Professor Wole Soyinka has lamented the shooting of peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos, on Tuesday evening by soldiers, describing it as “Back to Abacha – in grotesque replay”.
In a statement on Wednesday, the nobel laureate said it was “absolutely essential to let this government know that the Army has now replaced SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) in the demonic album of the protesters.”
According Soyinka, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government acted in an “authoritarian manner” by deploying armed soldiers to shoot protesters.
He said, “My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order’. Nevertheless, the Centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche.”
He said that when he resumed his trip to Abeokuta at 6 a.m. today, he negotiated nearly 15 roadblocks all distinguished by an implacable state of rage.
“Need I add that, on arrival in Abeokuta, my home town, I again had to negotiate a roadblock? That went smoothly enough. I expected it, and have no doubt that more are being erected as this is being written.
“It is pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done, that the continued protest is hurting the nation’s economy etc.
“COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy – such as it is – for over eight months. Of course, it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory – such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder.”
“It was in stark contrast to the inclusivity of the protesting ‘family of common cause’ of earlier days,” he said.
“All inherent beauty of instant bonding and solidarity evaporated. At the block just before the Lagos Secretariat, the protesters proved the most recalcitrant. In the end, they exacted from me just the one offering to the rites of passage – I could sense it coming — I had to come down from the car and addressed them. I did.
“Little did they know what was churning in my mind: This is not real. This is Back to Abacha – in grotesque replay,” he said.
He called on governors across the country to immediately demand the withdrawal of deployed soldiers in their states and immediately convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency.
He said the governors should know “24-hr Curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on Local Councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism.”
He added, “We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever. To commence any process of healing at all – dare one assume that this is the ultimate destination of desire? — the Army must apologize, not merely to the nation but to the global community – the facts are indisputable – you, the military, opened fire on unarmed civilians.
“There has to be structured restitution and assurance that such aberrations will not again be recorded. Then both governance and its security arms can commence a meaningful, lamentably overdue dialogue with society. Do not attempt to dictate — Dialogue.”
Several youths reportedly died following the attack at the Lekki toll gate with about 25 others said to have sustained gunshot wounds.
However, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, claimed on Wednesday that no fatality was recorded in the shooting.
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