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#EndSARS: Living in self-denial

 

I am tellingly and instructively finding it difficult to reconcile all the variables that have dominated public discourse in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, with its attendant casualties and the several judicial panels set up to address the fallout.

 

I sat back to dissect the issues and the contradictory submissions of the Federal Government and the Army, and all I see is the dubiety of a government that has lost touch with the people it ought to govern.

 

From all dimensions, the rhetorics are deafening, the soundbites are benumbing and the contradictions are humiliating.

 

How can we generate outright lies and half-truths just to justify the mayhem of October 20, with perfunctory arrogance and bare-faced stupidity, on a citizenry that you derived your political power from, ab initio? The Nigerian Army will go forth, backward and sideway, trying to piece together a narrative that is neither here nor there.

 

In one breath, they speak with their usual dictatorial authority, oh if we find ourselves in similar circumstance, we will repeat what we did, such recklessness, as though, they do not recognise the place of the Nigerian Constitution. Big shame.

 

That was how they mauled down harmless citizens in Zaria, members of the Shi’ite sect, who were reportedly carrying out their procession. Till date, the injustice has not been addressed.

 

The Nigerian Army must know where to draw the line when it comes to carrying out responsibilities that are essentially within the purview of the Nigeria Police. Internal security is the constitutional responsibility of the Nigeria Police, and not the military.

 

If for any reason the military are called in to support the effort of the police, it should be conscious of the redline. An average soldier is trained to kill, that is why it is often dangerous to call them in to quell riots, protest or any civil unrest. The only language they understand is shooting and killing. Every other rule of engagement is secondary to them.

 

This is why they have been rigmarolling in their veiled effort to alter a narrative that was aptly captured by CNN, who were able to geolocate the movement of the soldiers from their barracks to the scene of horror, the Lekki Toll plaza.

 

The submissions of Brigadier-General Ibrahim Taiwo have contradicted the earlier position of the Army that said soldiers did not participate in the shootings. Even, the idea that persons were not killed flies in the face of reason, where you hear gunshots of live ammunition as opposed to blank bullets that were initially declared.

 

The CNN report showed empty cases of bullets to buttress the point that live ammunition were used. From what I have watched and read so far, it shows an Army that is distraught and not motivated, an army that is easily berserk at the slightest provocations.

 

How can a General in the Army tell you he’s not aware of a tweet by the Nigerian Army, denying involvement in the Lekki Toll plaza shooting, or other ancillary information concerning the invasion by the soldiers?

 

The reality of the Lekki Toll Plaza episode is a metaphor for our collective failure as a country that is utterly tactless in dealing with internal protestations. If government and its apparati have not failed, there won’t be #EndSARS protest. If the Police have lived up to expectations, there won’t be #EndSARS.

 

If there are jobs and employment for the average Nigerian youths, crime rate would drop, and the responsibility of the Police to provide security to lives and property would be more robust. If there is no hunger and poverty in the land, the looting we saw would not have happened.

 

If there is sincerity on the part of those who govern us, the looted palliatives would have since been distributed to those who really needed them. If there is honesty of purpose, the Nigerian Army would have opened up and tell the whole truth, instead of allowing itself to be caught pants-down in contradiction.

 

The October 20, Lekki Toll Plaza mayhem will remain a sore thumb in the reminiscences of this Buhari presidency. It was obvious, the government was taken unawares, because there were no warning signs, no formal assembly, no ultimatum given. The nation just woke up and saw some parts of the country in protest against police brutality; before they could react, the protest had spread to other parts of the country.

 

Rather than invoke the power of communication to address the kernel of the demands, hoodlums carrying peculiar sticks and cudgels were unleashed on the streets. In Abuja, they killed and maimed, vehicles were burnt before the very eyes of the police, and it once again, showed the rudderless leadership of a system that is detained by its own incompetence.

 

I am just imagining how lofty it would have been for Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information; Sunday Dare, Minister of Youths and Sports and the Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to visit the protesters at Lekki Toll Plaza to address them. The scenario would not have turned bloody.

 

Those peaceful protesters would have listened to the voice of reason. They would have appreciated the fact that the government had indeed, heard their cries. Rather than dialogue, the government responded with stones and bullets; a language that is peculiar with the military, brute force that is not in sync with democratic government.

 

Now caught, everyone is singing a different tune, speaking from both sides of their mouths. When has a governor of a state empowered by the Constitution to call out the Army? When did Army start taking orders from state governors? There is only one Commander-in-Chief under the Constitution of Nigeria.

 

The Army ought to defer to the constitution and not the whims and caprices of anyone, but in Nigeria, when there is success, there is collective responsibility, but when there is failure, there is individual guilt.

 

The Lekki assault simply exposed the weaknesses in a government that is forcing itself down the throat of the citizens. This government does not carry the people along. It is too individualistic, selfcentred and egocentrically woven around few persons who have lost touch with the people.

They increased pump price of petrol without qualms, increased electricity tariff without equivocation. They imposed hunger and poverty on the people through bad policies and initiatives.

 

This government has led Nigeria to another recession that will bring further hardship on a people that have been at the receiving end of economic dislocations.

 

They sing on paper about their achievements, such day dream, but on ground, what you find are direct opposite. Where are the 600 roads in the country? Where are the pipe borne water?

 

Where are the health facilities? Where has the Vision 2020 taken us? Kidnappers are everywhere. Bandits are everywhere. Insurgents are gaining muscle, yet Nigeria military, rather than concentrate its energy on those economic dis-investment, would easily develop erection when it is confronted with hapless protesters.

 

The present service chiefs have outlived their effectiveness and capacity. They no longer show signs of motivation. The Inspector- General of Police is also showing symptoms of an embattled Police Officer. The society is apparently lawless as if we no longer have a Police Force in place.

 

Crimes and criminalities are on the increase, and criminals are becoming more daring than ever before. They kill, maim and rob without resistance. The people are now resorting to selfhelp to safeguard themselves.

 

Rather than living in self-denial, the government should come out boldly to apologise to the people and ask for forgiveness. Government exists for the people and if those who are the repositors of power are being mauled down, I wonder where such a government will derive its legitimacy next time. The Nigerian Army should see itself as partners in progress in service of the people, and not an oppressor breathing down the throat of the people.

 

It should realise that this is a democracy that guarantees the freedom of speech, of assembly and of association by the people. If the Army truly want to exhibit its gallantry, it should intensify its operations in the North-East zone to eliminate the Boko Haram insurgency that has become a war of attrition.

 

That way, the people will appreciate their capacity to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria, instead of visiting their anger on harmless protesters for no justifiable reason.

 

 

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