By Abubakar Gana
Echoes of EndSARS protests in Nigeria will continue to reverberate. It is because an amazing blitzkrieg of fake news trailed it. The masterminds skillfully crafted it to divert attention from actualities. The killers and sponsors of the riotous mayhem in the guise of expressing public grievances were bent on compromising national security and therefore, twisted the narratives and incited Nigerians to self-ruination.
The protesters never wanted the intervention of security agents in order to intensify the killings of innocent Nigerians and destructions. Therefore, the protesters conspiratorially killed and blackmailed security agents, when they were eventually deployed to maintain public peace and security. Nigeria found herself in a quagmire orchestrated by veiled forces intent on discrediting President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Army as principal targets. But the script was poorly planned and weakened by its own deficiencies’.
Therefore, it was not surprising that DJ Switch screamed killings at Lekki Toll Gate; human rights lawyer, Femi Falana chorused Army shootings and thundered his might of prosecuting Lt. Gen. TY Buratai, the COAS at the International Criminal Court (ICC); proscribed IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu saw the protests as a platform to revive his failed violent agitation for a Biafran state; street activist Deji Adeyanju and hordes of others cursed the Army and President Buhari over the Lekki incident. They branded him a “civilian dictator” and the soldiers as siblings of a killer Army. Disparate devious interests mingled incredibly and the perpetrators went berserk.
Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu spoke in confusing tongues about the alleged shootings and killings’ at Lekki Toll Gate.The narrations of Gov. Sanwo-Olu and DJ Switch were particularly humorous and infantile. Sanwo-Olu initially saw no one killed by soldiers at Lekki neither were any blood stains at the scene at the incident as practical evidence of the alleged mass slaughter protesters by soldiers. But Sanwo-Olu would later inform the world of dead persons from the shootings, perhaps, after he dreamed of it.
The Governor responded to public pressures by searching the Army Morgue in Lagos where sponsors of the protests claimed the corpses of the slain persons were concealed for secret burial by soldiers. But to his disappointment, he found no corpse. It is a vicious cycle of public deception.
Nothing shocks anymore in Nigeria. Some people are gifted in freely inventing and peddling lies, regardless of their status. DJ Switch who claimed the on-the-spot eyewitness to the massive murders of Nigerians by soldiers and the only sane person in a multitude of protesters, defiantly pushed forward fake narratives and hazy recollections of the incident. She personally claimed to be one of the undertakers who lifted the dead bodies of the protestors killed by the Army and placed them at the feet of the soldiers who sniffed life out of them. Obviously, a fat lie.
Human lives are important. So, since the eruption of the #EndSARS protests around and the confusion which sprouted on Lekki Toll Gate incident, considerable time has been spared to follow the unfolding events. It is not an exaggeration to say this writer has gone extra miles to carry out forensic analysis of the Lekki shootings hence it attracted national outrage.
And emerging facts consistently contradicts earlier claims that soldiers shot and killed protesters at Lekki or anywhere in Lagos state. The more one sees the videos and continues with the researches on the incident, the Nigerian Army notches a step higher in vindication.
Although, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government to probe the incident, discredited as it now appears, is still sitting; but no shred of evidence so far supports the wild claims of killings by soldiers at Lekki as marketed to Nigerians and the world. It’s apparently a farce and a smear campaign against the Nigerian Army.
Interestingly, it was not only DJ Switch who was present at the Lekki Toll Gate on the day of the incident. A seasoned BBC reporter and a Nigerian of Southern ancestry, Ms Damilola Banjo stationed in Lagos was emphatic in her later accounts of the incident which also clearly vindicated soldiers.
The BBC reporter recounted that “The sight of the Army got the protesters angry and agitated…I was there with my editor and we saw the Army open fire; of course, not on the protesters, but in the air.” Ostensibly, the protesters became tensed up and panicked when they saw soldiers and probably, a stampede occurred.
There was confusion when gun were shot in the air to disperse the threatening protesters. And only one person who obviously out of shock, fainted and slumped may be, from some subsisting internal ailments. People suffered panic attack which is very possible in any outing of that magnitude. This does not translate into soldiers shooting at the protesters.
It is very normal for security agents to fire into the air to disperse obstinate protesters. On October 20, 2020, when the Lekki incident occurred, the #EndSARS protests which were initially peaceful had been hijacked by hoodlums and miscreants. Therefore, it morphed into killing of policemen, rape of women, mindless acts of arsons, destructions, looting and vandalism in many parts of Lagos.
Sometimes, it is necessary to abide by the dictates of morality. What was the motivation of protesting into the night, when the State Government had imposed a curfew? Why were the protesters angry at the sight of soldiers, if they were not on an evil mission? The greatest irony now is that none of the parents, relations or even friends of the 12-78 persons claimed to have been shot and killed by soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate is stepping forward for identification. Or the dead have no survivors?
Truth is evergreen. Soldiers under the COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Gen. Buratai are sticklers to professionalism, discipline and Rules of Engagement (ROE) consistently. In the last five years, soldiers of the Nigerian Army have excellently conducted a dozen Internal Security (IS) operations without records of human rights abuses.
The soldiers drafted at Lekki Toll Gate to maintain public peace and security, disrupted by riotous protesters could not have turned beastly overnight and opened fire on armless civilians. Time is gradually vindicating the Nigerian Army by all emerging facts on the blackmailing Lekki incident. The conspiracy of the Government of Lagos State and sponsors of the #EndSARS protests to implicate the Nigerian Army is glaring. This is indisputable in all nuances.
Therefore, public confidence in the ongoing probe panel in Lagos has eroded irredeemably. However, if the probe panel wishes, let it conduct its sittings in the house of Femi Falana or the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, the Army will still be vindicated.
Gana wrote this article from Keffi, Nassarawa State.