THEWILL EDITORIAL: Nigeria Must Not Drift Into Anarchy

BEVERLY HILLS, October 21, (THEWILL) – “I am not clinging to power. I do not want to go down in the history of Kyrgyzstan as a president who allowed bloodshed and shooting on its people. I have taken the decision to resign.”

Those were the soothing words of the immediate past president of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Thursday, October 15, 2020, in a statement by his office, as he offered to step down from office following a crisis that rocked the country over disputed parliamentary elections earlier in the month.

The crisis in that country had a little semblance to the scenario currently playing out in Nigeria, especially in the past few days, but the handling made the big difference. While protesters in the Central Asian country clashed with the police, they were not met with brute force, though over 1200 people were injured but only one person was killed in the clashes.

The protesters even went further to storm the country’s prison where they released popular political opponents of the government from jail and their demand was straight to the point – Jeenbekov should resign.

The Kyrgyzstan president was in full control of the armed forces and had the choice of calling in the army to deal with the protesters. He, however, weighed his options against the consequences of whatever actions he would take. Rather than opt for the use of force, he offered to resign as president.

His reason for his choice was clear enough. “The current situation is close to a two-sided conflict. On the one hand, the protesters, on the other, the law enforcement agencies.

“Military personnel and law enforcement agencies are obliged to use weapons to protect the residence of the head of state. In this case, blood will be shed. It is inevitable. I urge both sides not to succumb to provocations,” Jeenbekov was quoted as saying in the statement as he opted for peace.

The situation in Nigeria had not in any way gotten to this point as the youth did not in any way call for the resignation of the president, nor were they violent in their protests. They were only calling for reforms and a new Nigeria where good governance and accountability would be the order of the day. For almost two weeks, they turned their protest into a carnival of sorts across the country, showing the humane part of their generation. With their transparent display of accountability and responsibility, the youth were able to win the admiration of millions of Nigerians even as they successfully passed on their message.

Unfortunately, the greedy and corrupt political class, who think it’s their right to rule Nigeria for ever, became uncomfortable with the growing popularity of the youth they had labeled as “lazy” and they felt threatened by the rising youth movement. Instead of acting in good time on the demands of the youth and come out with a definite plan of actions, the leadership was only asking for more time as the president even went mute.

Instead, hoodlums were sponsored to attack the protesting youth after failing to infiltrate their ranks as witnessed in Lagos and Abuja. The youth, of course, repelled the sponsored attacks on them. But the political thugs, apparently armed by these corrupt politicians and old brigades for election purposes, became more daring and unruly as they went berserk, looting and robbing innocent people, as they played out the scripts of their sponsors and political godfathers just to discredit the peaceful protest.

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What started as peaceful protests by the youth against the police killer-squad, the now ‘disbanded’ Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) later turned to a more encompassing demand for a new Nigeria. This was however exploited by the hoodlums and miscreants to vent their anger on the system that produced them.

Hell was therefore let loose just within two days and the centre could no longer hold. Some of the state governors were physically attacked by the hoodlums who infiltrated the protests. While the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was lucky to be relating with the real peaceful protesters and was playing along with them, his counterparts in Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola and Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, escaped from the hoodlums who infiltrated the protests, by the whiskers.

The protest in Edo was peaceful until hoodlums took over and masterminded two jailbreaks and burnt down police stations in the state, carting away arms and ammunition. The hoodlums also went berserk in Lagos robbing, killing and burning down police installations. Abuja was not left out as local hoodlums and miscreants were recruited and armed to unleash terror and mayhem on non-natives.

Most of the highways across the country were taken over by different gangs with lawlessness, as the highly demoralised police appear to have become an endangered species.

The Nigerian Army however sent a warning signal as it announced the commencement of its annual “Operation Crocodile Smile” military exercise across the country on Tuesday, October 20. With condemnations trailing the announcement, the Army maintained that its operation would have nothing to do with the ongoing EndSARS protests. But Nigerians know better, seeing it as a ploy to break the nationwide protest.

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The Edo State Government nonetheless moved swiftly to prevent a total breakdown of law and order in the state following two jailbreaks, declaring a 24-hour curfew. Lagos State Government followed suit the following day but was too much in a hurry to dance to the tunes of its godfathers whose economic interests had been paralysed for days as a result of the protest that brought the state to a halt.

The Lekki shooting of innocent youth protesters on Tuesday, October 20, in Lagos, was therefore the climax of the EndSARS/EndSWAT protest as it went down the history books as a “Black Tuesday” in Nigeria. It was a day soldiers opened fire on the unarmed innocent young Nigerians, singing the National Anthem, in their sitting positions, as they held tightly to the country’s national flag, right at the Lekki toll plaza, which had been their meeting point for two weeks.

THEWILL condemns the action of the soldiers, more so, in a democracy and we find it totally unacceptable that despite the killings and confusion going on across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, has not even spoken a word directly to Nigerians via a broadcast or direct address. For a president to have gone on a silent mode at this critical time, leaving his lieutenants to be doing the talking, clearly shows a disconnect and insensitivity on the side of the president.

THEWILL had earlier warned against the use of force in quelling the EndSARS/EndSWAT protests, which were orderly and mostly peaceful until it was taken over by miscreants and political interests. It is unfortunate that those “powers” that ordered the shooting of the innocent youthful protesters did not think of the implications of their stupid action.

While we are glad that the United Nations and the international community are all following the country’s ugly drift into anarchy, we call for the identification and immediate prosecution of all those involved in the killings and maiming Nigerians as well as the destruction of properties.

THEWILL unequivocally condemns the ongoing looting and burning down of public and private property and installations across the country in reaction to the Lekki incident, as it will do anyone no good. We are also against the attacks on policemen and Nigerians by mobs across the country as they are products of the failed leadership in the country over the years.

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We nonetheless call on the police and the military to be more civil and professional in the handling of the crisis at hand and implore them not to be used by political leaders and government to further unleash terror on innocent Nigerians.

We pray that God has mercy on the souls of the heroes of the struggle who have lost their lives and hope that their death would usher in a new Nigeria that we can all be proud of.