Following the nationwide protests on #EndSARS which commenced on October 8, 2020, Nigerians expected the president, Muhammadu Buhari to officially address the nation, if not for anything, to show that he is aware of their campaign for the abolishment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the end of police brutality in Nigeria. Rather, President Buhari kept mute and in his usual style, he communicated to Nigerians through his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina. The protests which disrupted the economic life of Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as well as other states in the country including, but not limited to, Edo, Delta, Enugu, Anambra was not enough to prompt a Presidential live address.
Despite the abolishment of SARS on Sunday, October 11, 2020, Nigerians were not satisfied because they needed words to be backed by actions especially as the President remained unwilling to address the protesters. However, the world would be shocked by the event of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, where peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State were shot at by the Nigerian Army during the dark hours of the day, killing some and leaving many injured. In a democracy, the President on the night of the #LekkiMassacre should have addressed the situation and left the Presidential Villa open for journalists while he entertained questions regarding the shootings as the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, before backing it up with a national address the following morning.
However, the herdsman from Daura chose to keep mute until October 22, 2020, two days after the shooting. In what I prefer to call a “total mess of a speech,”President Buhari failed to make mention the Lekki Tollgate shooting. Aside from the President speech on the disbandment of SARS on October 12, 2020, President Buhari’s utter silencethroughout the weeks of the #EndSARS protest is, to me, a great sign that he had nothing important to tell Nigerians from the start. He is probably used to the use of iron fist as an ex-military man. I am prompted to believe that Buhari’s silence connotes nothing other than “they think they can move me through protesting on the streets, when I use aggression on them, they will return home without hearing from me.”
When the Buhari finally addressed Nigerians, rather than start his speech by consoling the families of victims of the #LekkiMassacre and addressing the crisis that followed, he chose to remind Nigerians of how strong he can be:
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.”
Since when did prompt action become weakness? I can only deduce from this statement that President Buhari was trying to tell Nigerians that he is not supposed to yield to their request mindless of the fact that they voted him into power on two occasions.
In furtherance to the above, President Buhari would go on to call out the international community in what he described as “hasty” conclusion on the Nigerian crisis:
“To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgement and making hasty pronouncements.”
Who does that? Mr. President needs to be reminded that the times have changed. If he thinks this is the 1980s when technology, even social media, lacked roots in the World, the first lady during their love-making hours should educate him on the fact that in the 21st century, social media and the internet is a great weapon. He needs to be told that the #LekkiMassacre was not photoshopped, as the military spokesman, Major General John Eneche misinformed when confronted with this military “evil”, but was streamed on Instagram Live and circulated across social media for the world to see, and thus there was not attempt to make hasty pronouncements.
The events of the past few weeks are evidence that bad leadership is at the fore of Nigeria’s problems. The manner in which the #EndSARS protests has been handled tells nothing good of a democracy. Nigerians, especially the youth population, must be wary of this fact and seek ways to make their votes count come 2023. It cannot be business as usual.
Featured Image Source: BBC