Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, says he is grieved by the sight the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder at the #EndSARS protest at Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday night in Lagos.
Drawing a paradox between the inability to use force of guns to flatten COVID-19 and calming frayed nerves of the frustrated youths, Soyinka regretted that it has become easier to cut down human lives with bullets by the military.
“Of course it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory– such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder.
“It is pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done, that the continued protest is hurting the nation’s economy etc. COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy – such as it is – for over eight months,” he said in a statement released on arrival in his Abeokuta home in the Ogun State capital and obtained by PerSecondnews.
The playwright’s message titled, ‘DÉJÀ VU– In tragic vein,’ came against the backdrop of the reported killing of unarmed protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate.
Soyinka, however, called on governors in the states where protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad forced declaration of curfews to immediately demand the withdrawal of soldiers deployed by the Federal Government.
PerSecondnews recalls that the military crackdown on the protesters followed a 24-hour curfew imposed on the state by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The protests particularly the Lekki point had been peaceful across many states in the country against police brutality and the SARS until soldiers opened fire on the protesters.
Soyinka said: “To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers. Convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hour curfews are not the solution.
“Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on local councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism.
“We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever.
“To commence any process of healing at all – dare one assume that this is the ultimate destination of desire?– the Army must apologise, not merely to the nation but to the global community – the facts are indisputable – you, the military, opened fire on unarmed civilians.
“There has to be structured restitution and assurance that such aberrations will not again be recorded. Then both governance and its security arms can commence a meaningful, lamentably overdue dialogue with society. Do not attempt to dictate — Dialogue!”
Soyinka also recalled that he had in his message to youths at the Freedom Park 10th anniversary events on Saturday in Lagos, that they brought fresh blood into tired veins.
He said it was bliss indeed to be alive to watch youths finally beginning to take the future into their own hands, adding that with the protesters’ roadblocks in Ogun State and elsewhere, it was all déjà vu– the uprisings in the former Western Region of Nigeria and the anti-Abacha movement among others.
He pointed out that the Federal Government should be told that the Army had now replaced the SARS in the demonic album of the protesters.
“My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order.
“Nevertheless, the centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche. Need I add that, on arrival in Abeokuta, my hometown, I again had to negotiate a road block?
“That went smoothly enough. I expected it, and have no doubt that more are being erected as this is being written,” Soyinka said.