Former Lagos state governor and national leader of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said no one should blame the #ENDSARS protesters for attack and destruction of his property recently in Lagos, but his political enemies.
Tinubu also declared that the time has come to take the necessary actions to allow for the creation of state police and the recruitment and training of many more police officers.
Speaking through a statement released by his media office Sunday night, Tinubu described as terrible lie allegation that he ordered the deployment of military against peaceful protesters in Lekki tollgate because of his business interest.
He said: “My opponents have every right to oppose me politically but let them have the courage to do so in the open, above board and to employ facts, not evil fiction in their efforts against me. They have no right to slander and defame anyone with the terrible and vile fabrications now cast at my feet.
“Those who have decided to hate me will hate me regardless of the truth. Again, they have the right to think as they may and I am not troubled by their unfounded animus. Today, I speak not to them. I leave them to the workings of their own conscience.
“Today, I speak to those who believe in the importance of, and want to know, the truth.
“The slander aimed at me is based on the untruth that I own the toll gate concession. The hate mongers prevaricate that I ordered the Lekki assault because the protests had caused me to lose money due to the interruption of toll gate activity.”
While sympathising with those who lost their businesses and residences, the APC national leader said: “This is not what the genuine protesters wanted and no one should blame them for this destruction. In this tensed situation, we must be careful not to rush to conclusions and to make sure we ascertain the true facts that we not be deceived toward rash action that may prove to be against our own interests.
“This is particularly true regarding the Lekki incident. Various players will promulgate different casualty numbers. At this moment, no conclusive figure has been ascertained. Although an investigation has been launched by the governor, a totally accurate picture of the events may never be known. I for one refuse to engage in futile speculation regarding the possible number of casualties for such talk misses the vital point that we all must recognise.
“We strive for a more compassionate, progressive society. Thus, we must do more than measure injustice by the number of dead or wounded. Injustice is injustice regardless of the number of victims from whom blood is drawn.
“Based on the facts that come out of a thorough investigation, government may need to amend the terms of engagement for deployment of military forces in instances of mostly peaceful civil disobedience and protests. Although one of our nation’s most respected institutions, the military is not adequately equipped and trained to deal with such situations. It is placing a burden on the military they are ill-suited to carry.
“Moreover, the time has come to take the necessary legal actions to allow for the creation of state police and the recruitment and training of many more police officers. Such state-created forces should be based on the modern tenets of community policing and optimal relations and cooperation with local communities.
“Measures such as these are needed to cure present gaps in how military and law enforcement treat the general public. These proposals are important and they do not hamstring proper law enforcement and security operations. We know there are criminal elements in society primed to harm people and seize property. We expect this of criminals. What is not expected is that people will be brutalised and scarred by those commissioned to protect and serve them. This anomaly must end.”
‘Toll gate ownership’
Asiwaju also denied having business interest in the Tollgate but called on the government to deploy the resources generated from it to compensate those injured, died or lost businesses or property to the recent destruction in Lagos.
“No democratically minded person can fault those who protest in this regard. No society, even the most democratic, is perfect. All nations suffer lapses that cause even their most respected institutions to fall short of their better ideals. However, our imperfection does not preclude improvement or reform.
“We must constantly put our institutions and government to the test that we may reshape ourselves into a better nation constantly improving the manner in which it treats its citizens. If we do not commit ourselves in this way, democracy may not long be ours. We must be frank in recognizing our societal ills as well as resolute in curing them. Sometimes progress comes one election at a time. Sometimes, one protest at a time.
“It must stand as a maxim for any compassionate, sane society that innocent people should not die or be injured at the hands of law enforcement. Enough blood has been spilled; enough pain has been felt.
“Protest leaders and their genuine companions must now be careful. If the protests become too protracted, those genuinely interested in combating police brutality stand in danger of losing control of the protests. The risk is that the protests degenerate into something starkly inferior to the noble cause initially pursued. If so, the protests may then become associated in the public mind with localised disruptions and serious inconveniences. Through no fault of their own, except not having adequately planned their strategic endgame, protesters might lose the moral high ground they now occupy.”
Need for restraint
Tinubu also called on government to as a matter of must “be exceptionally restrained.”
He said: “The protesters have remained peaceful. What has happened is that petty criminals and political miscreants sponsored by those who seek to stir mayhem are misbehaving and sparking trouble on the outer fringes of the protests.
“The present situation clearly does nothing to profit me politically or otherwise. It has complicated matters for me because many people now wrongfully blame me for a violent incident in which I played no part. Still, I stand strongly behind the people of Nigeria and affirm their right to protest peacefully. Along with all well-meaning, patriotic Nigerians, I want to see an end to all forms of institutionalised brutality and I shall do my utmost to see that this humane objective is realised.
“For, if these protests can generate meaningful reform, our youth will have achieved a compound national success. First, they would have ended the terrible matter of institutionalized police brutality. Second, Nigeria would have made an important accretion to our political culture whereby government listened to and acted on the recommendations of ordinary people protesting against the wrongs done them.
“This would establish a healthy precedent. Yet such durable progress can be made only if government respects the protesters and protesters actively negotiate with government. No steps should be taken by government to curtail protest activity as the people have chosen this vehicle as their preferred way to interface with government on this issue.
“Yes, protest leaders too must appreciate the concrete realities of this situation. Street protests cannot last indefinitely without degenerating into other serious problems that no one wants. You have gotten government’s ear and attention, use this moment to press your case.
“The right to protest should be pacifically exercised and never abused; neither should it be feared or unduly curtailed. It is essential because it lends greater depth to the relationship between government and the governed. If we are to attain parity with older, more established democracies, we must accept protests as part of our national development. It is important that Nigeria get this situation right. The direction and pace of our democratic progress weighs in the balance as the entire world watches to see how we manage ourselves at this delicate moment.”
The Nation, TVC
On the attack on his media outfits, the former governor said: “On the other hand, I am, indeed, a promoter and financial investor in the Nation newspaper and TVC. It was widely known and circulated through social media that certain malevolent elements were going to take advantage of the situation to attack the Nation newspaper facilities and TVC in Lagos.
“The attackers came. Both facilities were significantly damaged. Although equipped with prior notice of the imminent trespass, I did not call any one to seek or request for the army or police todeploy let alone attack, kill, or injure those who razed and vandalised these properties. I did not want any bloodshed. These elements, mostly hirelings of my political opponents, wreaked their havoc and destroyed those buildings and facilities and I thank God that the employees of these two media institutions managed to escape largely unharmed.”