Sanwo-olu lied, people died
The Lekki Massacre Panel set up by the Lagos state government to review what happened at Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020 finally got the contents of their report leaked on Monday.
Against the backdrop of the reactions that have trailed the contents of the report, we must, among other things, acknowledge the manner in which the information was relayed to the public.
The very many indictments that were found in that report were too damning for one to believe that the state government would have made it public on their own volition. And this is not without precedence.
Several state governments have refused to disclose findings from investigative panels they set up to hear cases of police brutality in their states.
Another key takeaway from this report is the indictment of not only the Nigerian military, but the federal and Lagos state government. The Nigerian military had repeatedly lied that it was never at the gate on the night of that unfortunate shooting.
After that claim was proven false, it changed its story and said that it was there but fired blank bullets at the protesters.
Meanwhile, video evidence which was watched live by thousands of people on Instagram. Such was the barefaced, brazen denial that it would have been unthinkable if the denials ended there.
The federal government sponsored its online vuvuzelas to spread a propaganda that nobody died, and there was no massacre. For peanuts, it activated its army of social media trolls to attack anyone who dared mention the term Lekki Massacre to refer to what happened that night. The brazen gaslighting was never seen in the history of cover ups in Nigeria, so obfuscating that people were asked to provide the names and identities of those who were said to have been killed–a possibly prearranged deflection given the extra care the army used in picking up not only bullet shells, but corpses from the toll gate which they deposited at select hospitals around Lagos Island.
The saddest takeaway from this report is not so much that people were killed and there was a very foolish attempt at a cover up. It is that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu looked at us and lied through his teeth that the massacre was “things beyond our control”. The morning after the massacre, the governor’s twitter handle had tweeted that it had no hand in the action of the soldiers. It then led twitter users to ask “who gave the order?”
I was certainly put off by that question because it does take common sense to know that soldiers do not just act or carry out massacres especially as high profile as this on their own. Such a mission must have been approved by the military’s High command and sanctioned by no other person than the commander in chief of the armed forces.
The Nigerian army has a litany of abuses and extrajudicial killings under its belt, but make no mistake–they are not the Nigerian police whose indiscipline is very publicized owing from their very broken down nature of the command and control structure which has led a lot of policemen to go rogue.
The Lekki Massacre as I have maintained since October last year, was sanctioned and authorised by the very top of the military brass. The report explicitly stated that the Lagos state government through the governor, specifically requested the military to intervene. Whether or not this was before the ill fated curfew (which the protesters defied) slated for 4pm was announced. But what is clear is that soldiers started shooting at dark.
The pattern of coordination between the Lekki Concession Company which had the toll gates’ light removed a few hours before the shooting took place, the Lagos state government which announced a curfew three hours before it was to come into effect without regards that that day was a work day, and the military which had the ground prepared, is too brazen to ignore as a pattern of collusion whose middleman is the Lagos state Governor. But the barefaced nature of the lie Sanwo-Olu told is eerily creepy. And this is not because Nigerian politicians are known to lie. It simply has to do with the fact that people were killed. Sanwo-Olu lied, people died.
It is also sad to realize that a few days after this massacre, another one would go on in Oyigbo in Rivers state. Again, this was not the military acting alone. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike without compunction, told the media that he invited them into Oyigbo Town ostensibly for the purpose of getting rid of members of the outlawed secessionist Indigenous Peoples of Biafra who are said to be taken advantage of the anti police brutality protests in the local government to cause mayhem on government offices, especially security forces.
And so, in the same week, the governors of two of Nigeria’s most economically important states invited the military against their own residents. Against their own youths, and not lied, but also boasted to the media about it. This is as telling as it gets.
For some reason, this is profound perhaps for the very reason that Nigeria is a low trust society which makes it all the more difficult to trust the government’s motive, and news that the Lagos state government has set up a four man panel to review the report of the EndSars panel is telling enough.
Nigerian politicians who have no rectitude to do the right thing may not care about their perception and credibility given how used they are in winning elections under curious circumstances, but the damage Sanwo-Olu and his ilk has done to the government is not repairable, and the complications arising from that lack of trust is not only about the crisis of legitimacy that may arise, it is also about the myriad of administrative problems that would rise in the future.