the dead bodies. And that is typical of the military whenever such incidences occur.
It is unfortunate though understandable that the Nigerian Army is on the same page with Mr. Governor on this deceit. The army said its men “did not shoot at civilians,” then, what did they do with their weapons at the scene? How come people were picking cartridges and bullet shells on the ground? Playing the ostrich in this age of modern technology will further expose the lies to the consternation of the Army authorities and sadly embarrassing to the international audience. Amnesty International in its report has confirmed casualties from Lekki shooting.
The agency also disclosed that it has a video recording of how the troops moved from Bonny Camp military base to the toll plaza in its possession. For those who are asking “Where are the dead bodies” or “Let the parents or families of missing protesters come out,” I will advise them to be calm. The truth which has began to unfold will eventually be made public sooner or later.
Apart from personal integrity deficit the governor may suffer, his political party and its candidates will bear the brunt of the decimated public image and dislike brought about by the poor handling of the celebrated #EndSARS protests in Lagos State for a long time.
This time around, if the fervency and zest for change as demonstrated by the patriotic youths are sustained, electoral process manipulations that have always earned undeserved victories to political merchants would cease forthwith; and this should start with the forthcoming Lagos East Senatorial by-election. I’m waiting to see our promising and vibrant youths put their will test soonest by translating their clamour for change into action.
“I want to disagree with those who are saying the #EndSARS peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums. That was a blatant lie. It was never hijacked. The narrative was propounded to achieve a sinister end. To hijack means the miscreants took over the protest in all its standard locations; and this never happened.”