Tuesday, October 20, 2020 will forever be remembered as the day the naijan flag was soaked in sorrow, tears and blood. It will remain a dark day in our nation’s history and the day tyranny, oppression and evil triumphed over good, patriotism and statesmanship!

Peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, were attacked in the most brutish, brutal and barbaric manner by armed men in military uniform, the ones the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has now described as forces directly beyond his control.

Seun Awogbenle

It will never make sense to me the reason for the violent crackdown on unarmed protesters, who had nothing but flags in their hands and songs of the national anthem in their mouth. The protesters were attacked, shot, injured and ultimately killed for demanding an end to police brutality, public accountability and a broader demand for good governance.

I was at the Lekki Toll gate on Saturday, four days before the dark Tuesday, I joined other young naijans united in our resolve and commitment for a better naija to protest against police brutality and demand our right to life from a government that has consistently shown scant regard for the protection of human lives. At the protest on Saturday, we were all full of energy, passion, zest and vigour, little did we know of the horror and carnage to come in the days ahead.

While lives have already been lost, many injured and others broken, I think the most disappointing reaction amidst our national mourning, is the deafening silence of the man who should preside over this country, Muhammadu Buhari, more than 48 hours after the carnage struck, Buhari has neither provided explanation on who authorized the shootings or even offer soothing words of in this time of grief and sadness. By this action, the President has clearly shown a lack of empathy and compassion that is untenable and unbecoming of a leader.

Guess what? At a time naijans are asking questions and demanding answers and justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, naija’s vice President, could only offer words of prayers, love and light as some may choose to call it. Astounding! naijans demand answers, not prayers! 

There are too many questions that the President must immediately answer, at whose behest was armed military men deployed to shoot live rounds at peaceful demonstrators, where are the men who shot the live rounds at unarmed protesters? Have they been arrested, when will they be prosecuted? Has the top military hierarchy been sanctioned?

I watched the shooting of the unarmed protesters like everyone else on the Instagram live of popular naijan DJ, songwriter and musician Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch), at some point the number of people on the live was as much as 150,000 viewers. It was a very sad scene to see, live rounds were shot at innocent and defenceless citizens indiscriminately, a classic case of man’s inhumanity against man!

For starters, the deployment of armed military men to crackdown on peaceful protesters is unconstitutional, illegal and a gross abuse of executive power. We have consistently seen this wilful violation of the sanctity of our constitution again and again, it will never make sense, it is pure dictatorship, tyranny and oppression.

The right to peaceful protest and assembly is a fundamental right that is constitutionally guaranteed, citizens must never be intimidated, harassed or killed for expressing their rights, the government has a duty to protect protesters, not maim, injure or kill them. The excessive use of force on unarmed protesters is evil, wicked and inexcusable!

Our demands as young people are simple, a right to life, without being killed, the setting up of judicial panel of enquiry to investigate all atrocities committed by the now disbanded members of SARS in all the states, improved salary and welfare of police officers, justice and compensation for the families of those who have been killed by SARS officials. We believe these demands are not too much to ask from a government that we voted and elected into office.

I am particularly sad, and crestfallen by the lives that have been lost as a result of the protests, which is most fundamentally because the naijan Government has failed to provide protection for protesters as required by law. It is most atrocious that the government rather than protect protesters would rather deploy the military to attack unarmed protesters for demanding public accountability. Are we now in a military state?

My heart is with the families of those who have lost their lives, while praying that God rest the soul of our departed heroes. We will continue to remember them for their bravery and gallantry, in the face of oppression and tyranny. We will continue to honour their memories by recommitting ourselves to the fight for a better naija, their stories will through us!

We will never forget 20.10.20, it will forever be remembered as the day the naijan flag was soaked in sorrow, tears and blood.



Original Author

Seun Awogbenle

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