Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has condemned the use of brute force to quell protests at the Lekki tollgate. He added that it was obvious that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his lieutenants didn’t exhaust all avenues before deploying soldiers.
Obasanjo said this in a statement titled, ‘Statement on Violence Against Protesters In Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm’.
The former President called on Buhari to “restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force as a way of ending the crisis.”
He said history had shown that killing protesters only worsens the crisis and makes dialogue impossible.
The former President said, “The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration. Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution.
“It is clear that Mr President and his lieutenants did not exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to the use of force.”
Obasanjo said it was worse that despite overwhelming evidence, the authorities were still denying ever killing protesters.
He therefore called on the President to take swift action before things spiral out of control.
The former President stated, “It is worse that there is a denial of wrongdoing in spite of overwhelming visual evidence. Great harm has been done but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control.
“We are at a critical moment in this crisis and the President must act now before it is too late. This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such.”
He said most of the demands made by the #EndSARS protesters which had been conveyed to the President by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State were not unrealistic.
Obasanjo added that these demands could be implemented without anyone’s political interest or ambition being threatened.
The former President said, “It is imperative that leaders at all levels, starting with Mr President, must demonstrate meekness, humanity and sincerity in meeting the legitimate demands of the protesters and ensuring that justice is served where it must be served. These are the potent ways of ending this crisis now.”
The former President also called on the youths to give peace a chance, adding that the destruction and looting must stop.
He said targeting people would only widen the existing divisions in the country.
Obasanjo said, “The youth must give peace a chance while making their legitimate demands. They must be mindful of miscreants who will infiltrate their ranks and give the protests a bad name so that trigger-happy forces will kill them.
“The destruction and looting of public and private properties will only hurt all of us and set us back.