EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate
#EndSARS protesters barricade Lekki Tollgate

It could have been worse, but the lessons are historic!

By Uche Chris

Last week, in all ramifications, was a sad day for the nation, but it could have been worse, and therefore, we should not over-mourn the tragedy but show some gratitude to God, that we came out with minimum fatality, although the physical and material damage is unquantifiable. We can rebuild lost property, we cannot recreate life.

Now do not get me wrong; the loss of one life for no just cause is as bad as bad can be, but it may not be as bad as the loss of say, 10 or 20 lives. And believe me, it could have even be more 20 lives lost in that disaster.

One question I asked when Governor Sanwo Olu made the casualty tally in his broadcast, was, why no fatality contrary to the online reports the previous night of about six deaths? The simple answer is that the soldiers did not shoot to kill, because it is humanly impossible to shoot into such a mass of humanity without many fatalities.

How it was achieved I readily confess my ignorance not being trained in military marksmanship. But it is unlikely there would have been no immediate, on the spot, fatalities if they had shot directly into the crowd.

For that, we should be grateful not to bemoan the situation beyond what it is necessary. It was bad – extremely bad – to have happened in the first place, but the event itself may not be as important as the backlash and the lessons from it, because life must go on for those still alive to ensure that the event would not be in vain.

True, a life was lost, according to the governor – although Amnesty International said four, while others said 62, which could be the total number from other places – as at the time of writing and 23 persons with various degrees of injuries.

But this democracy, which began in 1999, was not achieved on a platter of gold, like our political independence in 1960. The blood of many Nigerians was spilled, including that of the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

So we will be deceiving ourselves to believe that this democracy is already won, and requires no more blood to sustain it. Nothing good or great is ever achieved without a price. Even the country itself is still work in progress, and we have ahead the challenge of building a nation where equity and justice prevail.

It is inconceivable that this would be achieved without shedding blood. Indeed, Nigeria today is a product of the lives of over three million Nigerians lost in the civil war. The question is whose blood will be next?

In ‘The end of innocence’ published last week, we concluded with the following statement: “But it (protest) will not end here because power has shifted from the government houses and police escorts to the people and the street. This is the end of an era, and unless our leaders recognize this and scramble together policies and actions to address issues relating to governance and the quality of life they have a different thing coming.

“The youth can decide to stop the next elections, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. How many can the soldiers and police kill without global backlash? Remember the soldiers and policemen too may have brothers and sisters among the protesters…”

It was a grave mistake by government – whoever authorized the crackdown on unarmed protesters. Look at the aftermath – the destruction of public property that followed; and of course, the global outrage against the country. But crack down changes nothing! Power has definitely shifted and unless there is deliberate attempt to implement needed reforms as advanced by the youths, the future looks uncertain and the 2023 election may be a victim.

The biggest losers in this ugly drama are the politicians led by President Buhari, the NASS, and APC in the South west, because they have been demystified and lost power. Buhari and his government have squandered whatever goodwill he had left in the region and his presidency will end as the worst the nation ever had. This piece had just been written before his infamous speech which had nothing to warrant adjusting the article.

As Senator Shehu Sani captured it, “we asked for a speech, we have a speech and now we are speechless”! The Southwest now know where they stand in relation to the government. They have to hold President Buhari accountable for their loss. We have to begin to make government responsible for its actions.

Personally, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may never recover politically from this event with his name directly linked with the shooting. Although, he has denied such allegations the damage is already done and indeed, irreparable.

His support for, and collaboration with, President Buhari was thoughtless and always going to hurt and haunt him either way. That he never foresaw it coming with all his acclaimed political sagacity remains a mystery. The anger against Buhari was visited on him.

Now you say that the life lost is also a loss; may be. To the family, a beloved one has departed in his/her prime, but the person has not died in vain. He/she is a national martyr and will never be forgotten. He/she may be a loss to the family but a big gain to the nation and the future of the youth. Generations unborn will read this event and the name will be mentioned. We will all die and for what will we be remembered. Most of us will live and die and be forgotten forever. A great life is never how long but how well.

Nigerian youths across the country have earned the respect of the people and the entire world, which has often wondered about our docility even in the face of the worst provocative indiscretion, official oppression and corruption that would set other countries in flame. But that time is over and the youths of this country have redefined the rule of public engagement; and it is now up to those in government to accept the new dispensation or pay for it.

Nigerians now know the type of government that they have, and the APC is history, as a political party in the south west given the reaction and backlash that followed the shooting. This may be deliberate political ploy to disable the ambition of South southerners to succeed President Buhari on the party platform, as no reasonable southerner can openly defend this government and party in good conscience.

Now is the time to restrategise; 2023 is still ahead and the APC in the south west should know that the party is no longer one and the same; really, it never was!

Again, what happened revealed the iniquitous nature of the federation where the president can make a decision concerning any state without the consent and knowledge of the governor; it can only be here and in other federation.

Look at the consequences of that decision: Is the president going to compensate Lagos state for the damage and destruction his decision has caused the state? We have come to a decision point and every Nigerian must make up his/her mind where we are headed. What happened is intolerable in a 21st democracy.

We are either one country or we are not; we are either a democracy or we are not; we are either a federal system or we are not. This is a decision point and the south west which brought this situation on the nation must wake up to its resolution.