For Nigerians all over the world, particularly the ones resident in the country, the past three weeks have been nothing but one necessary belated conversation on police brutality.
However, the #EndSARS protest designed to end police brutality expanded from a call to end SARS, to a call to end bad governance. Then, protesters began experiencing unwanted elements in their midst – disrupting the peaceful protests. When attempts to turn the protests violent failed, they began looting and vandalising public and private properties. And as if that was not enough, they began hunting down and killing police officers.
What was once a peaceful protest quickly turned into violent civil unrest, because people with ulterior motives and bad intentions managed to hijack the protests. It was at this point the government began to panic; enter one of the most infamous events of our generation, the Lekki Massacre.
Recall how on October 20, 2020, the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful protesters exercising their fundamental right at the Lekki toll gate. It was here the conversation shifted from #EndSARS to #LekkiMasscre.
In light of this, the Lagos House of Assembly had a sitting today to discuss the incident of that night, and other events surrounding it. Spoiler alert, the sitting gave us insight into the mindsets of the leaders the general public had nominated to represent them.
From actor turned politician Desmond Eliot calling social media users disrespectful children, and calling for regulation of social media, to Lagos lawmaker Mojisola Alli-Macauley implying that unemployment is no big deal, it was exhausting listening to these politicians talk.
But one standout take on the issue during the meeting was Lagos lawmaker, Ibrahim Layode, who suggested that the shooting at Lekki was the fault of the protesters.
His point was that the actions of the hoodlums who burnt and vandalised public properties in Orile, and elsewhere in Lagos justified the shooting of peaceful protesters in Lekki. He also believed that the youth shouldn’t have infringed on the curfew set by the state government.
It’s quite disturbing that a lawmaker would possess this sort of view, but that’s the reality. Not exactly sure if he expected to be applauded for his take on the issue or if he thought everything he mentioned automatically solves the problem and consoles those that were harmed in the shooting, but it’s certain that this sort of opinion exemplifies a public official unwilling to take responsibility.
It’s also depressing that this lawmaker doesn’t understand that a curfew violation is not prerequisite to unleashing security operatives on patriotic citizens, citizens on home soil, waving the national flag and singing the national anthem no less.
The actions of the military on that day was despicable to say the least, and the blame trickles down from those who failed to provide adequate security during the protests so that the protests do not turn violent, to officials who were ‘unable’ to differentiate peaceful protesters from hoodlums, and of course the person who gave the army the order to open fire on peaceful protesters, not with rubber bullets, tear gas or fire hoses, but with live ammunition.
Our government must do a better job at governing, and must be willing to take responsibility for the predicament it has created. The protests wouldn’t even have begun in the first place if they had held SARS officers accountable to their action. And of course, Nigerians wouldn’t have had to endure the unfounded and insensitive statements made by supposed lawmakers.