EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate
#EndSARS protesters barricade Lekki Tollgate
  • Management of crisis defined by poor judgment, hasty conclusion

By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

The #EndSars protests which rocked the nation to its foundation for two weeks have come and gone, but in their wake, there have been mixed reactions, bordering on the outcomes, signposted by initial joy and happiness that the youth have finally found their voice, regained their grooves and are ready to confront the hydra-heads that have stunted our growth. But the interpretation of the lootings by some influential Yoruba leaders of thoughts has been troubling, and seemed like an atavistic throw-back to the old dividing fault lines.

Then suddenly, the initial euphoria morphed into tears, blood and disappointment over the hijacking of the good intention of the initial protests by hoodlums driven by criminality on the one hand; and thugs probably mobilized by politicians out of personal interests. The turning point in the protest was the Lekki shootings where soldiers allegedly killed a handful of protesters; till date there is controversy over who ordered the killings, for what motive and in whose interest?

After the killings, there was a hailstorm of protests in many parts of the country, especially the south and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. However, in no time those protests over the killings were hijacked by thugs, hoodlums, street urchins, who had been waiting in the wings to wreak havoc. First, many public and private properties were razed, looted and destroyed by irate youths who had been infiltrated by hoodlums who had personal agenda.

Many marts in Lekki axis were looted, including the popular Shoprites in Lekki, while TVC Television’s headquarters in Ikosi, Ketu was torched. The television station and The Nation newspaper belong to Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former governor of Lagos State, who the streets believed had a hand in the shootings at Lekki.

The family house of Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos in Akerele, in Surulere area of Lagos was also torched, where property worth millions of naira were destroyed. In Bode Thomas, Eric Moore and other parts of Lagos private properties were destroyed, while the BRT buses belonging to Lagos State government at different areas, especially Oyinbgbo and Berger were razed down, while FRSC offices at Ojodu among others were burnt down, including a handful of police stations.

According to the Lagos State Police Command, about 27 police stations were torched, while six police men killed, in addition to scores that sustained varying degrees of injury.

The reaction to the spate of violence, lootings and destruction was instantaneous. First, a man who identified himself as Adeyinka Grandson threw the first salvo of ethnic chauvinism, when he gave the Igbo resident in the Southwest 48 hours to leave the region, alleging that they were behind the spate of lootings and destruction in parts of Yoruba land with ‘’the sole agenda of crippling Southwest economy.’’

This interpretation of the events of the past two weeks soon polarized the region’s intellectuals and intelligentsia with some like the Nobel laureate railing against the attempt to ethncise the events. In a widely publicized position, Soyinka distanced himself from the so-called Adeyinka Grandson, asking the Igbo and other Nigerians to disregard such divisive utterances.

‘’Soyinka’s position deflated whatever capital such nonsense would have garnered, as reasonable people began to suspect the so-called Adeyinka grandson. Blaming the Igbo was silly, the crowds at Lekki was a motley of committed Nigerian youth, including the Igbo’’, said Professor Adebola Onitiri, a political scientist.

He said the attempt to blame the Igbo who have been at the forefront of new Nigeria founded on equity, justice and constitutionalism was a red herring by some politicians to shift attention from the Lekki massacre.

The Southwest governors, who were blamed for heightening the spate of lootings and angst as a result of hoarding COVID-19 Palliatives , on their visit to Governor Babajide Sanwaoolu to commiserate with him over the scale of destruction, alleged external hand to destabilize the Southwest economy. They were joined by political appointees, and later National Assembly members from the Southwest.

“My take is that there was no external hand as alleged by these incompetent, selfish governors of the Southwest, who were looking for a scapegoat for their greed and incompetence. Can you imagine? Palliatives they ought to have given the people since May they kept them for 2023 elections. The lootings that followed have explanations in psychology, a people long derived of basic needs of life, pauperized, dehumanized and made to suffer will develop violent instinct to retaliate against the society that caused such poverty and pointlessness; that was what drove violence against any symbols of capital and oppression”, Professor Anthony Olukosi of the department of Psychology, Kogi State University told Business Hallmark.

In a bid to heal the divisive preachments of Adeyinka Grandson and the caustic, unfounded allegations of external influence being peddled by Southwest governors, the pan socio-cultural groups; Ohaeneze and Afenifere issued a separate statement reassuring Igbo of their safety in the Southwest. They asked the people to disregard divisive comments, saying Nigerians are free to live in any part of the country.

The chorus of anti-Igbo sentiment was that in many parts of Lagos where Igbo businesses are predominant such as Ladipo in Mushin, Alaba International market and Oshodi private shops and property were not torched. There was an attempt by the hoodlums to attack and loot Computer Village in Ikeja, but was stoutly defended and repelled by the traders.

‘’This interpretation was not popular among street urchins and hoodlums who were perpetrators of carnage, that was what saved the situation; otherwise, some Igbo businesses would have been torched, the street in spite of their ignorance and ill education did not buy into such trash’’, submitted Olukosi.