By Charles Ibekwe
With the turbulence of #EndSARS protests gradually calming down in states rocked by the senseless riots in the pretext of protests by some Nigerian youths, a lot have been exposed. Nigerians now know the covert agenda of some leaders and senior citizens to destabilize the country, through clandestine sponsorship or encouragement of public anarchy and bloodshed.
While there is an undisputed national consensus that the reasons precipitating the supposedly peaceful #EndSARS protests were genuine, its conversion into criminal acts and violence were not in tandem with the spirit of democratic liberties of expressing grievances. Strangely, in spite of the obvious danger, expressed through violence, killings and destructions by protesters, the it was deducible that utterances of some highly placed Nigerians were crafted to rather embolden the incensed protesters in mayhem.
Often, Nigerians are reminded of the sanctity of human life. It is the duty of everyone to preserve and respect lives. God Himself frowns at shedding of innocent blood. And where it occurs, it behooves on leaders and other highly placed citizens to talk and act in a manner that would calm frayed nerves rather than inflame the acts of bloodshed.
But Nigeria’s self-acclaimed human rights Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana displayed highly irresponsible conduct throughout the duration of the #EndSARS protests. His utterances, threats to security agents and the Government in the face of the bloody protests bolstered the hoodlums, miscreants and criminals who hijacked the protests to now wantonly kill security agents and other innocent Nigerians.
There is no doubt that Femi Falana’s various utterances, TV appearances, interviews and public statements incited the youths. He thus demeaned his status at a time he would have observed restraint as a senior citizen.
And the instant reaction from the rioting youths was to forcefully seize security agents in the line of duty and murdered them in cold blood like animals. Policemen suffered the worse fate and one wondered which patriotic person could see the horror and the carnage, but still argue for the protection of the violators of human lives. But Falana did excitedly!
One can easily understand that Falana and family have considered instigation and incitement of public unrests as business. His wife, Mrs. Folake Falana and songster, Falz have been conscripted into this business. Therefore, it doesn’t matter to the Falanas whether the reasons for public unrests are genuine or when the legitimacy is lost as in the case of the #EndSARS protests in later days.
Consequently, days after the Federal Government of Nigeria responded speedily to some of the immediate demands of the #EndSARS protesters, Falana and his bogeys kept amplifying the fire. He encouraged the violent protesters by asserting that Government has merely scratched the problem on the surface and unprepared to respect the lawful rights of Nigerians. And in the age of social media activism, his messages circulated widely.
National security of Nigeria was on the verge of being completely compromised with the killing of security personnel and innocent Nigerians by the #EndSARS protesters. But Falana unconscionably took the incitement further under the banner of Alliance for Survival of Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a body he chairs. He shamelessly challenged the decision of government to take the necessary steps as degenerative bloody protests demanded to restore the public security sanctity.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria mouthed endlessly indecorously and laughably that President Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), “… should not invite soldiers to resolve a purely democratic issue….” This message bolstered the #EndSARS protesters, and like ISWAP terrorists, they began to massively target security agents and the hapless ones were caught and murdered gruesomely. It was a clear message that Falana and coy acquiesced to the shedding of blood of the innocent.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is also culpable in the inglorious murder of Nigerians. His conversations or engagements with the public throughout the violent protests were in dissonance with the measures Government adopted to quell the mayhem, but rather, he cleverly incited the protesters.
On October 5, 2020, two days preceding the commencement of the #EndSARS protests and whilst the evil plots still smoldered in dark chambers, the Vice President confessed without any judicial probe and against established leadership protocols, SARS brutality against Nigerians. He gingered the intending protesters by saying “I am very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see, happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force.”
The worse of it all, Prof. Osinbajo for political expediency hastily admitted the alleged shooting and killing of protesters at Lekki Toll Gate in a tweet. By his early conclusions, he wittingly convicted Nigerian soldiers before trial, unlike a leader of his status. The posturing of Osinbajo on the matter could better be appreciated on recognition that the early propagandists of the alleged Lekki killings, including excited celebrities are no longer vacating public doubts with evidence to back up such claims.
Perhaps, the Vice President knew what transpired at Lekki better than eyewitness, like DJ Switch who is recounting the incident like recollections of a malnourished child with unpardonable distortions. And come to think of it, a judicial panel has just been constituted to probe the alleged Lekki shootings and killings. Deliberately, Osinbajo was hastily too flippant on such a sensitive matter unlike a leader.
Furthermore, the Vice President completely ignored consultation with Mr. President before making some of the inciting public statements. Nearly 10 days after the EndSARS protests turned bloodily violent, Osinbajo again tweeted on his verified Twitter handle; “Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry.”
But Osinbajo knew, and as would later be admitted by President Buhari’s nationwide address that Government quickly responded to some of the immediate demands of the protesters. Government disbanded SARS on the fourth day of the protests (October 11, 2020), ordered arrest and prosecution of suspected culprits and a promise to carry out a total reform of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) which bows to time.
Regrettably, Osinbajo detached himself from the actions of Government in resolving the issues and preferred to push his private agenda on escalating the crisis. And his poster boy, Femi Falana immediately aligned with Osinbajo in the false claims that the Federal Government and other authorities “ought to have moved speedily to address the demands of the protesters.” It was unconcealed, both were pursuing a secret agenda and rather preferred the brutality of the #EndSARS protesters on innocent Nigerians and its continuation than abatement.
The Vice President worked in direct antithesis with Mr. President on the crisis. He never pretended to be a problem solver, but an aggravator. And even the shedding of blood of security personnel and innocent Nigerians could not prick his conscience to observe restraint.
The political leader of Southwest, and APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu believed to be the political pillar of Prof. Osinbajo and a close ally of Femi Falana was also passive. He refused to call the duo to order until very belatedly after enough damage had occurred. Tinubu is therefore vicariously complicit in the incitement and killings of the innocent, especially policemen, some of whom were burnt alive by protesters.
Tinubu maintained comfortable silence until a lecturer in the department of History and International Relations at the University of Ibadan, Prof. Alexander Adebisi punctured it. He accused Tinubu of sponsoring the protests to discredit the leadership of President Buhari.
The lecturer claimed, Tinubu felt his 2023 Presidential ambition was threatened, as the APC was unlikely to hand him its Presidential ticket. So, bankrolling the protests is meant to destabilize the country and rubbish achievements of the Buhari Presidency.
Therefore, it is time for Nigerian activists to rise up and critically assess the roles and influence of these prominent leaders in the shedding of blood of innocent Nigerians. Their direct and vicarious links to the mobsters who perpetrated these crimes against humanity is likely to qualify them as guests/accomplices in the accused box of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
Ibekwe is a human rights campaigner based in Enugu.