Eminent personalities, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday faulted Tuesday’s military crackdown on unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, describing it as premature.
The incident also elicited reactions from the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres; a former United States President, Mr. Bill Clinton; former US Vice President, Mr. Joe Biden; United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Mr. Dominic Raab; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the European Union, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi.
They expressed concern about the shooting of the protesters and called for restraint.
However, while the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) remained mum but has promised to brief journalists on the shooting incident today, the presidency appealed for understanding and calm nationwide.
In a statement yesterday, Obasanjo urged the protesters to give peace a chance as they go about making their legitimate demands.
He also counselled President Muhammadu Buhari against the continued application of brute force to put down the protests.
In the statement titled, “Violence against Protesters in Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm,” the former president advised the president to also restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force.
“The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration,” Obasanjo said, explaining: “Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and the frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution.”
He added: “It is clear that Mr. President and his lieutenants did exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to use of force.
Soyinka called on governors where protests forced declaration of curfews to immediately demand the withdrawal of soldiers deployed by the federal government.
The playwright, in a statement from his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, titled, ‘DÉJÀ VU- In tragic vein’ said it was bliss to be alive to watch youths finally beginning to take the future into their own hands.
Soyinka said with the protesters’ roadblocks in Ogun State and elsewhere, it was all déjà vu- the uprisings in the former Western Region of Nigeria and the anti-Abacha movement among others.
“To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers.
Convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hour curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage.
Substitute community self-policing based on local councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism. We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever,” he said.
He told the federal government that the army had now replaced the SARS in the demonic album of the protesters.