OP-ED Opinions 

In Defence Of Lagos #EndSARS Panelists, By Elias Ozikpu

The entire world turned its attention to Nigeria that bloody evening of Tuesday, October 20, 2020 when heavily armed Nigerian soldiers stormed the Lekki Tollgate, epicentre of #EndSARS protest and opened gunfire on peaceful demonstrators who were seated on the floor whilst singing the national anthem and waving the national flag.

Knowing how untrustworthy Nigerian politicians are, the entire world immediately focused on Nigeria, eager to see how this open crime against humanity would be handled.

Expectedly, the cover up started immediately and manifested when Sanwo-Olu claimed there were no deaths at the Lekki Tollgate. He later contradicted himself during an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson on October 26, 2020, saying that “only two people” died. Let’s even assume without conceding that they were two people, these were two innocent people who should never have been killed, yet they were referred to as “only,” a direct confirmation that the Nigerian life is of no value to any politician.



The Nigerian Army, which had shamelessly killed unarmed peaceful protesters, had the temerity to tweet and referred to the massacre as “fake news.” Do we not say all the time that the Nigerian Government is the highest purveyor of fake news? But because a lie has a slender body that breaks too soon, the same Nigerian Army later admitted that its men were at the scene of the protest at the exact time of the massacre but that they never shot anyone. One of the commonest manifestations amongst people who are economical with the truth is that they don’t seem to think about the intellectual capacity of those they are desirous to hoodwink before trying to do so at all.

The Nigerian Army, which was supposed to protect the Nigerian flag, stained that same flag with the blood of unarmed innocent citizens at a time when the same Army avoids Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State and elsewhere in Nigeria, yet the men in camouflage are not bothered about the indelible history they have recorded for themselves? What the Nigerian Army did at the Lekki Tollgate is the highest level of treason any soldier can commit! The deliberate killing of unarmed citizens holding your own flag is the same as shooting the country that you purport to protect. It has never happened anywhere else in the world and it never will, except dictator Buhari’s Nigeria.

Following this cruel act by the Nigerian Army, dictator Buhari made a broadcast on Thursday, October 22, 2020. This broadcast followed serious pressure from Nigerians demanding that dictator Buhari addresses the nation on the Lekki Massacre. But the tyrant refrained from making any reference to the massacre. Instead, he hypocritically condemned the alleged invasion of the palace of the Oba of Lagos. That dictator Buhari refused to address that crucial incident in his speech is a loud statement for anyone who understands the meaning of the silence. The dictator later claimed in a recorded interview with Arise Television aired on June 10, 2021 that the #EndSARS peaceful protest was a ploy to remove him from power. Such an absurdity!

When the Panel was constituted by the Lagos State Government and subsequently mandated to extend its investigation into the Lekki Massacre, not many Nigerians, including this writer, believed that anything good would emerge from it. This disbelief is no fault of ours. We were born into a country where the government, through its deceptive conducts, continues to widen the gap of trust between it and the people it claims to serve.

And so the panelists, armed with the full knowledge that their presence on the Panel was also a trial of their integrity, not only did justice to the investigation, but produced a report so thorough and courageous that Nigeria may never again witness one like it if the current gang of politicians continue to impose themselves on Nigerians even when their continuous stay in power is totally against public opinion.

It is therefore totally unacceptable that the Lagos State Government and its hirelings have now embarked on a campaign of calumny against members of the Panel for coming up with an objective investigative report which is not favourable to the government. Was the Panel set up to sing the praises of the Lagos State Government and the Governor?

The comments of one Mr Abiodun Owonikoko, who was introduced on a television programme as lawyer to the Lagos State Government, made laughable claims whilst on air. He claimed that the #EndSARS Report contained 40 discrepancies. But what does it matter even if the report contains a billion or even a trillion discrepancies as he expects us to believe at all costs? Is anyone sincerely denying that there was a massacre? His principal, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, whom he is making spirited efforts to defend told CNN that “only two people” died, and admitted that soldiers were at the Toll Plaza on the night of the Lekki Massacre.

On October 21, 2020, a day after the massacre, Sanwo-Olu visited 25 injured #EndSARS protesters who were receiving treatment at three different hospitals in Lagos: 11 at Reddington, 10 at General Hospital and four at Vedic Lifecare Hospital. These visits were reported and were accompanied by several photos. The reports are still on the internet today! So, what is this campaign of calumny about when the governor himself admitted that: 1. There was a massacre, 2. That the massacre was carried out by “forces beyond our control,” 3. That he visited victims of the “unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki.”

The Governor made these admissions on social media at 15:43 PM on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

Hear him:

“This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger.

“I’ve just concluded visits to hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki.

“There are currently 10 patients at the Gen Hospital, 11 at Reddington and four at Vedic; with mild to moderate levels of injuries while two are receiving intensive medical care.

“Three patients have been discharged and we will continue to monitor and ensure all patients get the best care.”

All these are confessional statements to the effect that there was a massacre. It is therefore not clear why the Lagos State Government and its hirelings have embarked on this malicious campaign against these panelists, great women and men who acted in good faith and in accordance with their conscience. 

Ordinarily, there was no need for this Panel seeing that the whole world saw in several videos how Nigerian soldiers cowardly opened gunfire on unarmed citizens they were trained and equipped to protect. We did not need a panel to tell us that this had happened. But the government wanted to exonerate itself through this Panel, believing that panelists would find the investigation so ambiguous that the entire process would result in a speculative report which the Lagos State Government would have published in less than 20 minutes after its receipt.

As part of its clandestine ploy to strangle this report which took over one year of hard work and sacrifice to produce, the Lagos State Government, which appeared before the Panel as a party [or defendant], has now set up a Committee to “review” the report and produce a White Paper. Here is what Nigerians must understand about this so-called “Committee”: What has just happened before our eyes is that the Lagos State Government has set up an Appeal Court to review the judgement delivered against it by the lower court. And this is how this Appeal Court is constituted: the Lagos State Government is the defendant, witness, prosecutor and the judge – in its own case!

In fact, they are so excited and so confident about the success of this appeal that Mr Owonikoko, their senior counsel, has even revealed to us the judgement to be delivered in a fortnight. The judgement of the Appeal Court will likely be titled: “The Book of Forty Discrepancies.”

However, whilst we await the Appeal Court and the predictable birth of “The Book of Forty Discrepancies,” the Lagos State Government must respect and give utmost protection to all panel members as any attack on them, in whatever form, will be an attack against the Nigerian people and this will never be tolerated.

One thing is certain, we the Nigerian youth, some of whom were massacred in the most grisly and cruel manner on that terrible Tuesday evening of October 20, 2020, will reject “The Book of Forty Discrepancies” that they have set out to write. This book has no future. It is already a doomed book even before it is born. A dark, ominous cloud hovers over its destiny and it should therefore not see the face of the sun. So, there’s only one way, “kill the unlucky messenger of the gods.” Remember the Narrator’s voice in Ola Rotimi’s 1971 tragedy: “The Gods Are Not to Blame” following Baba Fakunle’s declaration?

The Nigerian Government at all levels cannot continue to bask on cloud nine thinking that it can get away with its crimes and myriad of atrocities against the Nigerian people. The Lekki Massacre is one of such crimes that the Buhari dictatorship and its accomplices cannot get away with. And if we cannot settle this matter here, then let the journey to the International Criminal Court [ICC] begin. 

We cannot continue to reinforce a repugnant culture where political criminals are glorified and rewarded with national honours after years of pillaging the public treasury at the detriment of millions! Therefore, members of the Lagos #EndSARS Panel deserve to be commended for their courage and unconventional show of patriotism. They deserve to be commended for inspiring generations that we can indeed be upright in every capacity we serve. They deserve to be commended for reminding us that there is simply no excuse for not being upright. They deserve to be commended for exhibiting the kind of integrity that the forces who vilify them and their agents will never be known for throughout their lifetime.

Nigerians of good conscience appreciate the phenomenal work of the Panel. Consequently, the Lagos State Government which has decided to sit on the table of appeal in a case in which it has been heavily indicted, should accord these honourable women and men the respect that they deserve.

If Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has the slightest integrity, he should implement the recommendations in the report and desist from plotting escape routes in the name of “reviewing” a report that clearly indicted him and his government. No White or Red Paper can twist the facts about what we already know.

Elias Ozikpu

Playwright, novelist, essayist, polemicist, citizen journalist, permanent enemy of oppressors

Sourced From Sahara Reporters

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