Musings on Lagos

Musings on Lagos

Thursday, October 22, 2020 8:34 am



#EndSaRS protesters act Lekki Toll Plaza, Lagos

By Chris Adetayo

There are multiple interpretations and analysis of what has happened in Lagos over the past 48 hours. Here are the top ones.

1. Bola Tinubu’s Game Plan – this hypothesis avers that former Gov Ahmed Tinubu was behind the violent disruption of the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate. The motive, it is suggested, is to reopen the toll gate for revenue collection from motorists after more than 2 weeks of closure. To back this up, there’s confirmation that the company that owns and runs the electronic billboard at the tollgate switched off its lights. The ensuing darkness gave cover to the soldiers that invaded the place ahead of the curfew earlier imposed by Governor Sanwoolu. I understand (but cannot confirm) that the company is owned by Tinubu’s son. 

2. Anti-Tinubu Forces – the hypothesis here is directly opposite the first one above. Lagos has been in the form grip of Ahmed Tinubu for over 2 decades. And he has used the leverage it has given him to expand his interests in national politics. There is enough hints to suggest that he wants to seek the Preaidency in 2023. His opponents in the journey to 2023 have sought ways to cut him down to size – by delegitimizing him in Lagos and stripping down his key assets. So they have gone to town with the story of Tinubu as the man behind the Toll Gate Massacre leading to the attack on various assets of Lagos State and perceived assets of Tinubu. Check the list of places visited by arsonists. Most, if not all, looked carefully selected, and professional in execution. And many are linked to the man.

3. IPOB Connection – this bit is interesting and follows from the targeted nature of the burnings that took place yesterday. In a way, it’s basically the same as 2 above but instead of the Anti-Tinubu forces as the drivers, it’s IPOB as the executors and objective is to set the SW on fire and whip up Yoruba sentiments against the FG. For additional evidence, notice the military badges allegedly “captured” at the scene of the Toll Gate invasion (with one carrying the name of an officer with a Northern name). How could badges and lapels come off the uniforms of officers who hadn’t been in a fisticuffs –  unless a script was being played out?

There may be other hypothesis. But the 3 above seem pretty widespread. 

What do I think? I am unsure at the moment. Option 1 seems a bit fanciful – toll gate revenues can’t be so critical as to warrant the actions that followed. The gains just don’t match the actions. But it’s too early to say for certain. What seems clear to me is that the arsons witnessed yesterday were not the actions of some protesting mob. Those behind them knew what they were about.

Sadly, Governor Sanwoolu, in declaring a blanket curfew and giving only a couple of hours notice for people to get indoors (in a city with a chronic transport problem at the best of times), unwittingly facilitated what happened. There can be no doubt that the Governor meant well. But, as the cliche goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The curfew only exacerbated the confusion in town, and provided the cover for those who planned the tollgate events and the State-wide damages that followed.

Where was the Police? This is one question that will need answering. #EndSARS was about ending Police brutality. It wasn’t about ending Policing. The protests in Lagos were largely localized – Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa Secretariat. So how come the whole city was left without Police presence? Did the Police authorities deliberately withdraw their presence in order to make a point about their importance in guaranteeing a peaceful society? There have been reports of Police Stations turning back complaints and refusing to take action – for complaints unrelated to the protests. Why? We must get some answers to these questions. 

I don’t want to talk about the President and his silence. That’s like banging one’s head against a wall. His defenders will soon regale us with “Presidential stylistics” anyways. 

I hope and pray that peace reigns hence so we can focus our energies on picking the pieces of the events of the past few days. May God help us!

-Chris Adetayo, public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos

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