#OccupyLekkiTollGate Vs #DefendLagos: Don’t Go Out! - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Friday, February 12, 2021

#OccupyLekkiTollGate Vs #DefendLagos: Don’t Go Out!

 By Yusuf Mohammed

Telling the youth to go out to protest given the current atmosphere of Nigeria must be condemned by every right-thinking Nigerian. The country today is deeply divided and there are several groups calling for war. It doesn’t make sense to have another leaderless protest that could easily be hijacked by mischief-makers.

The #EndSARS protest is not up to one year ago. It was four months ago. What lessons did we learn from it?

There is a saying that you should look before you leap but many of the so-called social media influencers who are encouraging people to carry out the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest on Saturday, February 13 don’t think so. They lash out at anyone who tries to discourage young people from putting themselves in “harm’s way.
I remember at the teething stage of the #EndSARS protest one ‘influencer’ said “I just heard according to UN Constitution any protest that reaches 30days will make UN intervene in that country.”

A lot of people retweeted ‘aggressively’ without bothering to find out if it’s true or false. That is how low they rate their followers. They take advantage of their gullibility.

The few people who try to counter these lies get cancelled by the mob. As a result, a lot of intellectuals who know the truth either keep quiet or play to the gallery.
Before I continue with the matter at hand, let me briefly state how the #EndSARS protest started and ended.

While the #EndSARS campaign for disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was formed on Twitter in 2017 by a human rights activist, Segun Awosanya, popularly known as Segalink, it gained prominence after the alleged killing of a young man in Ughelli, Delta State on October 4, 2020. The #EndSARS protest started the next day.

It was a decentralized social movement as there was no leader. Although some personalities played key roles, no one was a leader officially.

Lekki tollgate in Lagos was the epicenter of the protest. The tollgate was blocked and there was no vehicular movement for almost two weeks. Lagos Ibadan expressway was also taken over by protesters.
Alausa was another hotbed of the protest. Those in charge of Alausa sometimes marched to Allen junction to block the road. Perhaps Lagos/Ibadan expressway was very unique in the sense that youths could be seen playing football on the highway.

They sang and danced. They set up a canopy where a Disc Jockey played songs. It was a carnival-like atmosphere and they seemed to be having fun while demanding for the end of SARS cum SWAT.

On October 19, the protest went out of control. I observed that more people joined the protest and apart from the usual peaceful protesters who gathered at Lekki toll gate, Alausa and Lagos-Ibadan expressway, there were new sets of protesters (hoodlums) out there who began extorting motorists and making life difficult for almost every passerby.

In Abuja, there were incidents of hoodlums attacking private vehicles on the road. In Benin, the Edo State capital, there was a jailbreak.
The violence at Orile Police station in Lagos was a clear sign that the protest had taken a turn for the worse.

At that point I expected people to leave the streets. But some influencers were telling people to go out not minding the situation. I stay at Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja and due to my occupation, some people who look up to me for information asked if they could go out to join the protest at Alausa the next day after Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had ordered a curfew. I said they shouldn’t go anywhere and they listened.

Good leadership in this regard is knowing when to retreat and also being accountable.

What I expected from the majority of us after the #EndSARS protest last year was retrospection. Where did we go wrong? Could we have managed it better? Did we stay out too long? Judging by how the last protest ended, should future protests still be decentralized? No one has bothered to answer these questions.

Back to the matter at hand. Last week Saturday, the Lagos Panel of Inquiry degenerated into near-chaos. What caused the melee was the decision of the panel announced by five-panel members, including Justice Doris Okuwobi, to approve the re-opening of the Lekki Tollgate by the managers of Lagos Concession Company (LCC). Four members of the panel didn’t agree with this resolution and immediately made their position known through Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN.

I think that the argument that it is a crime scene doesn’t hold water because it was not cordoned off to protect the integrity of evidence and investigations. It would be recalled that a few days after the shooting, the place was thoroughly cleaned up.

What I understand from many people I have spoken with is that they don’t want to pay tolls. It isn’t just about respecting those who were killed and injured during the protests. Their argument is that they are not seeing the dividends of paying toll every day at Lekki plaza. Although it is a reasonable argument, a protest isn’t reasonable given the circumstance.

Two days after the ruling of the panel on February 8, hashtags such as #RevolutionNow and #OccupyLekkiTollGate trended on social media as a result of the plan to re-open the toll gates. The planned protest is for Saturday, February 13 at 7am.

The next day, many youths took to Twitter and vowed to counter #OccupyLekkiTollGate with #DefendLagos.

Apart from the #DefendLagos hashtag, the youth are also trending #DemNoBornYourPapaWell, a threat to protesters to stay away from the toll plaza.

“Let us protect what the destroyers left behind while we rebuild Lagos. Join the ‘defend Lagos’ rally at the Lekki toll plaza,” read #DefendLagos banner shared on various social media platforms.

The banner for this counter-protest also has pictures of facilities destroyed in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest in the state.

In my view, anyone who went out to see the destruction of properties in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest and is aware of how heated the polity is right now, would not be calling for another ‘leaderless’ protest this soon irrespective of the motive.

Like I said earlier, we have several groups calling for war. It is barely a month that Sunday Igboho gave quit notice to the Fulanis in Oyo State. There was also a video last month circulating on social media which was believed to be Fulanis being forcefully evicted from their residents in Ebonyi State by their hosts.

The call to Occupy Lekki has taken an ethnic dimension as some people are accusing the Igbos in Lagos of being behind it. Some say the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu is the one spurring them on. There are many people who share this sentiment. There are people who protested a few months ago who are not ready to protest this time around.

Protest isn’t war. Telling people to go out without taking the mood of the country into consideration is ill-advised, ill-timed, and may prove to be counter-productive.

According to Mr. Reuben Abati, whichever way you look at it, another Lekki Gate protest is not an encouraging prospect.

Yusuf Mohammed is a journalist based in Lagos. You can reach him via Twitter: @Yusufwrites

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