By Osmund Agbo
“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption” — Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
For eleven straight days, the moon shone bright on the sky over Africa’s most populous nation. Platoons of a moral army called Nigerian Youths were seen protesting a murderous police unit, propped up by an incredibly flagitious government in the mostly peaceful of ways, all across the nation. They sang the national anthem, staged sit-ins, and even prayed for their country in distress. For the first time in many years, Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora were starting to nurse the hope of change for a nation that for far too long had consistently swerved toward the edge of the precipice. The idea that the much-maligned Nigerian youths, grossly under-estimated by the gerontocrats, decided to take back their country from the jaws of tyranny was in and of itself a revolutionary act.
On the 20th of October, 2020, Lekki Toll Gate, the symbolic capital of this peaceful movement was brim-full with young people who ditched tribal, religious and cultural allegiance to embrace a renewed national identity. They waved the green-and-white flags while soaking in an inspirational speech by one of our own, the popular comedian, Ayo Mukun. Expecting a possible deployment of security forces, AY as he is fondly called had instructed the protesters to wave the Nigerian flag to show they were peaceful and non-belligerent. His act was later followed on stage by the multi-talented musician/songwriter, DJ Switch. The 29-year-old Glo X Factor winner continued to harp on the historical imperative of the moment to the somber mood of the future generation of our country.
Shortly before 7pm, the fluorescent streetlights that illuminate the Lekki Toll, an area populated by high rise office complexes and elite shopping malls fizzled out, plunging the place into pitch darkness. Minutes later, kaboom! First, they heard the dull thud, then the acrid yellow-colored smoke piercing right through from tear-gas canisters with a peppery feel. Following shortly after were crackle of bullets and sparks flying from the rifles. Witnesses saw soldiers moving in formation. Many watched as Nigerian soldiers fired live rounds at their unarmed compatriots, leaving a number of deaths and injured in its wake and a nation’s flags stained red with blood as the demonstrators continued to sing the anthem, “Arise O’ Compatriots”.
By DJ Switch’s eyewitness account of the event of that Black Tuesday and later corroborated by Amnesty International, up to 15 dead bodies were counted. According to other witnesses, the military did not allow ambulances to provide aid and quickly removed corpses from the scene of the shooting. President Buhari later said in a written statement, totally lacking in empathy that 51 civilians, 11 police officers, and seven soldiers had been killed in the recent unrest. He conveniently ignored the Toll Gate massacre or any action to be taken against those that perpetrated the gruesome act that had elicited widespread international condemnation and outcry for justice.
Of course, no one thought that the trigger-happy traitors were just rogue elements. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out those who gave the green light. What has never been in doubt is how the Nigerian armed forces and the entire State Security apparatchik are notoriously anti-Nigeria. Each time they had the chance to be on the side of the people, they chose to run with the oppressors instead, leaving no one in doubt whom they serve and where their loyalty lies.
The Lekki massacre mirrored the events of the Shiites killing in Zaria, Kaduna State, on Saturday, 12 December 2015 where allegedly about 348 defenseless civilians were killed and their bodies secretly buried by the army in a mass grave, according to one news source.
An army that appears helpless and forlorn in the face of Boko Haram’s rag-tag fighters, all of a sudden got her mojo back.
The big question is why would anyone orchestrate an attack against unarmed young people simply exercising their constitutionally protected freedom. It turns out that the same cabal that are perennially profiting off of a failed system got panicky. They live every day with a morbid fear of not just losing their firm grip on the levers of power but what would become their fate in a new Nigeria. First, they recruited daredevil criminals who were ferried to the protest scene on luxury SUVs, driven by men dressed in bespoke-tailored designer suits. When that failed to deliver, they upped their antics and went all out to brazenly mow down peaceful protesters. That a government could outsource criminals and street urchins to attack and murder those she swore to protect, speaks to the calibers of men in power and their Machiavellian mindset.
A wise man once said that when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it. Corruption has been likened to a mosquito that sucks the blood of common man and is the reason why our roads are death traps and our hospitals are unable to offer basic lifesaving treatments. It is why our schools are churning out half-baked graduates and our economy is in a free fall. Nigerian youths are leading a peaceful revolution to salvage the soul of this nation. It’s a total war against kidnapping, armed banditry, terrorism, money laundering, sex trafficking and many more.
Lest we forget, the sole trigger of the latest chaos with widespread looting and brigandage was the Lekki Toll massacre. Most regrettably, the Nigerian government had to stop a peaceful movement by any means necessary even if it had to spill the blood of many Patriots. But this time, they got it all wrong. Corrupt people unite among themselves to constitute a force and so honest people must do the same, said said Leo Tolstoy. Nigerian youths are down but definitely not out. Rest in Power, brave heroes of the struggle.
*Dr. Agbo, a Public Affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project.