The #EndSARS protest had built a character of principled steadfastness and jollity until the incidents of that sad Tuesday when gory violence by forces external to the demonstration took it to a dangerous level.
The highly coordinated arson that followed the next day, apparently by elements external to the protest, also introduced another dimension to the crisis. Assets belonging to prominent citizens and institutions in Lagos State and the Federal Government were targeted and destroyed. The following were torched: BRT Bus Terminals at Berger Area, Ojodu and Oyingbo; Television Continental (TVC); Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Orile Police Post; New commuter buses parked at Oyingbo and Ojodu terminals; VIO and FRSC offices and vehicles at Ojodu; Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island; Ajeromi Local Govt Secretariat; GT Bank and Access Bank branches; Ejigbo Local Council Development Authority; Lagos-Island East LCDA Secretariat; Recreational Center, Oregun; and the list goes on.
The Lagos Island Local Government was destroyed. So was its Mainland counterpart. Igbosere High Court was vandalised and looted. The same fate befell Lekki Toll Gate. Ibeju Lekki LCDA Secretariat was brought down; and several shopping malls were vandalised and looted: Circle Mall at Jakande, Lekki; Ikota Shopping complex; SPARS complex at Elegushi. By the time the final list is compiled, the full extent of the well planned heist will shock both local and international observers.
Could this be what Moyo Okediji meant when he revealed the oracle that, “The clouds will be thicker, The fog will be foggier, The days will be gloomier, The nights will be longer…?”
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, one of the better governors in the federation who had maintained close contact with the protesters and taken their case to the president, paid a severe price as his mother’s house in Surulere was burnt down by the rampaging army of arsonists. His uncle’s house on Lagos Island was not spared. Apparently, the burning crew had a list of targets.
If one is to believe one of the arguments on social media that the governor’s relatives were targeted because he declared curfew, one is at a loss as to why the other targets were torched. Apparently, some puppeteers had drawn up a grand plan to make Lagos one big ball of inferno. The fact that the law enforcement agents looked the other way while all the arson was being perpetrated speaks volumes. They seemed to be saying, “Okay, you don’t want us, let’s see how you defend yourself!”
The Oba of Lagos was specially targeted. His palace was looted, desecrated and destroyed. The criminals made a big show of the Oba’s personal effects on social media. None of them was hooded and they can be traced if we still have a security apparatus worthy of the name. I watched in horror as the low-lifers swam in the palace swimming pool and made a show of wearing the Oba’s shoes and running around with his staff of office. It was an unprecedented desecration of the cultural heritage of the people of Lagos.
There was certainly an anti-#EndSARS group which also had the colouring of the strong arm of a political party intent of doing maximum damage to Lagos and certain vested interests. It was well funded and clinically organised. For example, in any area where arson was about to be carried out, another set of vandals would head for the local fire brigade office and destroy the fire trucks and equipment. Others would man major highways to unleash terror on any fire truck heading towards the burning edifices. The Lagos State first responders were nor spared.
One Olumide Iluyomade who witnessed it all tried to wrap his head around the whole horror in a riveting analysis which I can’t resist sharing:
“The Lekki Toll shooting was most likely carried out by rogue elements of the Army or perhaps ones dressed in Army fatigue. Quite unfortunately, we might be looking at another incident of “unknown soldiers”, they remain unknown and at large! It is harrowing that no one can give a definite answer to the questions being asked — who ordered it?
“The “Unknown soldiers” were clandestine, stood aloof, disabled security surveillance and lights, opened fire in unison and simply disappeared! It was not anything like the engagements we have seen with other Army units operating in Lagos. It reeks of mischief! We hope that time and effort will reveal those behind it and prosecute them!
“There is the preponderance of a fifth column and several rogue elements within the situation in Lagos. Many people have diabolical intent and have found the perfect opportunity to unleash it. There are hungry and angry hoodlums and thugs who vandalise, loot, destroy and commit arson for no reason! There are the political pundits who see it as an opportunity for political gain. There are the ethnic bigots and separatists who see this as an opportunity to cause further acrimony and set the polity on fire so that there can be a better case for the fragmentation of the nation.
“There are the economic hackers who just quite simply see it as an opportunity to loot and self-aggrandise. There are those overcome with hate and those who just want a regime change — many of these ones are certainly not averse to devious tactics just to see things go their way! Neither Tinubu nor Sanwo-Olu have the authority to order an Army strike. The dastardly act of those soldiers could never have been something that occurred because of an “order” from the governor or Tinubu. Nigerian Army has a federal chain of command.
“Lagos state has lost tens of billions in assets and economic loss because the federal government refused to do the needful and failed to handle the protest properly with affirmative actions.
The President of the Federation, Muhammadu Buhari, has been especially inept… His conspicuous absence and unwillingness to confront and address issues directly, has had the effect of causing issues to fester and metastasise into national security threats!”
The quantum of disinformation unleashed through the social media in the 72 hours preceding and following the Lekki shootings is worthy of deeper study by social scientists. One ‘authoritative’ fabricator even claimed that he was privy to the fact that President Buhari had secretly escaped to the US! Ohaneze Ndigbo was prompt in distancing Igbos from another voice-note in circulation purporting to be a directive from Nnamdi Kanu to Igbos to destroy Lagos.
One fellow in Abuja gathered fellow hirelings to declare that he was representing the Gwari indigenes of the capital city and that any ‘outsider’ who wanted to protest should go back to his state of origin to do so, failing which they would unleash violence on the person. Pathetic!
It was not the #EndSARS protesters that introduced violence into the protest. It was introduced by external forces attempting to use the army, or some rogue elements within or outside the forces, to do a police job. And the fact that all the security agencies looked away while Lagos burned shows that the country was merely coasting on auto-pilot. Everyone for himself and God for us all. Sad!
The president says he has heard the protesters loud and clear. What he does or does not do in the coming days and weeks will determine how much weight the youths can put to his words. It’s time for action.
Meanwhile, nothing short of a comprehensive investigation into the Lagos mayhem can ensure that such is not repeated again. The masterminds of the mass looting and pyromania must be identified and dragged before the law.