For all intents and purposes, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a democratic state, at least it ought to be. Yet, when the elected president of the federation address a nation in turmoil and steeped in grief and he alludes that his prompt response to the demands made by the people who voted him into office – a demand for a life free from the fear of being brutalised by the Nigerian Police Force no more – was misconstrued as a sign of weakness and hence his decision to deploy the military to summarily execute completely peaceful protesters, one begins to wonder if the act if up.
If a memo was passed around by the Nigerian Government where the end of the civilian democracy was communicated, perhaps the handlers of the President should let him know that some 200+ million Nigerians are yet to receive it. Maybe the president had somehow missed the memo that it is no longer business as usual, a memo which the mandate that Nigerians gave him when they forgave his past excesses as a dictator and brought him into office as a democratic president in 2015 was supposed to communicate.
Not only did the president take over 24 hours to address the country after the massacre of armless protesters whose only crime was sitting on the asphalt on Lekki-Epe expressway and singing the national anthem, but when he did address the nation, he casually skirted past it with no regard whatsoever for the weight of this tragedy.
An apology will not bring back a life, nor even help alleviate the pain of loss which many parents have had and will continue to bear. The barest minimum anyone expects is accountability, empathy, and some contriteness from the presidency. Clearly, that is too much to ask for from a former military dictator who walks around acting like the leadership of this country is his birthright and we should all be grateful he agreed to lead us.
Time and again in his address, retired General Muhammadu Buhari made mention of “the use of excessive force by the police” as if to say there is a less than excessive level of force that is acceptable to be used on Nigerians. What Nigeria’s youth have been clamouring for, however, is a Nigeria in which no one approaches the police bracing for impact, excessive or not.
While we do not expect someone whose only claim to strength is the use of uniformed brutes to murder defenceless law-abiding citizens to understand this, we certainly hope that the trillions of our collective national wealth at his command is enough to hire advisers who understand and have the gut to tell it to him as is.
Hopefully, once he is able to surround himself with such advisers, they will also be able to let him understand that, only cowards deploy force to quell a peaceful protest. They might also let him know that he has been a coward all his life, and even for the likes of him, that is a record too embarrassing to sustain to his grave. It is well past due that he starts working on being a brave empathetic leader who listens to the citizens who voted for him, without shrinking at the thought of his ego reducing to nothing in so doing.