Written by Tunde Odesola
With a trap-like mouth comprising 80 spiky teeth, death is the smile on the face of an adult crocodile.
In a dramatised circus that pledged to protect lives, limbs and fatherland, the Nigerian military, on Saturday, October 17, 2020, embraced the crocodile and its smile when it launched Operation Crocodile Smile.
Like the smile of the crocodile which hides evil intentions, the Nigerian military, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, wore peace-keeping camouflage but uncaged its smiling crocodile of death at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza, Lagos, eating up innocent Nigerian children.
Ironically, while Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram terrorists and bandits despoil the land round the clock unchecked, cowardly Nigerian soldiers, under the authority of their Commander-in-Chief, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), unleashed death, despair and distress on harmless protesting Lagos youths seeking police reforms.
Nigeria surely has an unblinking General in the old and waning Buhari. And like the crocodile, Buhari is stern, severe and static. Unlike the crocodile, however, Buhari never smiled in public as military Head of State and rarely does as civilian president.
I agree, there’s nothing to cheer in the gloom inherited by the All Progressives Congress in 2015 but which has mushroomed into an all-pervading doom under the Buhari preSINdency. The old soja’s ice-cold toughness thaws in the heat of clannishness, nepotism, lethargy and alleged corruption.
So, when Buhari let out a cold-blooded laughter while Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was anxiously briefing him in Aso Rock penultimate week about protesters demanding compensation for the victims of police killings, nobody saw the impending slaughtering of innocent Nigerians children coming.
Nobody, not even his harshest critics, could ever imagine that after Buhari’s Freudian laughter that danced on the graves of the victims killed by SARS, Buhari’s military would release zombie soldiers to mercilessly kill innocent children.
Yet, when his son, Yusuf, smashed his head on hard tar while competing with himself in a pseudo Grand Prix motorcycle race in Abuja despite the pervading fuel scarcity of the time, sympathies poured in endlessly from Nigerians for Buhari. When Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, bit the dust on April 17, 2020, Nigerians mourned with him.
From Lagos to Enugu, Calabar, Jos, Kano etc, there’s no prominent political leader nationwide who hasn’t, naturally, suffered a personal tragedy at one time or the other. In the tragic mix, however, Nigerians from all walks of life have always stood by their political leaders in their times of personal tragedies.
It, therefore, beggars belief that Nigerian leaders, especially those in the All Progressives Congress, have kept silent after Nigerian soldiers openly killed about 20 children of nobodies during the peaceful protest in Lekki.
It beggars description that despite the admission of Sanwo-Olu that Nigerian soldiers were responsible for the gruesome murder of the defenceless youths, the Presidency, military authorities and a cross-section of the Nigerian leadership have neither condemned the killings nor apologised, let alone seek justice for the innocent souls wasted in pitch darkness.
The public execution of the peaceful youths that occurred on a Black Tuesday in Lekki snatches the Nest-of-Killers title Professor Wole Soyinka bequeathed on the Peoples Democratic Party many years ago, garlanding the APC with the unenviable title, crown, sceptre and all.
Until the Black Tuesday, I never knew there existed a cold-blooded monster much more ruthless than the crocodile.
In a premeditated murder, the lights and cameras at the Lagos State-owned tollgate plaza were removed, setting the stage for crocodiles in military uniforms to move in and feast on the children of the poor.
In Buhari’s lopsided country, soldiers kill harmless southern children in a peaceful protest while the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on October 25, 2020, told the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria that his office cannot prosecute killer herdsmen because their case files were absent.
In Buhari’s next-of-kin country, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra are shot and killed in their tens by security agencies for holding peaceful protests while amnesty is given to the members of Hausa-Fulani Boko Haram terrorists who have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians.
For Sanwo-Olu to wash his hands off the Lekki bloodbath, he should unsay the lie he told that nobody died in the Lekki shooting. Also, the Lagos governor should disclose those who removed the lights and cameras from the tollgate.
I have nothing but pity for the Asiwaju of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, who said he had been reported to the Presidency as being the sponsor of the Lagos protests. Some of Tinubu’s perceived financial interests have been torched by protesters who see his stranglehold on Lagos as suffocating.
Speaking on Channels Television a day after the pogrom, Tinubu said it was wrong for soldiers to use live bullets on innocent citizens, querying, “Why will they use live bullets? I will never, never be part of any carnage. I will never be part of that.”
But in a fresh interview on Saturday, Tinubu said he had asked Sanwo-Olu who ordered the Lekki shooting. If Tinubu had disclosed Sanwo-Olu’s response, he would’ve earned my respect.
For a politician of Tinubu’s stature to ask a STATE governor who ordered FEDERAL soldiers to go and kill, I grabbed a dictionary, checked the meaning of political subterfuge and watched Tinubu’s horse of political correctness limp down the road to 2023 presidency.
Surely, Tinubu knows Buhari is the one to ask that crucial question and he (Tinubu) knows the answer, but the truth is gagged in the womb of an ambition.
Tragically, Tinubu is the archetypal ostrich that buries its head in the sand of ambition, calling on government to investigate wounded protesters while the killer soldiers that shot the protesters pluck the feathers on its rump unquestioned.
For Tinubu, there are four statements on the wall: One, Buhari is a bad political investment. Two, his major enemies among those he raised in the South-West will stop at nothing to undo him. Three, Buhari and the North won’t back his candidacy. Four, he needs to stand up against Buhari and fight for his political life. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late.
When the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, MKO Abiola, realised that the Ibrahim Babangida blood-letting junta was playing games with his victory, he took up the gauntlet and confronted the military. He lost the battle to become Nigeria’s president but immortalised his name on the national political map as the hero of Nigeria’s modern democracy.
Owing to intra-party buffeting, Tinubu’s political goodwill is ebbing considerably, hence he might be stuck with mending fences with his sworn political godsons and recharging his political machinery in the South-West, nay Nigeria.
The Jagaban Borgu might have been weakened by age and ‘igbadun’ (the good life) such that the prospects of a showdown with Buhari, his political beneficiary, seem unpromising.
For two days, he ate and went to bed when the innocent were being mowed down in their prime, in Lagos. The Governor of Lagos couldn’t reach him for two days while the fifth largest economy in Africa burned. He read a 10-minute speech and never said a word of condolence for families who lost their children to soldiers’ bullets. His regime locked up COVID-19 palliatives across the country while the masses wallowed in hunger. Tinubu should remember these Buhari credentials when considering his fightback options.
I watched videos of angry masses chasing hunger into palliative warehouses nationwide. Soon, the regime will go after the hungry masses, clamping them in jail whereas they should be the first in jail for locking up foods while starvation ravaged the land.
If my hunch is right, the palliatives would have been ‘re-bagged’ and distributed to an unsuspecting citizenry as incentives for votes during elections – in continuation of the exploitation Nigeria’s democracy has always been.
‘Abuja 2023’ looms on the horizon. Will Tinubu fight or run?