Of Lekki and incapacity of Nigerian State for leadership

THE recent barbaric and condemnable event at the Lekki Tollgate is a bad dream that one would hate to remember. But for some reasons, it has refused to disappear. It is no longer news that on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, security operatives opened fire on  protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos with many injured and apparently not a few killed, as it would have been impossible to keep shooting live bullets into the crowd of protesters under the cover of darknese for hours without many of them not sucumbing to death – which would be why the incident ignited angry uproar in reaction within and outside the country. Besides, Jimoh Isiaq, 20, Moshood Ganiyu, 22 and Taiwo Adeoye, 25 are among the numerous other protesters killed through police live ammunition on protesters across the country. As tragic as these may seem, they pale in comparison to the enormity of the irreformable killers called the Nigerian Elites/Leaders, whose toxic cloud has overshadowed the entire citizenry in its hideous, cold and chilling death grip.

Of course, following the massacre, Governor and Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu addressed the people and in his broadcast admitted that there were shootings by armed forces at the Lekki Tollgate but claimed nobody died in the attack. But Governor Sanwo-Olu later declared three days of mourning for those who died after blatantly insisting first that nobody died in spite of tales from eye witnesses even as he denied having anything to do with the drafting of the army to the Lekki Tollgate to attack the protesters there, saying the drafting of the army personnel and their rules of engagement that night were by forces beyond his ‘direct control (which) have moved to make dark notes in (our) history, but we will face it and come out stronger…” The same way that President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the country without even acknowledging that something grievous and approaching genocide and unmitigated massacre happened at the Lekki Tollgate only for him to say the second day after the address that the country lost almost 60 civilians to the crackdown on the end-Sars demonstrators by the security agents! – so very callous and insensitive!

The truth is that this isn’t  just about Sanwo-Olu’s denial of obvious facts, or the President’s callous insensitivity in the face of a national tragedy, but relates and concerns the nature and character of the Nigerian political leadership which leadership has been shown to be bereft of the capacity for effective leadership. Nigerian leaders have no iota of respect for the people, neither have they any value for human life and dignity. With their lack of empathy, they pursue their personal and tiny group interests at the expense of collective welfare, turning a blind eye to the massive and extensive suffering of the populace they’ve mercilessly raped of basic rights to worthwhile living. Under these so-called leaders,  Nigeria has become the poverty headquarters of the world,  youths in their millions roam the streets in search of non-existing jobs as unemployment rises to towering heights, students are unable to get uninterrupted education due to incessant strikes  across all educational institutions coupled with a growing number of young school leavers who are left to simply wander in what could be termed a context of lack of meaningful life with poor electricity and non-provision of essential infrastructure including the absence of functional and equipped  health  facilities to cater for the people’s  health needs characterising life and living in the country. In fact, there’s no question that Nigeria has failed profoundly as a State, a country and as an economy.

We know that no nation could enjoy lasting peace if her citizens live in abject poverty particularly if that nation is acknowledged as having the ability and substantial means to provide development and guarantee a good standard of living for the majority of the citizens. Unfortunately, that is the tale of Nigeria. It is a tale of poor governance, insecurity and poverty in the midst of plenty. Nigeria is an oil rich country laid low  by sociopolitical instability, high degree of corruption, leadership hostility to the broad masses of the “public,” and poor macroeconomic management, and which continues to display the attributes of a state in crisis. It is legendary that the Nigerian state has been unable to secure lives and properties, promote the rule of law, and provide effective and visionary leadership to its people. It is therefore understandable that the Nigerian population has been largely alienated and divorced from the country’s government and leadership, thus displaying a glaring gap between the leadership and the governed.

This would explain why and how the peaceful #EndSARS protests initiated by concerned Nigerian youths have been so badly mismanaged because the leaders were/are unsure how to respond and react given their alienation from the worsening realities of their people, such that the leaders were taken unawares and are still befuddled that the Nigerian youths whom they have labeled and consider  ‘lazy’ and ‘unserious’ could rise in their numbers and  in solidarity to demand  good governance and put shining and exposing light on the atrocities of the leadership, — a movement that kicked off from the demand to end police brutality —as many  families bear a scab and scars from the atrocities inflicted by SARS; metamorphosed into a relentless national call for good governance. It is also the case that many of the leaders, still oblivious of the depressing social and economic conditions in which they have left the people, have resorted to accusations and blame games, with the notion that the protest could only have been sponsored by reprehensible opposition elements intent on causing or instigating chaos and lead the country into anarchy even as the protests must have been supported and sustained by enemies of the people and the State who want to ridicule and undermine those in power.

In the last analysis, government in a democracy is accountable to the people, just as it has the responsibility to fulfill its end of the social contract, while public officials – political office holders and civil servants are meant to be servants of the peolle, with the responsibility to cater to the interests of the mass of the people and the entire society. The government and the leaders thus have the urgent responsibility to begin the process of building the country into a functional one that would serve and attend to the interests of its people rather than continue with the current vista of workng for and serving the interets of a tiny minority of leaders and their reference group if it is to overcome the periodic and usual descent into convulsive uprisings of the oppressed people which would be cease to be the case until when the people have hope and the government and the leaders work for and to promote the welfare of the people. The earlier the leaders wake up to the reality that the citizens, especially the youths, have woken up from their supposed long slumber to demand effective recompense for the years of neglect and carelessness by the leaders, the better a chance they would have at minimizing and perhaps correctly reading and therefore being in a position to overcome what is about to hit them. Need I say that no level of force would be able to  suppress agitations for the very basic things that make life meaningful for the people except by aceding to this legitimate request and working to give the people a new lease of life. As posited by Sina Kawonise, former Ogun State Commissioner and Publisher of NewsScroll newspapers, recent events and particularly the specracular protests by the Nigerian youths woukd tell us that the ‘Revolution is Coming!’ and that is if it’s not here already. Our sincere condolences go to the families of all the fallen heroes among the youths and their collaborators – we know that their labours for a new and better Nigeria would not be in vain, even as future students of history will marvel at the courage and insights and tenacity we have recently seen from the  youth in the face of tyranny.

  • Yakubu is of the Department of Mass Communication, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Nigeria.

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