THE #ENDSARS PROTESTS; A FUNDAMENTAL LESSON IN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
I heavily grieve for those who have lost their lives or been injured during the period of these protests.
- My deepest sympathies go to their families and loved ones for none should have been made to pay such a dear price. My career as an active politician spans nearly three decades.
- In that time, I have seen many things as Nigeria has struggled, sometimes against itself, to undertake the often painful yet inexorable push toward democratic government accountable to, and protective of, the people.
- Here, let me directly address the sharp point aimed against me. I have been falsely accused of ordering the reported deployment of soldiers against peaceful protesters that took place at Lekki on 20 October 2020.
- This allegation is a complete and terrible lie. I did not order this or any assault against anybody. I would never want such a vile thing to happen nor did I have any prior knowledge about this sad event.
- It is my firm belief that no one should be harassed, injured or possibly killed for doing what they have the constitutional right to do in making their contribution to a better, more equitable society.
- As a political figure, I am accustomed to people attributing to me all manner of indiscretions of which I have no knowledge and in which I played no role. I have usually ignored such falsities as the cost of being in the public eye.
- This time, it is different. The allegation now levied against me is that I called on soldiers to kill my own people. This allegation is the foulest of lies.
- The use of strong force against any peaceful protesters is indefensible, completely outside the norms of a democratic society and progressive political culture to which I aspire and have devoted my public life.
- That people were angered by the reports of violence and death is acutely understandable.
Understandably outraged, people sought to hold someone accountable.
- For various reasons, I became the most available scapegoat. Some people don’t like me because they believe the false rumours uttered about me over the years. Some maligned my name because they hide ulterior motives & harbour unrequited political scores they intend to settle
- A week ago, such people tried to bring enmity between me and the state and federal governments by contending I was sponsoring the protests.
- When that did not work, they then sought to sow enmity between me and the people by saying I ordered soldiers to quash the very same protests they first accused me of organising.
- My opponents have every right to oppose me politically but let them have the courage to do so in the open, above board and to employ facts not evil fiction in their efforts against me.
- They have no right to slander and defame anyone with the terrible and vile fabrications now cast at my feet.
- Those who have decided to hate me will hate me regardless of the truth. Again, they have the right to think as they may and I am not troubled by their unfounded animus. Today, I speak not to them. I leave them to the workings of their own conscience.
- The slander aimed at me is based on the untruth that I own the toll gate concession. The hate mongers prevaricate that I ordered the Lekki assault because the protests had caused me to lose money due to the interruption of toll gate activity.
- I ask people to thoroughly investigate the matter of my alleged ownership of the toll gate. By seeking facts, instead of being swayed by gossip, you will find I have no ownership interest or involvement in the toll gate.
- At bottom, the toll gate is a public asset. If it is reopened, revenues should be donated to the confirmed victims of the Lekki attack as well as to other identifiable victims of police brutality in Lagos.
- Let government use the money to compensate and take care of those who have lost life or limb in the struggle for all citizens to go about the quiet, peaceful enjoyment of life without fear of undue harassment at this or that checkpoint.
- On the other hand, I am, indeed, a promoter and financial investor in The Nation and TVC. It was widely known and circulated through social media that certain malevolent elements were going to take advantage of the situation to attack the Nation newspaper facilities & TVC.
- These elements, mostly hirelings of my political opponents, wreaked their havoc and destroyed those buildings and facilities and I thank God that the employees of these two media institutions managed to escape largely unharmed.
- There is no rationale that can adequately explain why I would order soldiers to repel peaceful protesters from the toll gate where I have no financial interest, yet, choose to do nothing to protect my investments in the Nation and TVC.
- The good and creative people of Lagos have worked hard over the years to build it into the dynamic economic and cultural focal point it has become. Lagos has enjoyed over two decades of sustained, uninterrupted growth.