Only the people that didn’t hear it on that Tuesday, 10 October, 2020, were able to sleep. I have young relatives in Lagos but my fear was for all the young people at Lekki Toll Gate that night. I was wondering about the state of their lives. I was crying because I felt I could have stopped them. I blamed myself for not being able to make those young ones go home and still blamed the Lagos State government for the curfew. I was hysteric.
The history of the #ENDSARS protest that birthed #LekkiMassacre or #LekkiGenocide is not a hidden one. The protest started well but ended chaotic. It started peacefully but ended in violence. I believe if the youths had taken a better strategy towards actualising their demands from the government, thea country wouldn’t be passing through what it is experiencing right now. But then, so many questions have risen from the Tuesday night shooting and they are demanding for answers. Hopefully, the answers to these questions will help to restore peace and normalcy.
I am not sure of the exact day #ENDSARS protest began but I know it started as a call for action on Twitter. Shortly after these calls began to heat up, a video footage showing SARS officials kicking a man out of his car and driving off with the car went viral. This footage, be it coincidental or intentional, sparked off the already heated up agitation against SARS. However, the decision for a peaceful walk to demand for the dissolution of the outfit was decided and it took off on Friday 9 October, 2020 (not certain anyway). But on Sunday 11 October, 2020, barely three days into the protest, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, asked for the disbandment of SARS. This was done immediately by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu. That day was filled with jubilation because the youths have been able “to win the battle”.
One would have expected that the protest will be disbanded and youths returned to their homes but they seemed to have other agenda. To be honest with you, this is where the confusion started. Youths stayed back and made further demands, one of which was the speedy implementation of disbandment of SARS, persecution of corrupt officials and so on. When the NPF announced its plan to institutionalise Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT), all hell was let loose.
The result of this latest announcement was that youths started organising themselves in different parts of the country to carry out peaceful protests to demand for the end of SARS, which has already happened, and other items in their agenda. Soon, thugs “hired by the government” began to attack protesters for reasons best known to them. But instead of discouraging these young men and women from coming out to the streets, the attacks made them more determined to go on. They used social media platforms to encourage and spur themselves into action. They had no leader and so they heard several voices speaking different things and one thing at the same time. The only common message the youths heard was to come out and protest. What exactly they will protest for they are not sure. Hence, they began to demand for good governance without saying exactly the aspect of government policies that didn’t favour them. The protest became disorganised.
Since the second phase of this protest started, there were no efforts to reach out to and dialogue with top government officials by the youths because they, the youths, said they don’t want a “leader” from amongst them. They were afraid that the leader they chose would be compromised. They wanted the “government” to be fast with implementing their demands but they didn’t know that they were saying one million different things at the same time. No one could talk to them except those that accepted to leave things the way they were. Hence, the youths became the proverbial lamb that had no guide.
The end result of the protest is that thugs and miscreants began to operate amongst them, as expected. From complaints laid by people, these miscreants made some parts of Lagos unbearable for the residents. If protesters block a part of the road, thugs would block the other part. As protesters chant #ENDSARS at their own place, the miscreants extorted money from motorists at the own corner. By the end, it became nightmarish for the residents of Lagos.
But that notwithstanding, what happened at Lekki Toll Gate on that dark Tuesday is still a mystery to a lot of people. It is a mystery because it is unheard of that the government will send armed men to shoot and kill unarmed peaceful protesters without provocation. It is truly unbelievable that such a thing will happen in a country like Nigeria. But then, you never can tell because anything can happen.
But a lot of questions beg for answers concerning that night. Several photos of people killed that night have surfaced but each of them has been debunked as fake. Even the alerts for people missing after the shooting were later deleted or debunked. Some came back to say that the person has been found. So I ask, in a country where people cannot quarrel peacefully without the picture and video being uploaded into the internet, how come we are yet to get authentic pictures of the dead victims? What are the names of the dead? Who were they? Of course, there is an explanation for this. It is possible that the shooting scattered the protesters and so they couldn’t stay back to take pictures. But why didn’t the ambulance meet the corpses?
I got more confused when I saw a video, where one of the unharmed victims of that night granted an interview to a television house. In that video, the interviewee said that people were falling in great numbers as the military shot at them and that their bodies were being handed over to the soldiers as they died. I don’t know how this sounds but it raised a lot of questions that beg for answers. First of all, how did the protesters manage to stay put when they heard gunshots? I mean, with all the things happening around them, including the darkness since the streetlights were off, why didn’t they run when the soldiers started shooting? Why didn’t their reflex action be to run for their dear life? Apart from that, there was darkness, right? So how did the interviewee see people falling in great numbers and how did they, the protesters being shot at, hand over the corpses to the military? I honestly don’t understand, especially considering that there were no reports of dried blood scattered all over the floor. I mean, shouldn’t that place look like an abattoir?
I don’t want to talk about the issues relating to government officials mobilising thugs in broad daylight when they know people will video them and send them online. Why would they want to do that? Who were those officials? What was their motive? Who hired them? Who is this “government” that uses thugs?
I really don’t understand what is happening. It is time for the government officials to start talking and hence quell the tension. It is time for our president to address us, even if it is in writing. We need peace but we need to know that we are safe. We need to be sure that we can sleep and wake up without the fear of being lynched. We want a safe working country. But it’s high time our elected officers started making sense of things that have no meaning. Lekki Toll Gate shooting needs to be explained without mincing words. We need evidence. We need to know how it happened, if it happened and why it happened. We don’t want information from unverified sources again.