By Dolapo Aina
The Lekki shooting and the Nigerian national anthem
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labour of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.
Oh God of creation, direct our noble cause
Guide our leader’s right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
I pledge to Nigeria my Country
To be faithful, loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.
A national anthem is a solemn patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity. A pledge is a solemn promise or undertaking. A massacre is defined as the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder. A general slaughter as of persons or animals.
The Nigerian national anthem and pledge are two activities you would see Nigerians engage in with gusto and joy anywhere you are in the world but that positive gusto and joy died in the evening of Tuesday, the 20th of October 2020. It died because over 130, 000 viewers watched the Lekki Massacre on the livestream Instagram handle of DJ Switch (aside millions who must have watched it later on). There are some horrific and disturbing videos you don’t watch a second time and that livestream falls into this category.
If the effort of sleeping was herculean from Friday, 9th of October 2020; it disappeared on the night of Tuesday, 20th of October 2020. To be candid, the sleep of Nigerians was murdered on that day.
From that day till the evening of Sunday; the 25th of October 2020, as I type this piece, the stark realisation is that Nigerians at home and in the diaspora have all made the same statements e.g. I have not recovered from what I watched. I have not been able to do anything meaningful. I get lost in my thoughts.
I stop for no reason and gaze into space. I sit in the restroom and just stare. I won’t forget.
Lest I forget, my previous piece on the #EndSars peaceful protest posited that only two cards were left for the Federal Government but what no one foresaw was the resilience of the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate to not move and the indiscriminate shootings and massacre by the soldiers.
That it was a massacre cannot be in doubt and if still in doubt considering the level of misinformation and gaslighting ongoing targeted at the older generations via their favourite platforms (Facebook and Whatsapp); as with the new videos being unearthed; the coming days and weeks would reveal more.
That technology would again play a huge part in unravelling what transpired that night should not be taken likely as some initial open source data reports have revealed some details. Others would certainly make use of satellite imagery. Anyone who knows the Lekki axis well enough, knows that the tollgate is quite a large area with an open vicinity where you find skyscrapers and buildings from several streets away; which have a good view of the Lekki Tollgate.
You can’t but have the intuition that a drone or two was/were hovering in the skies in that vicinity that night when the massacre took place. In the digital age, where no one waits for just one sole official investigation, eye-citizens’ images and digital investigations by citizens and international collaborations seem to be churning out irrefutable sequence of events and timelines. The coming weeks would unravel several questions.
Questions ranging from who ordered the shooting? Who gave the green light? Who ordered the street lights turned off? Who ordered the electronic advert board turned off? These and more pertinent questions are being asked. One of the implications of the Lekki Massacre is that on Tuesday, it became an international affair.
A Friday praying ground and a Sunday worship centre was turned into a killing field on Tuesday which was witnessed online by 130, 000 people and counting. The spiritual implications of what happened at the tollgate isn’t lost on Africans who know first-hand the implications of spilling innocent blood on a ground that held three services (including a candle light session) praying to God in the last five days.
One can’t but ask that if anyone had envisioned that the Lekki tollgate would be no more, would soldiers have been deployed to shoot at protesters? If one doesn’t grasp the enormity of it and the fact that Nigerians are just calmly chorusing; “we won’t forget,” Let me highlight an observation.
For anyone who has Rwandan and Jews as friends; you would definitely have noticed that when it comes to the history of the Genocide Against The Tutsi and The Holocaust respectively; their take has always been and would continue to be that justice must be done and served anywhere in the world. They don’t forget. And both countries have over the years been able to make the international comity officially recognise their concerns (with international legal backing too).
My observation from Tuesday night after the massacre is that collectively Nigerians have moved into that mindset which has never been so. When a people begin to say they would not forget, they are thinking long term. And looking at it holistically, it might take time but it is glaring that an international legal framework cum emphasis is going to be placed on Lekki Massacre whereby all those complicit from Government officials, Telcos officials, financial institutions’ officials, misinformation peddlers even media persons etc would face the music. If there is anything massacres have taught the world, it is that when the affected citizens decide to play the long arm of justice, they are united in their cause to the ends of the world.
There is something about the Lekki Massacre that is going to have an international legal framework (but I can’t put my finger on it.) To all and sundry, it is glaring to all (except those complicit), that Nigerians turned their backs to the political class on Tuesday. It is clear no political or empowerment platitudes can palliate the horror people watched on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
That night seems to have unlocked the gates which have unravelled Nigeria. A seismic shift occurred the first week and something snapped that Tuesday. It appears the old Nigeria died that night and a new Nigeria was born. Because it still baffles the mind how the same hired hands who were not restrained by security men; any time they tried in vain to completely disrupt the peaceful protesters in several parts of the country; suddenly went amok and could not be controlled the following day. Baffling to watch videos of how the same hired hands rejected money being given to them and lamenting the massacre at Lekki tollgate and shootings at other areas. The discoveries of warehouses in almost each state stockpiled with COVID palliatives which had not yet been distributed to indigenes speak volumes on the weaponization of poverty.
If convincing the electorate about electing thinking leaders was herculean in the past, the discoveries of the palliatives just made it easier. How does a state government explain to her indigenes that these palliatives were not distributed during the peak of the void19 pandemic?
Nationally, the implications of the Lekki Massacre are numerous and would keep evolving. One implication is that a lot of political careers have ended (whilst this would not be apparent now, it would be glaring when the politicians find it difficult to return to their constituencies.) The citizens’ political and leadership accountability tests for politicians and government officials have been raised to an all time high. The people who politicians usually canvass votes from using derogatory words like grassroots and local politics finally spoke up and no one saw it coming. The importance and relevance of participating in the processes before elections have been heightened. The Lekki gate cannot be a tollgate again. It would be sacrilegious.
On the international stage, the implications of the Lekki Massacre would keep on evolving too. International favourable ratings have plummeted and cannot be regained by this administration. Left with far fewer friends and a populace that would not forget. For some years now, the image of the country has been positive.
But currently, the country branding needed to get the country back to levels before the #EndSars protests commenced, can’t be successfully activated and engineered by the current administration. It is just the honest truth. While, it would be attempted, it would be funds going into the drain as no PR conglomerate can do more PR for a country than her citizens given the current context. This is so because you have millions of Nigerians home and away who are naturally ambassadors of and for Nigeria but whose one goal currently, is to show the world the blood-stained and soaked national flag.
How does PR solve or wish this away? Another international dimension is that international positions which qualified Nigerians are vying for might become elusive. Another international dimension is that the platforms which boost the country’s soft diplomacy cannot in the next months return to status quo. i.e. movies and music.
Speaking of national ambassadors, which Nigerian sportsman or sportswoman who watched live (or later watched) the two livestreams of the Lekki Massacre would be able to represent Nigeria at a national or international event and sing the national anthem or recite the pledge? As a sportsperson, your conscience would not let you. It would not be a question of boycotting sporting events; it would just be a case of conscience as we all heard the voices of the peaceful protesters.
Anyone who watched or saw images of what transpired in Lagos State on that Tuesday and the real-time livestream of what was going on Tuesday night at Lekki and everyone would remember hearing Nigerians singing the national anthem while sobbing (crying) in the dark as live bullets could heard in the background.
Now, as a Nigerian, read the lyrics of the national anthem and pledge and also juxtapose with what you know you watched on that Black Tuesday and you would realise that, that night, the words became empty if not meaningless and has made you question every word and sentence of the national anthem and pledge. Nigerians would not forget.