Protesters at Lekki Toll Gate

Dealing with Lagosians (and other Nigerians) in the diaspora after the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters on 20th October 2020 has been a traumatic experience. The recurring decimal has been why Lagos and why Lekki Tollgate in particular? The truth of the matter is that we have an obligation to substitute the big picture with parochialism.

The real tragedy is that gunmen are on the loose all over the country – from those who are lawfully entitled to carry arms to the equal opportunity robbers, rapists, moneydoublers etc. whose weapon of choice is the AK-47. As for the treasury looters they are just as deadly with their pens.

It was not so long ago when the military government would just round up the whole lot, tie them to the stake and shoot. It was called the Bar Beach Show !! It was a weekly affair at the beach on Victoria Island, Lagos.

Now we are compelled to confront our past. What is both fascinating and intriguing is that from the archives – legit.ng has dug up the following under the caption: “Facts About Africa”

“The CIA predicting the toppling of General Muhammadu Buhari, then Nigeria’s military Head of State (and current President) via a coup d’état, and the coup leader (Major-General Ibrahim Babangida, chief of Army Staff) in December 1984, over declining economic situation and army discontent released a declassified document.

During the 1985 coup that sacked Buhari as military Head of State, second-in-command Tunde Idiagbon said the following words to the Saudi King (while he was in Saudi Arabia for Hajj) at the risk of his life: “No, I want to go back, Your Majesty. If they kill him, let them kill me also.”

On August 27, 1985, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) led a coup that successfully overthrew the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari’s deputy at the time was General Babatunde Idiagbon—a no nonsense, never smiling soldier who became the face of the administration’s War Against Indiscipline(WAI). Idiagbon was so powerful a deputy, folks said at the time that he ran the government for Buhari.

On the night of Sunday, January 20, 2019, as he hosted former staff who worked with him during his tenure as military Head of State from 1983 to 1985 at the State House, Abuja. President Buhari commended Idiagbon for what he described as “uncommon loyalty and courage” after the coup plotters struck.

In Buhari’s words, “Idiagbon was in Saudi Arabia, performing the hajj, when we were removed. The Saudi King said the coup was not just against us, but also against him, since Idiagbon was praying with him.

He asked him to send for his family to join him in Saudi until it was clear where I was. Idiagbon said no, I want to go back, Your Majesty. If they kill him, let them kill me also.

Bashorun J.K. Randle
Bashorun J.K. Randle

He joined the next flight and came back. I think there’s no way you can describe such loyalty, such courage. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Idiagbon died on March 24, 1999 in his home State of Kwara, the year Nigeria commenced the fourth republic.

In a 2014 interview, Buhari told “The Cable” that he was aware IBB was plotting to overthrow him.

“It is true that I learnt he (IBB) was planning a coup against me. And I sat and discussed it with him in my office”, Buhari said.

He brought the news that he went to Kano and people complained that I pulled a pistol during a council meeting. I said Ibro ─ I called him Ibro because I was just senior to him by a few months ─ I said whoever wants to sit on this chair let him come and sit here. And he decided to do it.”

Reminded that the punishment for coup plotting was death and that he could well have put Babangida on trial, Buhari replied: “Yes. Remember how many people he killed subsequently for trying to overthrow him? But when I came in, there was no bloodshed. I think a couple of policemen were killed and [Brigadier Ibrahim] Bako also died in an ambush.

But deliberately, nobody was killed. I was in the front, the real front in the Nigerian civil war. I had seen enough of death and I know what God means by human life. Any human being, God values their life. And anybody who hopes to meet God, he should be careful about killing.

When there is law and due process of law took place, the question is clear. Like the cocaine convicts that were executed, the decision was taken in supreme military council”.

Military coups were quite common in post-independent Nigeria from the 60s to the 80s. Some of the overthrown soldiers did not live to tell their stories.

In August 1985, Major General Buhari was overthrown in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC). Babangida brought many of Buhari’s most vocal critics into his administration, including Fela Kuti’s brother Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a doctor who had led a strike against Buhari to protest declining health care services. Buhari was then detained in Benin City until 1988. Buhari’s admirers believe that he was overthrown by corrupt elements in his government who were afraid of being brought to justice as his policies were beginning to yield tangible dividends in terms of public discipline, curbing corruption, lowering inflation, enhancing workforce and improving productivity. Ibrahim Babangida justified his coup d’état by saying that Buhari failed to deal with the country’s economic problems and promised “to rejuvenate the economy ravaged by decades of government mismanagement and corruption”.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ Nigeria’s ousted military leader, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, is safe in Lagos, Radio Nigeria reported Thursday. It was the new military government’s first statement on Buhari’s whereabouts since his overthrow in a coup on Aug. 27.

The radio, monitored in Abidjan, also quoted Nigeria’s information minister, Lt. Col. Anthony Upko, as saying that Maj. Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari’s deputy, had returned to Nigeria.

Western diplomats in the Nigerian capital had said earlier that Buhari was being held in Lagos. Idiagbon was on a pilgrimmage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when Buhari was ousted in a barracks’ coup engineered by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, now Nigeria’s head of state.

According to the radio, Idiagbon subsequently pledged his loyalty to the new regime and asked permission to come home. The broadcast quoted Upko as saying, ″The safety of Buhari and Idiagbon is being looked after in Lagos.″

Later Thursday, Radio Nigeria broadcast Babanginda’s swearing in of his new Cabinet. He told them: ″Your appointments as ministers have been based purely on your personal merit. You have been not been selected to represent your state authority or any group interest … Let the whole country be your responsibility … Let our different religious, tribal and cultural background be our strength and not a source of weakness.”

Clearly, President Muhammadu Buhari is, by his own admission, disinclined to shooting. That should provide a measure of reassurance and comfort as we seek to navigate our way through looming confrontation between the #EndSARS protesters and the government.

To get directly to the crux of the matter – how do we prevent a recurrence of the disruption of a peaceful protest by hoodlums and the subsequent shooting which is still under investigation? After sifting the genuine protesters from the hoodlums, thugs, bandits and mob for hire, we are still left with the problem which according to the President of the World Bank, David Malpass, we are yet to deal with:

The working class has deteriorated and meshed with the underclass. How do you convert the amalgam into the learning class after all these years of abandonment and neglect?

Lagosians have every reason to be aggrieved. We have been treated shabbily by Nigeria which has dumped a huge underclass on us – far beyond what we can cope with.

At least it was an experiment that went wrong and at worst, wilful neglect without any regard for the consequences. This is the time for sober stock-taking and the redefinition of our cultural heritage as we contend with the incongruity and ambiguity of being strangers in our own land. Somehow prosperity has become indexed with government patronage but the cards are stacked against us. The “Ajejis” (invaders) are the ones calling the shots. The category of overnight billionaires has been boldly branded “Reserved”. Indigenes have to forage for survival not to talk of prosperity.

Yesterday on Resilience Television, the quizmaster demanded answers to:
(i) How many indigenes of Lagos are in prison and why?
(ii) Why are so many children of prominent Lagos families on drugs – eventually ending up in psychiatric hospitals?

Nobody seems to care; not to talk of answer, data and statistics. That is precisely why the reality check must kick in. To start with, how do we convince the underprivileged that we are able to persuade the government to work for them or is it grand deception?

According to Mike Quigley: “The real cost of corruption in government whether it is local, state or federal is loss of public trust.”

However, Lagosians have drawn their own conclusion: “What it takes for evil to thrive is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

We must make it abundantly clear that we have nothing whatever against non-Lagosians. Indeed, diversity in identity should be our strength not a burden. According to our ancestors from time immemorial the Almighty has been showering his abundant blessings on Lagos. We have always been willing to share those blessings with others – be they friend or foe.

Like the United States of America, we have maintained an open door policy: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Not many are aware that the first stanza of “God Bless America” is: “God bless America, land that I love Stand beside her and guide her Through the night with the light from above”

Indeed, when the President-elect of the United States of America, Joe Bidden delivered his victory address, this is what he delivered with great vigour: In a roughly 17-minute address, Mr. Biden, speaking for the first time as president-elect, promised to lead with compassion, decency and character and heal the nation’s soul. As he has for months, Mr. Biden also promised to immediately address the coronavirus pandemic and work to stop its spread, an effort he said would be key to economic recovery.

And to conclude, he returned to the idea that there is nothing Americans can’t do if they work together.

“Let us be the nation that we know we can be,” he said. “A nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed.”

“My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken.They have delivered us a clear victory. A convincing victory. A victory for “We the People.”

“We have won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of this nation — 74 million.

“I am humbled by the trust and confidence you have placed in me. I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.

“For that is what America is about: the people. And that is what our administration will be about. I sought this office to restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation — the middle class. To make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home. It is the honour of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for this vision. And now the work of making this vision real is the task of our time.

“As I said many times before, I’m Jill’s husband. I would not be here without the love and tireless support of Jill, Hunter, Ashley, all of our grandchildren and their spouses, and all our family. They are my heart. Jill’s a mom — a military mom — and an educator. She has dedicated her life to education, but teaching isn’t just what she does — it’s who she is. For America’s educators, this is a great day: You’re going to have one of your own in the White House, and Jill is going to make a great first lady. And I will be honoured to be serving with a fantastic vice president —
Kamala Harris — who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country.

“It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded tonight of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. Kamala, Doug — like it or not — you’re family. You’ve become honorary Bidens and there’s no way out.

“To all those who volunteered, worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local election officials — you deserve a special thanks from this nation.

“To my campaign team, and all the volunteers, to all those who gave so much of themselves to make this moment possible, I owe you everything. And to all those who supported us: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran. I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history.

“Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American. And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African-American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.

“I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like. And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself.”

Our stories [United States of America and Nigeria] may be different but we must as a nation deliver a united message to the rest of the world on account of our shared destiny.

On my last visit to the United States of America, I delivered an address to Lagosians in Texas. The topic was: “How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.”

They have invited me to deliver another address on either:

(i) The Debts of Lagos State and the Exit Strategy.
Or
(ii) How come in this day and age water tankers are still plying the roads (even in prime areas of Lagos – Ikoyi; Victoria Island; Banana Island etc.) ?

As if those two issues are not sufficiently challenging, I have another invitation to speak at Burford, Oxfordshire, England on the even more daunting task of:

“NIGERIA’S HUGE DEBTS: WHO IS GOING TO PAY AND HOW?”

As for Lagosians in Australia and New Zealand, what they are proposing is a joint conference in Sydney or Auckland first week in January 2021 but they are somewhat baffled that among the names of firms of Chartered Accountants engaged by the government to audit Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Central Bank of Nigeria; Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagosians are conspicuously missing. It is the same story with regard to the long list of firms who have been engaged to carry out the Forensic Audit of Niger Delta Development Commission.
Haba !!

However, nothing would explain the pot holes that are all over Lagos – even on the Marina, Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island; Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island etc.

As for the railings on the Third Mainland Bridge, they have been plundered by bandits who melt them and sell them as fake jewellery !!

The message from both the Bible and the Quran remains unassailable: “THOU SHALL NOT SHOOT.”

Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of the Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, J.K. Randle Professional Services email – [email protected]