It is no longer news that the leakage of a memo of the Lagos State Ministry of Health to the State’s Procurement Agency has led to a plethora of reactions, re-echoing the same tissues of lies over the October, 2020 #EndSARS protests.
The memo sought the approval of the State governor toward the award of a contract aimed at giving befitting burial to the victims of the crisis across the State. According to the memo, a leading undertaker, TOS Funerals, was the preferred bidder for the proposed burial. It needs to be stressed that the bodies of the victims have been lying in the morgue unclaimed for three years.
Reactions to the leaked memo were unsurprisingly spearheaded by leaders of the bloody protest and their unremorseful sympathisers.
Expectedly, they keep bandying the same tissues of lies they have been promoting about the ill-fated event. They are never bothered about the destructive consequences of their action on the State and its people.
Again, Lagos is paying the price of transparency and magnanimity. After the flames had reduced to smoulders and corpses of innocent Lagosians, including security operatives murdered by hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest, were put in the morgues, individuals, corporate organisations and the government counted their loses.
Opinions about the next line of action rented the air, there was a choice of bringing perpetrators of the heinous crimes, at least those caught by the camera lens, while there was also the line of thought which favoured “let bygone, be bygone” (burying the past in the past).
Proponents of the latter school were of the opinion that pressing charges will further aggravate tension and heat up the polity. Many commentators had advised the State government, which bore the highest losses, to take it in her stride and move on. This, the listening government did and I think it is the albatross it is carrying today.
Sadly, that is what has made perpetrators of the violent crimes to remain unremorseful. That is what has given them the effrontery to continue to peddle lies about the sad episode without restrain. Where in the world can one commit such heinous crime and not pay for it by the spirit of the law?
Those who invaded the Capitol in the USA and their mastermind, former President Donald Trump, are now facing prosecution. Those who mobilised a crowd of protesters owed the responsibility to ensure that they do not go beyond the rules of engagement.
A cursory look at the organization, funding and sustenance of the protest after the main issue, which was banning SARS, revealed that there was more to it than the #EndSARS protest.
A columnist, Sonala Olumhense in a piece titled, “Who pays for the #EndSARS massacre”?, published on the back page of Sunday Punch Newspapers of July 30, 2023 inadvertently exposed the intention and continuous struggle of the protesters and their supporters as purely a political melee hinged on a false pillar of social crusade. In that piece, he repeated the lies that there was a ‘massacre’ at the Lekki Toll Gate and that many people observed the mass killings.
However, he was unable to state how it became difficult for DJ Switch and others, who claimed to have witnessed and recorded the purported ‘massacre’ to record the dead bodies as they were being loaded into trucks and taken away by the army as alleged.
He also failed to explain why it was difficult to record how LAWMA sweepers allegedly washed and mopped up the blood of the victims of the ‘massacre’ at the toll gate.
The protesters and supporters never said they picked up any corpse and deposited it in any morgue, but Olumhense will rather believe them than the government which recovered the corpses and kept records of where they were picked up.
It is unfortunate that a government which has insisted on following due process is being accused of secretive. Olumhense said: “This month, Lagos State itself mistakenly provided irrefutable proof of that sad event, a leaked memo showing that the government plans an N61.2m mass burial for 103 bodies recovered during #EndSARS”.
That statement is, to say the least, very uncharitable and born out of ignorance of how government business is conducted. Yes, the memo was not meant for public consumption, but if the burial of the deceased was to be done in secret it could be done via government’s machinery and not through a third party.
An adage says “whatever you want to keep secret, tell no one”. So, for the government to have invited frontline undertakers to bid for the burial speaks of transparency and strict adherence to due process, which should be commended.
Olumhense exposed his fixated posture when he wrote: “I am highly reluctant, in a culture in which public officials neither read nor are genuinely interested in ideas and solutions, to make suggestions”.
Can anyone who is genuinely in pursuit of national interest and justice harbor this type of stereotype mindset? He has only demonstrated strong disdain for public officials. Surely he won’t ever be receptive to whatever comes from that quarter, no matter how true.
Again, he wrote, “Sadly, one cannot ask the current crop in charge in Abuja to do the right thing, which is to institute a comprehensive, independent investigation into the murders, including coroner inquests and autopsies. Each of the corpses must be identified and returned to their families, and each family compensated”.
He could simply not hide his disdain for the Federal Government of Nigeria led by President Bola Tinubu, who was a major target of the violence unleashed by the #EndSARS protesters. He, however, exposed his confused mindset by insisting on each of the corpses being identified and returned to their respective family.
The question is, who carries out the identification to his satisfaction, when he has no confidence in anyone, but his clique? Then, which family should the corpses be handed over? The same family that has not shown up in the last three years?
The political bias of Olumhense, which speaks to the original purpose of the #EndSARS protest, came to the fore again when he demanded the resignation of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. This is the same governor that identified with the protesters, took their resolution to former President Mohammadu Buhari in Abuja.
The same governor inaugurated a Judicial Panel of Enquiry, which term of reference was expanded to cover past police brutality and abuse. The recommendation of the tribunal, led by Doris Okuwobi, which included payment of compensation to victims were implemented to the letter.
Then, on what basis is he asking for the resignation of the governor except that he was not the preferred candidate of his team?
Nigeria, according to Olumhense, “is in a time warp in which we travel in circles and our worst find a way to control our best and our hopes”.
He is obviously so obsessed by the loss of his preferred candidate in the last general election that he merely fell short of openly inviting the military to replicate the coup d’état in Niger Republic.
He said: “In terms of the present, those who are afraid of a military coup harbour the wrong fear”.
What other deduction does one need to make from the subjective piece? As lawyers say, the document speaks for itself.
I rest my case.
Ogundeji is Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.