Last week, the entire world stood still and watched as Nigeria corralled her young into a cold, tight, dark corner at the Lekki Toll Gate and as they desperately sung the Nigerian National Anthem and waved flags which they had been assured would protect them from any harm in so far as their aggressors were military men; Nigeria opened fire on these hapless young ones and callously executed them in cold blood.
Offence: calling for an end to the constant harassment by members of the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), for simply being.
Just for existing.
And for being young, these untrained yet armed to the teeth “policemen”, would swoop down on their prey; practice their amateur torture skills on them at the Lekki concession in what appears to be the tacit approval of the Nigerian state itself and then proceed to leave the scene afterwards.
It was so surreal that for an instant, the world stopped. The bottom dropped out of many lives. We watched horror struck at the live videos emanating from Lekki. Further, we heard the rattatatata of the guns as they emptied out; not on the insidious Boko Haram who had held Nigeria to ransom for far too long.
These guns were not emptied out on the rampaging Fulani herdsmen who had made Nigerians abandon highways; as well as the expressways in favor of creeping to and fro their destinations nicodemously through bushes and dirt tracks.
These guns were not sounding to dissuade pirates from attacking sea vessels; nor was it to dissuade another nation from encroaching on Nigeria’s territory.
Again, for emphasis: these guns were turned on unarmed Nigerian youth at Lekki; huddled in the dark because the lights had been turned off and surveillance cameras taken down. These youth were not just singing the National Anthem. For the past ten days while they protested; they had proven that they were responsible and could be entrusted with authority.
They had protested quietly and calmly, had music and celebrities to provide entertainment for them; food was provided for everyone who wanted some to eat, drinks were provided. But most importantly, the youth had ensured they did not litter the streets with their protests. They cleaned up after themselves; gave generously from the little they had and were generally well behaved model citizens.
In order to justify the massacre, a bizarre set of events had been set in place by the Nigerian government.
First was the disruption of the peaceful protests by state sponsored hoodlums. Nigerians watched in horror as first in Abuja; government vehicles picked up and dropped off thugs wielding daggers, clubs and sticks; at spots were peaceful protesters were gathered. These thugs set upon Nigerian youth, stabbing, wounding and maiming them. They set cars ablaze and destroyed properties. All in a bid to discredit the peaceful protesters who stood their grounds and refused to succumb.
Next, the same tactic was applied in Lagos. All in a bid to discredit the protesters and prepare for the second phase; which would unfold that horrible night of the 20th of October 2020 in Lekki.
All across the nation, the Nigerian government shamelessly sponsored unrest; all in a bid to set the cat among the proverbial pigeons, to no avail.
The youth protesting at the toll gate were peaceful. They had no plans to resort to violence. All they wanted to do was to exercise their democratic rights to protest a situation that was stifling them in Nigeria. They wanted to recount stories of their experiences at the hands of SARS. They wanted to remember and not forget because forgetting was tantamount to lying down and playing dead to a system; one that would happily bury you even while you were still breathing.
So, this article is a shout out to the Nigerian government – we know what you did last week.
No amount of flooding social media with defenders who have sold their conscience for 30 pieces of silver; would make us say or think otherwise. We know what you did last week.
You killed your young.
You smothered their voices.
And you stifled hopes and dreams.
And for that, we will not stay silent. We will continue to shout and wail and draw attention until everyone who had a hand in the Lekki tollgate massacre of unarmed Nigerian youth comes face to face with justice.
Until then, keep trying to deflect from the issue.
The whole world is watching… and aware.
Rest assured of that.