BusinessDay

Tell my mother I was unarmed

The youth have spoken. Vox populi, vox Dei. Tired of seeing their tomorrow being mortgaged by philistines, they have decided solemnly to take their future into their own hands. We may neither understand nor even empathise with them; but we can never wish them away.

I am a humble economist with abiding interests in political philosophy. One of the most influential texts in political theory that I know of was written by the German jurist Carl Schmitt (The Concept of the Political, 1932). I would not want to bore my gentle readers with its heavy disquisitions, but merely to say that I agree with Schmitt that not everything is political. There are situations that transcend politics. The EndSars protests are one of such. I believe that the drama unfolding before us is nothing short of an existential revolution. And revolutions, by their nature and character, do not follow any particular rhyme or reason. One thing I know for sure is that there is always a tinder-box. All that is needed is for the conjuncture of circumstances to coalesce and for one fool or another to light a match that ignites it.

Of course, every revolution attracts the jackals, hyenas, vultures and other scavengers of history. There will always be free-riders and spoilers who will exploit every opportunity to advance their own selfish agendas that explain all the unfortunate looting and mayhem. The ruling classes will always fight back with savagery, as exemplified by the blowback in Abuja, where hired mercenary hoodlums came with daggers and submachine guns. It takes courage, patience and wisdom to ignore the noise and to focus on the bigger picture.

A revolution without discipline and ideas will only lead to anarchy. This is why some abject scoundrels have attempted to give religious or ethnic coloration to the protests.

What happened at Lekki Tollgate on “Black Tuesday” (20 October) will remain a blight upon our collective psyche. For several days, protesters held vigils in makeshift tents. Without warning, masked men in army uniform were brought in at dusk. The lights and CCTV cameras were shut down. Mobile telephony networks were also blocked. They went into action, killing and maiming defenseless youths. The numbers are still being disputed. While Governor Babajide Sanwa-Olu claimed that there were no casualties, Amnesty International reported that there were at least 12. It is speculated that the numbers are anything from 20 to 50 people.

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What is disturbing is that the lives of young people who were totally unarmed and who were not a physical threat to anyone were snuffed off with such callous impunity.

PROTEST

Rightly or wrongly, Lekki Tollgate has been associated with the strongman of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Whilst the upheaval was exploding, he fled to France on his private jet; a claim he vehemently denied on Saturday when he showed up at the State House, Marina, on a solidarity visit with his own minion-governor. He of course vehemently denies having issued the orders to the military. Earlier, he had also been accused of having allegedly “sponsored” the EndSars protests. I agree with Jagaban Borgu when he complains that he could not have committed both crimes at the same time. Perhaps we would never know who issued the orders.

The Lekki Massacre constitutes a Crime against Humanity. The NBC has angered many Nigerians by slamming N3 million on some TV stations whose only crime is professionally reporting this gruesome reality show. It is reassuring that the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC has taken judicial notice as have the Commonwealth of Nations and the international community.

Whether he was directly involved or not, the soi-disant Lion of Bourdillon cannot escape moral culpability. He is the National Leader of the ruling party; a statesman whose lack of scruples would have impressed Machiavelli and Kautilya. He has never shown compassion for the victims of violence. He has allegedly accumulated a vast fortune out of the machine politics of Lagos. One of the firms allegedly associated with him mints currency from Lekki Tollgate. His overweening ambition is to clinch the Presidency in 2023, even when his provenance is under a cloud.

We regret all the looting, arson and violence. But there is no perfect revolution. There are reactionary and even criminal elements among the youths. There are sadly no intellectual leaders that can shape this revolution and give it meaning and purpose. A revolution without discipline and ideas will only lead to anarchy. This is why some abject scoundrels have attempted to give religious or ethnic coloration to the protests.

Ayesha Yusuf has declared that our youth are fighting for a society where, “the son or daughter of nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody”. It is a fight for the heart and soul of our country. The worst thing the authorities can do is unleash further military force on defenseless protesters.

The martyred African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr taught that unearned suffering is redemptive. Those who lost their lives in this upheaval would not have died in vain. Their blood will lead to the birth of a New Nigeria. What we face are the birth pangs of a new nation. Nigeria will no longer be the laughing stock of the world. She will be a City set on a hill; a bright and shiny light among the nations.

I conclude with the haunting lines by an anonymous poet:

Tell my mother I was unarmed.

Tell my father I had the flag in my hands when I was shot.

Tell the unborn Generation that I died singing the national anthem.

Tell the cowards who shot me that my spirit lives on in the life of every good Nigerian youth.

Tell the government that they shot my body but not my spirit…

…Let God judge me, I am only sorry for the pain of leaving you this early.

My prints will forever remain in the sands of history for I have done my time based on the path I chose freely and willingly.

Now that my torment is over… I know that freedom is coming, yes freedom will come tomorrow.

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