By Suyi Ayodele
I have had to ponder over three events that happened in the last one week, analysed and paid attention to the issues surrounding them. I have equally tried to situate the antecedents and the body languages of the dramatis personae of the circus shows. In the end, I arrived at only one conclusion; Ifabonmi. Ifabonmi, as a name in my native Ekiti axis of Yoruba, is arcane and as Delhic as the Greek oracle at Delphi. If translated to modern Yoruba Language, it means Ifaotanmi. The closest English Language translation is: “The Oracle does not deceive me”. Ifabonmi is itself a shortened version of the full name; which is a multi-syllabic compound sentence.
The full name is: Ifanbonmieminabonrami (Ifa-bon-mi-emi-na-bon’ra-mi) – the oracle does not deceive me and I do not deceive myself too. Local as the name sounds, its philosophical concept has a universal appeal. One needs to understand the etymology of the name to be able to appreciate its universality and its didactic import. That is one of the beauties of African names; they connote and denote deep meanings. Ifabonmi is equally esoterically philosophical in Ifa divination. This is the explanation behind the derivational name.
When a client goes to consult Ifa, the practice is that he whispers his mystery to the divination objects. The Ifa priest or the diviner casts the divination objects and studies the particular Odu (Corpus) that surfaces. In most cases, when the Odu reveals a tough topic which the priest knows the client is unlikely to accept, he (diviner) chants the cognomen of Ifa and ends by saying: “Ifa bon mi, emi na bon ‘ra mi” (the oracle does not deceive me neither do I deceive myself ). The client is asked to repeat the statement after the priest. This is exactly what we have in today’s Pentecostalism.
Once the pastor says “my head rejects evil”, the congregation repeats the statement after the pastor. Thereafter, the Ifa priest goes ahead to tell the bitter truth about the object of consultation the very way Ifa reveals it. If the client follows the prescribed instructions by the oracle, he comes back to rejoice and praise the diviner, who in turn will praise the oracle. If on the other hand, the client decides to tell himself the opposite of the truth, he will later on reap the rewards of self-deceit. The message here is that at all times, the oracle tells humans the truth. We are the ones who tell ourselves the only “truth” we want to hear and believe.
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Yeah, the oracle does not lie, the narrators, and or actors, are the ones lying to themselves. Unfortunately, after believing their own lies and painting them as truths, the actors proceed to sedate the public’s sense of reasoning in an attempt to make the generality of the people to believe the lies they (actors) tell themselves. However, when subjected to thorough scrutiny, the philosophical import of Ifabonmi plays out.
Last week, Ndi Anambra elected for themselves a governor in the person of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. In the tension-soaked election, Soludo and his party beat the other parties in the election like they did not exist. APGA won 19 of the 21 LGAs that make up Anambra State. The first runner-up, the PDP won only one LGA, while the YPP won the other LGA. The “beautiful bride”, which thought it was dancing very well at the arena as the electioneering campaigns lasted, the APC, came third without winning a single LGA. The result was no doubt, devastating for the ruling party, and proved all political permutations wrong.
The candidate of the APC, Andy Uba, while rejecting the results, hinged his claim of an “unfair contest” on the number of votes he garnered while he contested the APC primary as an aspirant. Speaking through the spokesman for his campaign organisation, Jerry Ugokwe, Uba said the election was “a charade”, because “It is inconceivable that our candidate, who polled over 200,000 votes in the APC primary election would be allocated slightly above 43,000 votes by INEC”. Painful! Uba, had allegedly won the APC primary by “scoring” 230, 201 out of 348, 490 votes cast. But during the general election itself, he managed to score 43,285 votes.
In essence, 186, 916 APC members who voted to elect Uba as their candidate either failed to show up or decided to vote for another party during the election proper. Again Uba’s publicist also wondered why “APGA that lost almost 80 per cent of its stalwarts through defection to the APC before the election came out ‘victorious”. He listed the “stalwarts” to include “a sitting APGA Deputy Governor, seven members of the House of Representatives, 10 members of the Anambra State House of Assembly, a member of APGA’s Board of Trustees, many serving SAs, SSAs, in addition to a serving PDP Senator”, who “all defected to the APC very timely before the election”.
Tempting as it may be to believe Ugokwe’s lamentation about his principal’s failure at the polls, we also need to ask, “what did the Anambra political oracle tell Uba and his APC before the election?” If Uba is claiming to have scored 230, 201 at the APC primary, we need to ask him what happened to the aggrieved members of his party, who never believed he won the primary, or that there was even any primary at all. We may also want to ask him the size of the Golden Tulip Hotel venue of the APC primary, such that it could accommodate 348, 490 APC members at a go.
And what is “stalwart” about a “sitting deputy governor”, who decamped to the APC some three weeks to the election but lost his ward at the general election? Are Uba and APC saying that they were not aware that the November 6 Anambra Governorship election was an endorsement and loyalty to the eternal leadership of the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and not about a Soludo, or a Willie Obiano? When the oracle has spoken without lying, why is Uba now blaming INEC, because he, Uba, and the APC, decided to lie to themselves about the numerical strength of APC in Anambra State?
The second event that occupied my mind throughout the weekend is the “hit-and-run” analogy of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, in the matter of Tordue Salem, the Vanguard’s reporter attached to the National Assembly. Tordue, we all recall here, disappeared on October 13, 2021. He was said to have been dropped off by a colleague, at a filling station, adjacent to the Police Force Headquarters. That was the last that was heard of him until last week Friday, November 12, when the Force PRO, Frank Mba, announced that the corpse of the journalist had been found. Mba, a Commissioner of Police, while telling a bewildered nation about the discovery of Tordue’s corpse, also showcased a 29-year-old, Itoro Clement, who is believed to be a commercial driver, as the one who killed the journalist, in a case of “hit and run”.
The story is not just adding up for me. As a matter of fact, the story is “hitting” my sensibility and “running” like the so-called Itoro of a driver! For crying out loud, Tordue was not dropped off in the bush. The filling station, where he got off his friend’s car, is said to be “adjacent” the Police Force Headquarters”. Where did the “hit-and run” accident happen? How long does it take, in a city like Abuja, for a pedestrian to be hit by a driver, who immediately takes off, before help comes the way of the victim? How come it took the nation a complete one month to discover the corpse of a “disappeared” journalist to be the same as that of the victim of a “hit and run”?
While accepting a Brought in Dead, BID, for morgue preservation, is CP Mba saying Wuse General Hospital did not do identikit verification?
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What about the “three identity cards comprising that of the National Assembly, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Vanguard Newspaper, as well as two ATM cards found on the remains”? What the NPF spokesman is telling us is that the management of Wuse General Hospital deposited Tordue’s corpse in the mortuary with his work ID card, his National Assembly ID card, his NUJ ID card and his two bank accounts ATM cards, all intact in his pocket; that nobody in that urban hospital, had the intelligence to check the cards and the whole nation waited in agony for a whole month?! Is this what a Commissioner of Police has to offer by way of explaining the outcome of a thorough investigation of this unfortunate death? Does CP Mba realise that we are talking about a corpse deposited at a Wuse General Hospital, FCT, Abuja, and not one nondescript dispensary at Iyanfoworogi village? Again, Ifabonmi!
As if that was not enough, that same last week, the police again paraded 14 personalities as being responsible for the penultimate week’s invasion of the home of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court. Parading the persons, Mba again told us that the suspects conspired to raid Justice Odili’s residence following information that Her Lordship “was keeping a large sum of money in foreign currencies”. If you were expecting the police officer to tell you that upon the alarm raised by the Supreme Court Justice, the police moved in, and had all the invaders arrested, then you are a distant cousin of Samuel Beckett and an adept believer in the trends of “Waiting for Godot”. The story the Nigerian state would want us to believe here, through the police, is that while the siege on Justice Odili’s home lasted, the jurist never thought of calling the police or anyone in the corridors of power. She was too frightened to call her fellow jurists, even her husband, who happens to be a former governor! There was no Intelligence Response Squad to swoop on the suspect and arrest them on the spot. The nation had to wait for days before the suspects were picked up one after the other “in the course of investigation”. Thankfully, Nigerians know the antecedents of this government in relation to the nation’s judiciary. As much as the oracle does not deceive, we also have a duty not to deceive ourselves. Ifabonmi.
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in the same paper.
OPINION: Does The Govt Know That We Know?
By Suyi Ayodele
When a man dies or leaves a particular position or office, we describe him according to his deeds. When the Yoruba say of a man that “o se gudugudu meje ati yaa yaa mefa,” they are simply saying that while here on earth or in office, the person was very impactful and left indelible footprints on the sands of time. When, on the other hand, the remarks is “aku tun ku e lona ogun: aku tun ku e lona ogbon”-may he die twenty times over and may he die thirty times over again- what the people are saying is that may this locust never visit us again. Every man writes his own epitaph by his deeds, actions and inactions. The same thing is applicable to governments and administrations.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has, in the last six years, treated Nigerians very badly for just one reason. This is the only plausible reason Buhari and his men keep on dishing out policies that stand logic on its head. It takes a leader with a deep-seated disdain for the people to treat them the very way the current administration is doing. Nigerians have had governments in the past that were deaf and dumb. But never have they had a government that is deaf, dumb, pathologically wicked and incurably insensitive. From the kick-off of his campaign promises in 2015, to the daily defilement of the social contract he signed with the people when he was sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief, Buhari has shown that he has no single atom of respect for the people he rules.
The bitter truth, which many supporters of the government would not want to admit, is that the country is on auto-pilot. Nobody is in charge and nobody has ever been in charge since 2015. The only semblance of control of the levers of governance is what is obtainable in a cartel-run administration. Those who appear to be in charge are mere carpetbaggers, a racketeering gang of voracious locusts; eating fat on our patrimony to the de-humanisation of the generality of the people. This accounts for why attitudes amounting to bestiality are becoming commonplace among the people.
Everywhere you go, you see Nigerians with palpable frustration, hopelessness and indignity written all over them. The government has succeeded in bringing out the “beast in us” due to failure of a leadership that came into power, using the instrumentality of falsehood and which holds on to power, deploying same strategy of lies, cant and official deceit to make the people resign to a state of hopelessness.
An administration that “shares money to the poor”, without a single record of how much was shared, and who benefited from the sharing, is definitely a Capone in sleaze; a rey del engano of the worst kind. A government that gives out “soft loans” in the name of “tradermoni” without putting in place any strategy to make the invisible beneficiaries pay back is engaging in racketeering and nothing more. What about the so-called bailouts to state governments? How much has the Buhari Federal Government given out? How much of the bailouts has it collected back? If the state governments are not paying back, why did the Federal Government advance them an additional “bailout”?
Virtually everything in the economy has collapsed. Little wonder that inflation in the country has moved from the galloping state to the flying stage. A sachet of common “pure water” now goes for thirty naira (N30) in Buhari’s promised Eldorado, a 12.5kg of domestic gas is knocking at N10,000 and the government still carries on in a nothing spoil mien. Why? Simply put: the Buhari government regards Nigerians as nincompoops and simpletons who could be easily swayed with empty rhetoric and insipid pretensions.
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How on earth will the government consider removing oil subsidy to replace it with N5,000 monthly transport allowance to 40 million unknown and undocumented Nigerians? Like the popular Yoruba social re-orientation hype of the 90s on the old Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) , “e ri oju ole e o mu”- you see a thief and you fail to apprehend him. How much is the subsidy that the government intends to remove? N1.8 trillion per year. How much is the proposed transport payment to 40 million Nigerians? Arithmetically, that comes to N2.4 trillion. Do we need to resuscitate the late Chike Obi to tell us that this is like losing a pound to save a farthing? Which government does that?
Here is an administration that has not deemed it fit to publish the names and account numbers of those poor Nigerians, who were “credited” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same government that has not shown us the “school children” that were fed with billions of naira in their parents’ homes in the heat of Covid-19, is the one talking about giving 40 million Nigerians N5,000 monthly as transport allowance? How come the government is not thinking of using the proposed spend to resuscitate just one of our moribund refineries in order to put paid to the endless regime of importation of refined petroleum? How else does a government insult the sensibility of the people?
When asked for the modality for the selection of the would-be beneficiaries, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning responded that the selection process would be built on the existing conditional cash transfer register used by the office of the vice president in administering payments to poor and vulnerable Nigerians in the past. Only a government which considers the people stupid thinks this way.
But are Nigerians as stupid as the government thinks? I answer by relating this joke, which I tag, “do you know that we know”, as frequently told by a former colleague. A lousy village randy was once involved in an illicit affair with a barber’s wife. While the affair was a common talk in the village, the barber pretended that he knew nothing. Appalled by the seeming ignorance of the barber, the villagers took him to be a stupid fellow and he became the butt of the village jokes and abusive banter. But the barber knew he was never stupid. He equally knew that a day of reckoning would come. As a barber, he knew that not too long, the randy man’s hair would become too bushy and he would require the services of himself, the village’s only barber. The vulture is a patient bird, a la James Hadley Chase. True to his programming, a day came that the randy man needed a nice haircut. Off he went to the barber’s shop. Acting as if nothing was amiss, the barber set to work. And when he got round to shaving the randy man’s beards, the barber put the shaving knife on the randy man’s jugular and asked: “do you know that I know that you are having an affair with my wife”? What did he do? Sorry, the super cop, Abba Kyari is still in the cooler: only he has the expertise to unravel what happened after that little exchange.
For Nigerians, just like the barber, 2023 is around the corner. That is the year they would show these present crops of locusts that Nigerians are not stupid. With their voters’ cards, it would be nice if Nigerians could ask these traders on the political terrain: “do you know that we know that you have been handing us the short end of the stick?” Nigerians must ensure a paradigm shift in the nation’s political equilibrium. To do otherwise and allow the present racketeers to continue beyond 2023 is to sign our future and that of generations unborn, to perpetual slavery.
7O garlands for Oga Olamiti
“Folu you are my friend, we have come a long way. Your boy here, Suyi, writes against us every day”. That was Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State speaking to Oga Folu Olamiti. Oga Olamiti was in Edo State Government House, Benin, on the invitation of the governor. As the state correspondent of the Tribune titles, I accompanied Oga Olamiti, who was then the Executive Director, Operation. We had just finished an interview session with the governor and we were about to go when Governor Igbinedion made those remarks. That was around August, 2000. I was terrified. Oga Olamiti simply responded by saying, “Suyi is a good boy and he is also your boy, Your Excellency”.
Back to our office on Sokonba Road, I was expecting a reprimand from the DOP for “writing against” his “friend”. But none came. Rather, Oga Olamiti took a copy of the day’s Tribune and pointed at one of my published stories, saying: “’Suyi, you write well. But writing well does not make you a good reporter. You must write constantly. If you want to be known in this profession, you must write features. Features bring out your language and ability. All these six-paragraph stories are good but the only way you can show your ability is by writing features. You have the language, so develop it by writing”.
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Today, I do not only write features, Tuesday Flat Out is a fruit of that wise counsel by the legend and talent- hunter himself, Oga Folu Olamiti. He only mentioned the governor’s remarks in passing when he was about to depart Benin. “Don’t worry about what the governor said. He only complained because you are doing your job well. Just make sure you always get their own side of the story,” he told me while patting my back lightly. The charge ensconced in that short speech was all I needed to develop my knack for deep investigative stories as a journalist and writer. His kind are rare to find, and are forever treasured when they are found.
The enigma, the encourager, Oga Folu Olamiti, turns 70 years old today, November 30, 2021. May I therefore join thousands of other mentees to wish the man of many parts HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Agba yin a d’ale sir!
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in same paper.
OPINION: The Truth Lie, Mohammed Cannot Kill (Part 1)
In light or in darkness, a cockroach is a cockroach; smelly and repulsive. What to do to rid the cockroach of its nuisance? Whack it to death!
The lethargic regime of the retired General Muhammadu Buhari heeded this homily on October 20, 2020, when it crushed to death, like cockroaches, innocent Nigerian youths at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos Island.
Since the bloodbath at Lekki over a year ago, the unproductive Buhari regime has been wheeling falsehoods in and out of cosmetic surgery wards, trying all manner of facelifts to beautify deceit. But truth remained missing in the prescribed post-surgery dosage, making Aso Rock’s open wound conscience discharge smelly pus.
But before I attack the cockroaches that crawled out of the latest response from the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on the Lekki Toll Gate massacre, last week, I’ll ask a question: where’s the camcorder discovered by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, at the scene of the murder of innocent Nigerian youths?
My gut feeling is to treat the Fashola camcorder discovery with the doubt that Nigerians attach to government and its officials, and liken the discovery to the purported discovery of River Niger by Scottish explorer, Mungo Park, in 1795, centuries after indigenes had been living on the banks of the river.
The out-of-the-blue camcorder discovery and the ginger way the left-handed minister wrapped the camcorder with a piece of dark cloth, like a detective from Alagbon, suggests there was an untold event at the toll gate before the minister got there that fateful day – just like there were indigenes living around River Niger long before Mungo got there.
Conversely, the authenticity of Fashola’s action and the possibility of extracting evidence from the camcorder were lost in the black hole of government’s characteristic insensitivity to issues that concern the masses.
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It’s only an unfeeling and inconsiderate government that would keep quiet on the content of a camera openly discovered by an ex-Chief of Staff, two-term governor, SAN, minister, and member of the federal cabinet.
In a country, where leaders lead with conscience, and consider the citizenry worthier than cows, there won’t be a criminal silence on the content of the camcorder. Mind you, two weeks ago, Fashola had said he openly handed over the camcorder to Lagos State government officials at the toll gate, insisting that he doesn’t know what has become of the camera.
According to online reports, Fashola also claimed the camcorder was planted by subversive elements. This assertion is the reason why the content of the camcorder should be made public if the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government of Lagos State wishes to wash its hands clean. Questions beggar answers. Why did the Lagos State government not submit the camcorder to the panel, and why did the panel not mention the camcorder in its report nor call on Fashola to come and testify?
It should be noted that the composition of the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led eight-member Lagos State Panel of Inquiry constituted to look at the causes of the Lekki toll gate crises was a child of necessity. If not for the fire consuming Lagos at the time, Sanwo-Olu wouldn’t people the panel with independent-minded and courageous citizens, who never gave two hoots about how Abuja or Alausa feels about the truth they told in the report. I daresay the composition of the panel was to douse the escalating tension eating up Lagos at the time.
Upon the leakage of the panel’s report, Nigeria’s media space went berserk, but the information minister figuratively went underwater like a mighty shark for some days, only for him to suddenly shoot into the air from the deep, twirling to the horror of many, insisting that nobody died at the toll gate.
Alhaji Lai’s latest lie issued forth from the same mouth which claimed in 2018 that it cost government N3.5m monthly to feed detained Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, even as the same mouth claimed in 2016 that patient Buhari wasn’t sick in London, only for the Daura general to return to the country to say he had never been that sick in his entire life.
The same mouth had also infamously said Boko Haram had been technically defeated only for the terrorist organisation to claim territories in the North-East, and kill soldiers and civilians at will. I’ll restrain from turning on the minister’s tap of misrepresentations.
Reacting to the leaked report, Mohammed quoted a nameless lawyer and a faceless journalist, whom he claimed described the leaked report as disgraceful. If Alhaji Lai was proud of what he was saying, he should have come up with the identities of the unknown persons he copiously quoted in his press statement.
In the aftermath of the massacre, CNN came up with a damning analysis of the CCTV footage from the Lekki toll gate, showing soldiers shooting at the scene and expended live bullet casings, which were traced to the Nigerian military.
After the CNN report, the government went back on its earlier denial that soldiers never had live bullets at the scene, insisting, however, that the live bullets were not shot.
Both the panel and the CNN reports queried the reason behind the ‘panning out of CCTV cameras’ at the scene shortly before the soldiers opened fire on the harmless protesters.
If Mohammed was on the side of the truth and the masses, he should have raised questions as to why the brightly lit toll gate was thrown into darkness shortly before the killer soldiers opened fire on Nigerians whom he swore to serve and protect.
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In his sophistry, Mohammed raised a jejune question on why the relatives of the deceased have refused to come out and claim the corpses of the dead.
In a country where the soldiers that killed three policemen and two civilians, who arrested kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala aka Wadume, in Taraba State, got a pat on the back, and are today walking free, Mohammed’s poser to the relatives of the dead is akin to telling them to face a moving train.
It’s on record that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, withdrew the murder charge against the soldiers since June 2020.
With the wave of killings and tension across the country, Mohammed should know that Nigerians have been dehumanised and disenchanted to the extent that they don’t expect anything good from the Buhari regime.
Just a few days ago, a witness, Kamsi Ochuko, who testified at the panel against the Nigerian Army, was allegedly attacked by hoodlums suspected to be sponsored.
One of the victims who survived gunshot wounds, Agbeze Ifeanyi Matthew, a 35-year-old man from Ondo State, testified before the investigative panel and showed his bullet wounds.
He also told UK-based daily, The Guardian, that it was shameful the Federal Government had been denying the shooting of protesters at the toll gate.
He said, “The tollgate lights had never gone off before, but when they turned them all off and we saw people (in uniform) removing the cameras, we became scared.
“The bullet had gone through my back. In the ambulance they were saying I had lost so much blood. The nurse was praying, trying to encourage me to be courageous, saying that I should not lose hope. This was around 1am.
“I was the first person from the tollgate admitted to the ward. Later that morning, there was no more space (in the ward).”
To be continued next week.
Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, columnist with the Punch newspapers and a guest writer with Info Daily.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Lekki Massacre: The Real Dead Men [OPINION]
By Suyi Ayodele
Prolific writer, John Harris, was a sailor, an airman, a journalist, a travel courier, a cartoonist and a history teacher. He wrote 35 books using his real name, had 27 under ‘Mark Hebden’ and additional 10, mostly on military escapades, under the name, ‘Max Hennessy’. In his “Music Set to Death”, Hebden created a murder victim, whose dead body was found in an elegant room in a salon, with a piano playing an Italian Rigoletto, one of the three by Guiseppe Verdi, and the jalousie closed. To unravel the mystery, Inspector Pel was called in. That was the first time the author featured him in his thrillers. Though no one among the apparent suspects was ready to own up, another familiar murder turned up and that fired the instinct of Inspector Pel, who at the end, ensured that no murder case went unresolved.
When the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of #EndSARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, otherwise known as “Lagos #EndSARS Panel Report”, hit the newsstands, the image that immediately crept to my mind is that of the fictional inimitable French detective, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel. Inspector Pel, for short, the fictional creation of the 1961 Yorkshire born John Harris, who, while writing the 1979 blockbuster novel, “Music Set to Death”, adopted the pseudonym, ‘Mark Hebden’.
The October 20, 2020 massacre of Nigerian “children”, in the voice of “our Daddy”, Desmond Elliot, the Nollywood actor turned politician, found its equivalent in Mark Hebden’s “Music set to Death”. That black Tuesday was the day harmless Nigerians were murdered in cold blood by Nigerian Military men in Army uniform, who opened live bullets on protesters, who were merely singing the National Anthem and waving the Nigerian flags; some of them sitting on the ground, thinking and believing that the sight of the National Flags and the melodious rendition of the National Anthem, would make the soldiers come to “attention”. How eternally wrong they were. Hours before the arrival of the military, the management of the Lekki Tollgate, the Lekki Concession Company, LCC, caused all the CCTV cameras in the facility to be dismantled. And moments before the soldiers summarily executed some of the protesters, some dare-devil individuals at LCC switched off the street lights around Lekki Tollgate and provided the cover of darkness for the sanguivorous soldiers to kill and “pack” the corpses of the dead. To make sure that the injured had no route of escape, the mauling soldiers and their accomplices, policemen, blocked both ends of the Lekki Expressway.
The deluge of condemnations that greeted that barbaric act in the Nigerian 21st century was enough to drown the aquatic city itself. In response to the condemnations, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, the Nigerian Army and the LCC, on whose premises the mass murder took place, all denied that anyone was shot, not to talk of being killed. Initially, Governor Sanwolu-Olu denied that he ever invited the Army. When that lie could not stand, he agreed that he called in the soldiers to help to curtail the protest. The Nigerian Army on its own, first denied ever firing at the protesters. When that was punctured, it agreed that it fired “blank bullets”. With that also falling like a pack of badly arranged cards, the Army said its officers and men only fired live bullets above the protesters. Later, the Lagos State governor admitted that about three people died and even visited some of the injured in the hospitals.
While the denials and acceptances were going on, the international news media, especially the CNN, kept relaying the news and video clips of the mass murder, to the embarrassment of the Federal Government. Expectedly, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government vuvuzela, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, took on the CNN and, in utter display of ignorance of the operation of non terrestrial networks, tinkered with the idea of banning CNN in Nigeria. On a personal level, while those dramas were going on, I personally lost hope that anything would be done about those killed or maimed in that incident. My only consolation then was that the government could tell itself all the lies in the book, I would never join the league of “nobody died in Lekki” because I knew and I believed that “many people died”.
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Such was my personal state of hopelessness until Governor Sanwo-Olu, exactly a month later, set up the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel to look into the issue and make its own findings and recommendations. While I confess here that I know little or nothing about the other six members of the panel, my confidence that the panel would do a thorough job and would be objective was rekindled by the inclusion of Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN. I knew “Big Sam” as a schoolmate at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He was the SUG Public Relations Officer, PRO, and SUG President during our stay at OAU. For those of us who were at Ife in the late 80s and mid 90s, next to Adeola Akeem Soetan, “Baba Sho”, in student activism, was Big Sam. His inclusion gave hope and the panel did not disappoint.
Only an Inspector Pel-like panel could have done what the Justice Okuwobi panel did on the Lekki massacre of October 20, 2021. The findings, submissions and recommendations of the panel are archival materials in themselves. It does not matter how long the list of “faults” in the panel report as being orchestrated by the government and its agents, the truth is that the seven wise men and women, who sat on that panel, have written their names in GOLD in the minds of men of good conscience and good Nigerians who knew and still know till day, that armless Nigerians were summarily executed at Lekki Tollgate. Anybody can fault the report, the mere fact that the panelists rose above mundane sentiments to arrive at their findings are encouraging enough. That the panel could turn out a report, indicting the very government that set it up is enough consolation. White Paper or Black Paper, truth has a universal meaning- “the quality or state of being true in accordance with fact or reality”.
Arriving at its findings, the panel admitted the testimony of the Commander, 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, General A.I.Taiwo that “both blank and live bullets were fired by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020”. It admitted the evidence that the “Army left its base with vehicles, rifles and guns, which contained both live and blank bullets”. It stated that when it visited the Lekki Tollgate on October 30, 2020, the panel “was still able to recover two bullet shells which were duly analyzed by the forensic expert hired by the Panel, Sentinel, who is very familiar with weapons used by the Nigerian Army. These bullet shells were said to be the same as or similar to the ones normally used by the Nigerian Army and they were expended shells, meaning they were fired live at the Lekki Toll Gate”. Anyone who wants to interrogate this aspect of the report should kindly tell us if those bullets were fired at antelopes in a gaming session.
Among other things, “the Panel finds as credible, the case of the EndSARS protesters that soldiers shot directly at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 as confirmed by Lagos State Ballistic Expert, Willie-Harry on page 244 that some video evidence indicates … instances where troops were seen to be re-arming their weapons before either discharging them to the air or purposely in the direction of the protesters …”
It went further to assert that “the deliberate absence of officers of the Nigerian Army who were present at the Lekki Toll Gate and who were summoned by the Panel was a calculated attempt to conceal material evidence from the Panel and verily believes that their presence would have damaged the case of the Nigerian Army”; and dismissed the report of the “Ballistic Expert” engaged by Lagos State as “too general and unrelated to the specific evidence before the Panel on the Lekki Toll Gate incident. The said report was based largely on extraneous materials that were not produced or tendered before the Panel in order to determine their source or relevance”. It affirmed the “testimony of Dr Babajide Lawson of Reddington Hospital as to the nature of treatment offered victims of the Lekki Toll Gate incident in relation to gunshot wounds which were high velocity ‘entry and exit’, all indicate injuries from military weapons, consistent with the bullet shells recovered by the Panel during its visit and the witnesses that testified before the Panel”.
FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Fate, Faith And Mass Murder In Ikoyi
Justice Okuwobi panel also faulted the attitude of the Lagos State Government in not providing “timely and adequate funding to conduct DNA tests as was done in the cases of DANA Air crash and Synagogue Church building collapse”, submitting that such deliberate attitude made it difficult to properly identify the identities of the dead bodies in the state hospital morgues. It rejected the claims that “a large number of the corpses tagged unknown were from the riot in Ikoyi Correctional Centre, being an institution with proper records to identify such corpses and that these may be part of the Lekki Toll Gate casualties”
The panel particularly endorsed General Taiwo’s admittance of knowing Major Osoba Olaniyi, who, on behalf of the Nigerian Army admitted that the Army was present at the Lekki Toll Gate and they shot “but not at the protesters”. These are findings that are typical of Inspector Pel.
The Justice Okuwobi panel, in indicting LCC, submitted that the company hampered investigation “by refusing to turn over some useful and vital information/evidence as requested by the Panel and the Forensic Expert engaged by the panel, even where such information and evidence was by the company’s admission, available. It manipulated the incomplete CCTV Video footage of the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th of October 2020, which it tendered before the Panel”.
While the panel listed nine Nigerians as “dead” after the massacre and four others “presumed dead” because they are missing, I make bold to submit here that the real “dead” are the individuals, who are still in self denial of the massacre. Those who said nobody died in the Lekki Tollgate shooting of October 20, 2020 are the very dead and missing victims of their inhumanity. A man must be truly dead, but not yet buried, to believe that after soldiers fired live bullets at national Anthem -singing and flag waving harmless Nigerians, everybody went home and like the Israelites told Moses in Numbers 31:49: “Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our command, and there is not a man missing from us”. Lie can travel as fast it can and as long as it likes, it takes a split second for truth to overtake it.
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