by Ayodele Ibiyemi
The past few days have been very dark in Nigeria – really – but certain people have been worse hit than others. Besides the general anguish of watching fellow countrymen die from the bullets of Nigerian security operatives, arsonists have burnt government properties and looted stores across Lagos. Immediately after the curfew was announced, and the shootings that are now remembered as the Lekki Massacre, certain people in Lagos and beyond took advantage of the situation and went about the state looting people’s businesses and burning government buildings.
The initial rhetoric was that it was the masses reacting to the continued dominance and alleged corruption of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC Chieftain and former Governor of Lagos. People went about burning businesses reported to be owned by him. But, events from the past few days have shown that the reaction is beyond Tinubu.
The government buildings and properties burnt are not his, they are our collective patrimony. And, the level of carnage is heartbreaking so much so that one imagines the exact reason behind it.
The palace of the Oba of Lagos was looted and his staff of office carted away. Pictures of thugs wearing his customised shoes litter the Internet; there is also a video of thugs carrying a coffin filled with dollars from the palace. The most noteworthy discovery in the palace is the undistributed COVID19 palliatives which the people took for themselves. This set off a chain of events as the news inspired people all across the country to loot government warehouses where palliatives were kept. This validates the suggestion by some people that the arson in Lagos is too coordinated to have been carried out by random thugs.
Unfortunately, some of the warehouses looted were private properties and it degenerated as businesses were looted by these people. One wonders how a battle against police brutality became an opportunity for people to loot the businesses of ordinary hardworking Nigerians.
But, we might want to know that this is symbolic of the inequality gap as the people who looted the shops see those who are rich as their enemies. The ruling class lives in heavily fortified houses because they are aware of the subtle tensions between them and the lower class even though they work with their domestic workers daily.
The crisis must always be nipped in the bud. Refusal to handle the #EndSARS protests tactfully by the Federal Government has led everyone to this point. And, if the inequality gap is not attended to and there is no improvement in the trust that people have in their elected representatives, incidents like this will become a recurring phenomenon.
There also needs to be proper mass education about how government works. Most people do not know how the government works or even their activities. It is also heartbreaking to learn that the Silos looted in Ado Ekiti were the Grain Reserves. But, this is not surprising as most of these people do not understand the idea of a Grain Reserve Program. There needs to be more work by both the ruling class and the middle class to embrace and solve the problems of the lower class.