Black Tuesday and the heroic Nigerian youths by Lateef Adewole

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EndSARS protesters have gone rampage in the south of Nigeria
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The Insight by Lateef Adewole

“A day will come when Nigerian masses from the north and south, Christians, Muslims and animists will merge as a force for progress and unity, and kick against rigging, corruption and tyranny”. – Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987)

We were almost there! I mean the prophecy of the late sage almost came to pass with the events of the past three weeks, but for some unscrupulous youths who eventually succumbed to the pressure from the corrupt leaders and their own greed by allowing themselves to be used at a later stage, to disrupt already peaceful protests by the youths of Nigeria for many days.

“Eni a ro wipe ko le pago, o se bi ere, o k’ole alaruru”. The rejected stones have become the corners stones. The “lazy” youths have shown all of us that they are only not lazy but are courageous. Not in the words of mouth but displayed in rare action of bravery. Many have never seen such before now.

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Tuesday, 20th of October, 2020, will go down in the anal of Nigeria’s history as another dark day. That was the day, night of which was covered in the blood of innocent, peacefully protesting Nigerian youths and citizens, the future of the country. Worse still, no security agent has taken responsibility for that dastardly act since the most obvious that night, the Nigerian Army, has denied their involvement.

As of this moment, it is still the words and videos of protesters that betrayed their culpability, if the camouflage worn by those who committed that atrocity was to be seen as evidence. These were obvious in numerous video and live streams of the events leading to the attacks and the sporadic shootings that night.

A virtual meeting with former Heads of State presided over by President Buhari at the Council Chambers in the State House, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari

The governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that the people were military men. This controversy is still raging as I write. And this was made worse with the complete lack of acknowledgement of that deadly attack and bloodshed by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech on Thursday night. Not as much as a sentence was made to talk about it. That was the greatest shock of the night.

Whoever wrote that speech for the president to read must be callous, inhumane and sadistic. How dare them? How could such deliberate omission be done? And that the president signed off on it and broadcasted such speaks volumes of his person and his mindset. A friend challenged me when I wrote last week that “the president was forced out of his cocoon to address the youths in a recorded post on social media” last time. I hope he can now see that Thursday speech was like a salt to injury. It was empty.

Mr. Sanwo-Olu has been in the line-of-fire since that night of deaths. He was accused of being responsible. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was also dragged into it, understandably so. The governor has since being struggling and battling to clear his name and prove his innocence. The sword fell on him because of the sequence of events that happened just before that night.

The location of the most peaceful, most organised, well coordinated and civilised protest in Nigeria was Lekki, at the toll plaza. For previous thirteen days, everything was as perfect as possible. Then on that day, the governor declared a curfew to begin by 4pm but later changed to 9pm. As night fell, the lights at the toll gate which normally provided illumination for the protesters, who have turned that location to their homes, unexpectedly were off. The place was thrown into darkness.

In no time, even before the commencement of the curfew, around 7pm the protesters said they saw a battalion of soldiers approaching them. Shouting orders and commanding them to disperse. The youths refused and insisted they were there peacefully. They all gathered with each having the Nigerian flag raised up. They started singing the Nigerian national anthem.

Despite this, the dare-devil attackers were not bothered. Suddenly, there was a rain of bullets with deafening sounds of rapidly shooting gunshots. It was like a war. These youths were still there, raised their flags and singing the national anthem. They were massacred in cold blood while declaring loyalty to their fatherland. What other sacrilegious act could be greater than that? All these were been recorded with their phones and transmitted real-time. People at home watching the events were all horrified. I just saw another video this morning as I put finishing touches to this article. My heart bled all over again. Many have neither seen such horrendous act before nor experienced such heroic display by our supposedly “lazy” youths. It was incredible.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu inspecting some of the properties destroyed in the coordinated attacks
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu inspecting some of the properties destroyed in the coordinated attacks

In the aftermath of the attack, many were dead. Many were wounded and maimed. Since that night, the volume of horror pictures and videos that have circulated on the internet is more than enough for a lifetime. They are nightmarish. I have had sleepless nights many days since then. This is beastly. Those who did that are worse than animals. They are inhuman. Many youths were cut down in their prime, not for anything criminal but for simply demanding for their rights as Nigerians. All the people who were involved one way or the other shall never go unpunished. They shall be rewarded in multiple folds. They shall suffer the same fate (crying).

The last time I saw something close to this was during the June 12, 1993 struggles. And that was not led or coordinated by youths. There were elders among them who provided leadership and guidance, including many who are now political leaders today and are accused of involvement. They fought military for democracy, only to turn around and engendered bad governance and entrenched corruption. Many of them are worse than the military people they fought then.

I have watched countless interviews, read many speeches and press releases of Governor Sanwo-Olu since that event happened on Tuesday night. He has been on the hot seat. In a one-on-one on Arise TV on Thursday, when asked about the allegations that he ordered the removal of the CCTV at the toll gate and the switching off of the lights. He denied them. He said that what people saw in the picture of a staff of LCC circulating was not the CCTV camera but an infrared sensor camera that senses the cars and controls the opening and closing of the barricade.

He insisted that the CCTV cameras were there and intact. That was great news as we believe the footages from them will shed more light on what actually happened that night and exposed the culprits, since the army still denies it. They must be brought to book. This is the only way the governor can exonerate himself that he did not order the switching off of the lights. Also, the management of the plaza said they were responsible for putting off the light because of the curfew. They claimed to have shut down so that their staff could go home before the curfew. This explanation did not go down well with most people. It looks suspicious.

Nigeria’s loss

This singular action of “terror” that night caused the crisis to spiral out of control. The many hitherto peaceful protesters suddenly went wild. They began to destroy anything and everything in sight, so long they bear government’s identify (Lagos state and FG). Tens of BRT buses and their terminals in different locations were burnt down. The Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) office, Television station, the toll gates at Lekki and Ikoyi link bridge, police stations, local government secretariats, homes, houses and cars of any associate of political leaders, Oba of Lagos palace, prisons, and so on, were touched. Shops and malls were vandalised and looted.

A warehouse, where Covid-19 relieve materials were kept, was ransacked. Attacks on persons were carried out with many killed in the process. Things fall apart. It was a sad memory. All because of the recklessness and stupidity of some people. We are all paying darely for it now. Many states have declared curfews in various degrees and number of days. We hope people will “calm down”, though they still defied it. May God heal our land.

The much awaited speech from Mr. President was finally delivered on Thursday night, but it was uninspiring. It did not have the anticipated impact because people could see through it. It did not sound genuine, emphatic and hopeful. In fact, many saw it as more threatening than conciliatory and sympathetic. It was a typical “military” speech. Many people were disappointed. In fact, it instantly became a butt of jokes as people made caricatures of it. They gave different summaries of it in one or few sentences. One that is funny says: “You asked for speech, you got the speech, now, you’re speechless!”. I couldn’t stop laughing.

In spite of these, even in the face provocations, the destructions of public and private properties are unacceptable. These were not part of the agenda of the peaceful protests. End SARS, end police brutalities, police reforms, demand for good governance, reducing costs of governance, fight against corruption, and the likes, are the basis for the protests, not the killings, maiming, destructions or looting. All these need to stop now!

The youths must not allow their huge sacrifices and the deaths of our heroes and heroines (youths) to be in vain. And they are not limited to those in Lagos alone but all across the country, who stood up to demand for their rights and for a better Nigeria in the face of oppression and tyranny. This movement should transmute into a greater thing like a political party. The only way to get the desired world is to create their own. Forming their own party, presenting their own candidates, get registered, collect their PVCs, come out and vote during 2023 elections and elect the leaders of their choices. That is the only way to immortalise the Nigerian martyrs.

The country can never be the same again. Those who take Nigerians for granted and the youths especially, would have had a rethink now. It will no longer be business as usual. Youths have tasted “unofficial” power and there is no going back. Those recalcitrant political leaders who do not want to change their ways will meet their political waterloo.

The political leadership of the country should be alive to their responsibilities at all times. We got here in the first place due to their recklessness, ineptitude, insensitivity, profligacy, and corrupt tendencies. They need to change their ways so that we won’t ever experienced this again. They should make good their promises to the youths. The security agents must also have learnt their lessons. They must have found out that no one person has monopoly of violence. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The “real” power belongs to the people.

We are proud of our Nigerian youths!

“They children of the poor you failed to train will never let your children have peace”. – Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

May the souls of those who died rest in peace.

God Bless Nigeria.

Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter