In the last 5 years that I have been analyzing public affairs online, I have never seen a government struggle so hard to manage a crisis, like the Lekki Shooting incident of the 20th of October.
The Nigerian government has been using a big lie to cover another very ridiculous one since the ill-fated occurrence happened. It is as if the government has forgotten to apply its brakes on its adventure of falsehood, as several concerned agencies brace up to lie their ways out of the scandal. Nigerians are no fools; they know the truth, and they knew from day one. The leaders know the people are aware of those responsible for the shooting, but they don't seem to care. What they are doing is a mockery of the intelligence of the general public.
The morning after the incident, nobody claimed responsibility for the shooting. The Nigerian Army was quiet. The media filled the vacuum of communication by reeling out different death rates. When the military couldn't take it anymore, they started posting screenshots of news reports and tagging them 'fake news'.
The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu's desperately needed a story to tell the public as the de facto 'Chief Security Officer' of the state. He revealed that forces beyond his control were behind the attack on unarmed peaceful protesters. This statement indirectly pointed accusing fingers at his political godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Sanwo-Olu later cracked on CNN where he hinted that Nigerian soldiers were behind the attack. It appeared the leadership of the army felt it had had enough from the governor. It came out to admit that the Nigerian troops undertook the operation, but they were invited by the governor.
The same military that denied being at the Lekki tollgate now claims the soldiers only fired blank ammunition into the air, as warning shots to disperse the protesters. Despite video and pictorial evidence, the military claimed the victim role and labelled the protesters as the oppressors. In the words of the army, nobody was shot, and there was no massacre.
According to a statement by a top army official, Lt Col Bello, the protesters, infiltrated by hoodlums, got violent and attacked the soldiers who were so patient and nice that they even offered their aggressors water and drinks. I guess this is the picture of the Nigeria of our dreams.
While the issue of soldiers being at the scene of the crime was confirmed, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who appeared not to be updated about the state of the quagmire, insinuated that hoodlums in military fatigues carried out the attack. The government can't even gather its officials to lie in unison.
Nigerians hoped the CCTV footage by the Lekki Concession Company, LCC was going to provide a rare insight into what transpired that night at the tollgate. But the LCC soon claimed their cameras stopped recording at 8 pm when the tollgate was heating up. The company can't wait to move on with business, it has demanded to take control of the tollgate, so that business can continue as usual.
The shooting as well as the fatality rates have become mysteries. And they are mysteries because the government wants it to be so. The goal is to drag their feet over the matter till those asking questions grow old, develop grey hair, and lose interest in the bloody incident.
Even you think the testimonies of Obianuju Catherine Udeh aka DJ Switch are inconsistent, then you have to also admit that the government has broken the scale of inconsistency with its varying accounts. It is disturbing that the alleged corpses of the murdered protesters have refused to surface. We have also failed to record credible cases of family members searching for their missing loved ones. The commonest cases are that of the injured, dealing with severe injuries in hospitals. The back and forth has thrown us all in limbo. But on the scale of inconsistency in accounts, the ranking of the government might touch the heavens if that is done. DJ Switch who has been allegedly granted asylum in Canada explained on different occasions that her life is in danger. She revealed the death threats she got from different quarters were overwhelming and she had to be moving from one home to another in search of safety.
DJ Switch's role on the night of the alleged carnage was iconic. It is a further testament to the power of women in society. In Africa, it is generally believed that women are weak. But like the famous writer, Chimamanda Adichie once said, some women are stronger than their male counterparts. DJ Switch proved that. It is no news that countries managed by women e.g New Zealand, Taiwan, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong (city) and others faired better in the battle against coronavirus than the men.
The stories behind the Lekki Shooting wouldn't have been this clear without DJ Switch who expertly played the roles of the medical doctor, political leader, journalist, disk jockey and an activist on the same night, in a simultaneous fashion. As soon as the protesters came under attack, she went live on her Instagram page and televised the event using her smartphone. She was seen reporting the event as bullets rented the atmosphere. She could be heard directing the protesters who queued behind her, and they adhered to her instructions. She was also seen attending to a man with bullet wounds. A bullet was removed from the body of a young man who was rumoured to have passed away after the gory experience. Despite the danger, she was also the voice of the protesters that night. She overcame her fears and addressed the military commander who led the soldiers. She gave regular updates about their status to the outside world who couldn't be at the scene. She also rushed several victims to the hospital for professional medical attention.
That night, she became the face of the protest movement at the Lekki tollgate, where celebrities who publicised the protesters on Twitter, were largely absent. According to her account, a man took a bullet for her during the ordeal. She said a man jumped on her while asking others to cover her up. She wondered what was happening, but she soon got to know they were forming a shield around her when a shooter targeted her.
DJ Switch sustained injuries that night, both physically and mentally. She left the scene of the attack with bullet shells which she displayed during an Instagram live session. Her life changed but not positively. From the disk jockey who was the life of parties, she became a target by high-handed state and non-state actors who didn't want her to tell her story to her waiting audience. They wanted to silence her. A country of a huge landmass of 923,768 km², with six geopolitical zones, that houses over 200 million people became too small and hot for her, that she had to run out.
It is a shame that the government which is supposed to be protecting an asset like her has been alleged to be her persecutor.
It is not clear if she is actually in Canada considering a recent statement by the Canadian high commission in Nigeria. If true, then it can be said that Canada came to her rescue the same way it has even bailing Nigerian millennials from the throes of poverty in the country. Some Nigerians tried to sponsor a petition to bring her back to Nigeria to face trial. But that is laughable, isn't it? Canada always comes through for the oppressed. The rumoured support she might be getting reminds me of how Canada bailed out the then 18-year-old Saudi Arabian girl, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who was running away from her family. The country also hosts several Saudi Arabian dissidents.
DJ Switch will be safe. Her mental health will also be taken care of. The strong woman will always miss home but her safety matters. One day, she will return to the land of the rising sun to tell her story. This time around, we hope more people will listen. DJ Switch should cry no more. The story of Lekki Shooting which has become part of Nigeria's history will be incomplete without her role.
Again, it is sad that she is receiving death threats. Who are the people that want her dead and what is their ultimate goal? Only time will answer both questions.
By Osayimwen Osahon George